Looking Back: 10 Years Since Royal Gorge Fire in Colorado
How the Royal Gorge Fire Started
In the early part of summer in 2013, the Royal Gorge Region of Southern Colorado saw a wildfire spark that would later scorch through the landscape, threatening and causing damages to our historic tourist attraction. Despite the destruction of dozens of buildings, the majority of our iconic Royal Gorge Bridge miraculously survived. This wildfire that took place 10 years ago serves as a testament to the resilience of nature and the determination of our communities in Colorado to rebuild after these natural disasters.
The Royal Gorge Fire began on June 11th, 2013, near Cañon City, Colorado, and quickly spread due to dry conditions and strong winds. The fire consumed over 3,200 acres of land, including several structures within the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. First reports of the blaze reached emergency responders about 1pm on the South Rim of the Royal Gorge.
Damage from the Royal Gorge Fire
The most significant damage from the Royal Gorge Fire in 2013 at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park was to our visitor center and our original aerial tram. Forty eight out of 52 buildings within our park were burned down.
Miraculously, the Royal Gorge Bridge — America’s Highest Suspension Bridge built in 1929 — had remained mostly unscathed. The bridge’s steel structure and fire-resistant materials played a crucial role in its survival; however 100 out of the 1,292 wooden planks had to be replaced.
In surrounding areas of Cañon City, hundreds of residents and nearly a thousand inmates in nearby prisons were evacuated during the early stages of the blaze. Fortunately, no homes were lost or damaged and no injuries were reported during this fire.
The Royal Gorge Fire blazed only three days but had scorched 3,218 acres and much of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park landscape and infrastructure. The Cañon City Police Department reported that the fire likely was human caused.
Royal Gorge Fire Quick Facts
- First reported at 1pm June 11th, 2013.
- 3,218 acres burned.
- 32 out of 1,292 wooden planks burned on the Royal Gorge Bridge.
- 48 out of 52 buildings in the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park were lost.
- The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park was closed for 9 months.
- The Royal Gorge Fire was fully contained on June 16th, 2013.
- No injuries were reported and no residential homes were lost.
- About 25,000 pounds of native grass and wildflower seeds were planted.
Rebuilding After the Royal Gorge Fire
The Royal Gorge Fire was declared 100% contained on June 16th, 2013. In the aftermath of the fire, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park faced the daunting task of rebuilding and restoring the once-thriving tourist destination. The park management, along with the support of the local community and government of Fremont County, rallied together to begin the recovery process.
New construction in the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park began on January 31st, 2014. Much debris and charred materials needed to be removed from the property. By March, the bridge and park were reopened to the public for guided tours.
Thanks to the collective efforts and an outpouring of support, the park fully reopened to the public on August 30th, 2014, just over a year after the devastating fire. Visitors once again had the opportunity to marvel at the majestic Royal Gorge Bridge and explore the beauty of the surrounding area.
The Royal Gorge Fire serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and the strength of community resilience, a feeling known all too well in towns across Colorado. The event highlighted the need for fire-resistant construction and proactive measures to mitigate the risk of wildfires in vulnerable areas, ensuring the protection of natural landmarks and the safety of visitors.
The Royal Gorge Fire of 2013 stands as a testament to the determination and perseverance of both nature and humanity. Through resilience, restoration, and community support, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park has remained a treasured tourist destination, exemplifying the power of recovery in the face of adversity. With new rides, new visitor center, and attractions, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park continues to be living history. Be sure to read more about the Royal Gorge Fire and see images from directly after the blaze in our Visitor Center on the north side of the Royal Gorge.