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Local Staff Ride Archive

Stand 3 - Clayton Gulch

In 1937, this area was a stand of mature trees. If you look uphill from where you are standing and visualize the fire creeping downhill, you can see that the fire was out of alignment. During the morning of August 21st, the fire had a slight southwest wind. This wind pattern is a typical airflow over Wyoming's Wind River and Absaroka mountains. At this time, the BPR and Tensleep CCC crews were cutting underslung line across the drainage. Firefighters didn't think about using lookouts. Foreman Saban and Junior Assistant Hale (Wapiti CCC) with five or six men from the Tensleep CCC enrollees stopped and dammed up the creek to fill backpack pumps. Click to see Map D.

As Post and his group gained the ridge to the north, they noticed the smoke below Clayton and his group. Clayton also noticed it and prepared to abandon line construction and attack the new smoke. Clayton directed his crew to the gulch to fill their backpack pumps while he headed down hill to scout out the "spot in the hole." The last word received from Ranger Clayton was a written note to Ranger Post.

We are on the ridge in back of you, and I am going across to "spot" in the hole. It looks like it can carry on over ridge east and south of you. If you can send any men please do so since there are only 8 of us here."

Some time around 1530, the wind increased to 30 miles per hour from the northeast, blowing embers over the line. Then the wind subsided for a brief time. When the wind began again, it was associated with the frontal passage and blew strongly out of the northwest. The spot fires below the main fire were in direct alignment with topography, slope, and wind.

The spot fire rapidly ran up the drainage. With no escape routes or safety zones, the fire traped Clayton and his men at the dam in the drainage. Whether Clayton and his men actually started down to the spot or not was never determined.

As you walk up the ridge from Stand 2, you will come to this point with a vantage of both Clayton Gulch and Post Point. If time is limited, you can use this as an alternate location to conduct discussions for both Stand 3 and Stand 4. This location is identified as Stand 2A on the maps and in the Facilitator's Field Reference.

The distinctive vegetation pattern below Clayton Gulch shows the old burn scar and the location of the spot that would initiate the firestorm.

The gulch as it appeared in 1937.

The gulch as it appeared in 2004.

The Clayton Gulch memorial is on the ridge to the north and just above the gulch where the actual fatality site is located. This is the second memorial built in 1938 by the CCCs.

The plaque on the Clayton Gulch memorial.