Caples Ecological Restoration Project

Caples Creek

Led by the Eldorado National Forest in partnership with Eldorado Irrigation District, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and supported by a team of hardworking volunteers from over twelve different organizations, the Caples Ecological Restoration project is restoring the Caples Creek drainage area.

The project called for 8,800 acres of prescribed fire. After more than a week of prescribed fire operations, strong winds developed and created fire behavior that prescribed fire crews could not safely manage. Eldorado National Forest declared the Caples prescribed fire a wildfire on October 10th, 2019. It burned a total of 3,453 acres – 300 of which were outside the original project area.

Ultimately, the Caples Project achieved its goal as fire effects were consistent with the area’s historical fire regime.  It restored ecological and hydrological functions to the watershed, and it effectively reduces wildfire risk caused by a century of fire suppression, safeguarding a critical water source for 110,000 people in the Eldorado Irrigation District area and revitalizing meadows, streamside corridors, and aspen stands.

Along with its ecological benefits, the Caples Ecological Restoration Project played a key role in protecting the Caples Creek watershed and surrounding communities during the Caldor Fire. The 2021 Caldor Fire—a nearly 222,000-acre fire fueled by red-flag conditions and historically dry vegetation—breached the edges of the Caples Ecological Restoration Project and burned around the project instead of through it, effectively slowing the fire down. The Caples Project was one of the largest treated areas in the Caldor Fire burn area, and it was a rare place where the fire slowed and changed course during high winds.

Link to Project Website

Caples Ecological Restoration Project map
Data Sources: Project Area – TCSI, Imagery – Esri, Roads – Caltrans, Lakes – USGS National Hydrography Dataset, Cities – USGS Geographic Names Information System


U.S. Forest Service – Eldorado National Forest

Eldorado Irrigation District 

Sierra Nevada Conservancy 

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