Day 2 of our Southwestern Sojourn took us from Santa Fe to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Not surprisingly, we didn’t follow a direct route. At Carrizozo we turned southeastward for a mountainous route detour. In Capitan we made the snap decision to visit Smokey Bear Historical Park.
During WWII a campaign character was created to build awareness of the valuable resource of the National Forests. A devastating fire swept through the Capitan Mountains in May 1950. In the aftermath a badly singed bear cub was found clinging to the burnt trunk of a pine tree. After recovery the cub, originally named Hotfoot, became the symbol used to educate the public about the dangers of careless human-caused wildfires.
Smokey was presented to the schoolchildren of American and took up residency at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. After his death in 1976 Smokey’s body was returned to New Mexico and buried in the Village of Capitan. Today a park and visitor center surround Smokey’s grave.
The visitor center introduces Smokey’s history, displays a wide range of memorabilia, presents a short video and continues education of the importance of preventing human-caused wildfire. The original Smokey is buried in a quiet corner of a tw0-acre park setting. Outdoor interpretive exhibits feature the vegetation of six life zones found in New Mexico.
We spend nearly an hour tripping down memory lane with Smokey and his cause. “Remember! only you can Prevent Forest Fires.”