Two-Lane Tidbit: Smokey Bear Historical Park, Capitan, NM

Everyone is familiar with Smokey Bear and his important message about preventing wildfires, but did you know that Smokey Bear was a real bear? The longest-running public service announcement advertising campaign in American history, Smokey first appeared in 1944. The famous “Remember…only YOU can prevent forest fires” slogan was created in 1947 and used until 2001 when it was altered slightly from “forest fires” to its present-day use of the term “wildfires”. The actual living Smokey Bear was a five-pound black bear cub found in the Lincoln National Forest near Capitan, NM in 1950 during the Capitan Gap fire. Rescued by firefighters, he was first named Hotfoot Teddy but was later renamed for the famous bear. Cared for by a ranger from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Smokey ultimately ended up at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., where he lived out the rest of his life. With millions of visitors and more than 13,000 letters a week (so many that Smokey has his own zip code), Smokey was a true celebrity until his death in 1976. At Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, NM, you can visit the grave of Smokey Bear while wandering through the lovely gardens that are also home to the New Mexico Wildland Fallen Firefighter Memorial, as well as tour the museum full of historical advertisements and information about wildfires.