Over the last few weeks, we've been receiving a lot of questions about the Montana forest fires. The destruction has been devastating to the forests and people of our state. Our hearts go out to all of those who have been impacted. Though Montana doesn't typically get the attention that states like California and Colorado get in the national media, there has been some concern raised. With over a million acres destroyed by fires, it's hard not to be concerned. The questions we have received have been mainly focused on how the Bozeman and Yellowstone areas have been impacted. We felt it was important to provide an update for those people who have plans or are considering visiting our area this fall.
Montana is the fourth largest state in the country behind Alaska, Texas, and California so there is a lot of land in Montana. Our large cities, which include Billings, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, Butte, and Kalispell are spread out. From Bozeman, it takes three hours to get to Missoula and five hours to get to Kalispell. These two cities are in the western part of the state which is where most of the fires are located.
Glacier National Park is also located in the western part of the state, north of Flathead Lake. The Prague fire is located within the park and has already claimed one of the park's historic lodges. In Bozeman, we have been very fortunate with limited impact. The large fires that are garnering the national attention are located hundreds of miles away.
What Causes Forest Fires?
Believe it or not, forest fires are often naturally occurring and part of natures way of managing the forest's ecosystem. Fires are often caused by lightning strikes, but can sometimes be caused by humans. The real threat to the cause of forest fires is a lack of snowfall during the winter. The snow that builds high in the mountains provides moisture throughout the year as the temperatures warm up and melt the snow. When snowfall for the winter is higher than average, the fire danger is lower. Likewise, when snowfall totals are below average, fire danger is much higher. This was the case last winter in western Montana. In the mountains around Bozeman, snowpack was near average helping us avoid fire danger.
What About The Smoke?
The biggest impact on the Bozeman and Yellowstone Areas from these forest fires has been smokey air. As the fires burn and the smoke rises, it gets carried into the jetstream and spreads across the state and beyond. At times during August, the smoke in the air was pretty thick. As temperatures have cooled and a bit of snow has fallen in the mountains, the smoke in the air has been eliminated. The air is once again clear and easy to breathe.
Is It Safe To Visit Bozeman and Yellowstone?
If you have plans or are considering a visit this fall, you should still definitely come. In fact, September and October are some of the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park. As the temperatures cool and the leaves change, the crowds are quite small, the elk are in the rut, and you can have a much more relaxed experience in the park. You also have to experience the beauty of the mountains in their fall colors. It's quite the sight to behold. Fall in Montana is amazing. So yes, we hope that you still do visit us and have a wonderful time.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our related blogs:
- 5 Beautiful Fall Hikes Near Bozeman
- The Best Spring Hikes and Trails in Bozeman, MT
- 10 Amazing Instagram Photos of Bozeman in the Fall