Smokey Bear Park

(Capitan NM)
In 1944, the National Forest Service began an advertising campaign to reduce the number of man-caused forest fires. A character of a bear was used in posters and ads to get the message out to the public. They named it Smokey Bear.

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Smokey Bear Character

Fast forward to 1950, when a disastrous fire erupted near town, started by a cigarette butt. The Los Tablos blaze soon expanded to include the Capitan Gap fire, destroying 17,000 acres of forest and grasslands.

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Poster using the Character

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Smokey Bear Cub

During the firefight, a young bear cub was found clinging to a burnt pine tree trunk. It was rescued and nursed back to health. The clever game warden named the cub Smokey Bear, thus it became the living symbol of the effort to prevent forest fires.

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Capitan Gap

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Trees in the Park

Smokey was soon sent to the National Zoo, where the public could see him; and, he became the most famous animal in the world. There, he lived out his life. When he died at 26 years (very old for a black bear), he was returned to Capitan, and buried in the park created in his honor.

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Creek in the Park

Smokey Bear Park & Museum

Smokey Bear’s Resting Place

A walkway, through the park, meandered by trees and other plants common to the region’s forests. The museum told the story of Smokey, the role of forest fires in nature, and the efforts to manage them. The original log cabin museum is now the gift shop. It was a much more interesting visit than I expected. Remember, only you can…

Camp: Snowy River Cave NCA boondock
Scene: Bear, forest, history

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6 Responses to Smokey Bear Park

  1. Jan Mains May 18, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    One of those places that we almost passed up, but were glad we visited.

    • Pleinguy May 18, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Me too. This was my third time going by, and decided to finally stop and check it out.

  2. Brad VT Harris May 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    Really cool! Thanks for the history about Smokey Bear. I knew who he was; but, not the story behind it all. Sounds like a neat place to visit, Pleinguy!

    • Pleinguy May 18, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      It was a pretty interesting place, with lots to learn.

  3. Martha May 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    I’d like to visit that Park. I knew the story of Smoky the Bear warning that “only you can prevent forest fires”. But, I don’t ever remember hearing about an actual Smoky Bear. Thanks for the interesting post.

    • Pleinguy May 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

      The museum there did a good job of revealing “the rest of the story” about Smokey and the actual living bear. The rescue of the bear cub during a forest fire happened to coincide with the beginning of the Prevent Forest Fires campaign.

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