Greater Yellowstone Section of South Central Rockies Forest, Part C

Snake River Headwaters, Wilderness, and Axolotl

The Wild and Scenic River system in the Greater Yellowstone subsection of the South Central  Rockies forests ecoregion consists of the 13 rivers and streams in the Snake River Headwaters of Wyoming.  This includes 400 miles of designated waterways.

  • Bailey Creek, Bridger National Forest (NF), Wyoming (N43˚12’ W110˚45’) is a seven-mile-long stream, all designated as a Wild River (site 1).
  • Blackrock Creek, Teton NF, Wyoming (N43˚48’ W110˚11’), consists of a 22-mile section along US 26-287 from Togwatee Pass to Hatchet Campground, designated as a Scenic River (site 2).
  • Buffalo Fork, Grand Teton NP and Teton NF, Wyoming (N43˚51’ W110˚16’), consists of a scenic and wild river section. The section from Turpin Meadow downstream to the Snake River is Scenic, while the section from Turpin Meadow upstream to the South Fork is Wild (site 3).
  • North Buffalo Fork, Teton Wilderness, Wyoming (N43˚57’ W110˚13’), is designated as a Wild River. North Fork Falls (N43˚59’ W110˚7’) is a highlight (site 4).
  • South Buffalo Fork, Teton Wilderness, Wyoming (N43˚51’ W110˚6’), is designated as a Wild River.  South Fork Falls (N43˚52’ W110˚4’) drops over 100 feet (site 5).
  • Crystal Creek, Teton NF and Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming (N43˚30’ W110˚24’), is designated as both Wild and Scenic (site 6). The lower five miles from the confluence upstream to the Gros Ventre Wilderness boundary are classified as Scenic, while the upper 14 miles within the wilderness are a Wild River.
  • Granite Creek, Teton NF and Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming (N43˚21’ W110˚26’), is a Scenic River in the lower nine miles from one mile upstream of the confluence with the Hoback River to Granite Hot Springs, while the upper 12 miles in the Gros Ventre Wilderness are classified as a Wild River (site 7).
  • Gros Ventre River, Grand Teton NP, National Elk Refuge, and Teton NF, Wyoming, is designated as both Scenic and Wild (site 8). The 40 miles from Darwin Ranch (N43˚25’ W110˚10’) downstream to Kelly (N43˚37’ W110˚37’) are a Scenic River and the upper 16 miles above and to the West of Darwin Ranch in the Gros Ventre Wilderness are a Wild River.
  • Hoback River, Teton NF, Wyoming (N43˚18’ W110˚40’), is designated as a Recreational River for ten miles upstream from the Snake River confluence in the Hoback River Canyon along US 189-191 (site 9).
  • Lewis River, Yellowstone National Park (NP), Wyoming, is classified as Wild and Scenic (site 10). The five-mile section from Shoshone Lake (N44˚22’ W110˚40’) to Lewis Lake (N44˚18’ W110˚38’) is classified as a Wild river and the 12-mile segment from Lewis Lake to the Snake River confluence (N44˚8’ W110˚40’) is classified as a Scenic river. The river draining from Lewis Lake forms a near continuous cascade as it drops 1,000 feet to the Snake River at the south entrance station.
  • Pacific Creek, Grand Teton NP, Teton NF, and Teton Wilderness, Wyoming, is classified as Wild and Scenic (site 11). The upper 22 miles from the source at Two Ocean Pass (N44˚2’ W110˚10’) to the Teton Wilderness boundary  (N43˚56’ W110˚26’) are classified as a Wild river, while the lower portions to the Snake River confluence are classified as a Scenic river.
  • Shoal Creek, Gros Ventre Wilderness and Teton NF, Wyoming, is a Wild River for approximately eight miles from the source in the Gros Ventre Wilderness (N43˚23’ W110˚22’) downstream to the Riling Trailhead (N43˚17’ W110˚23’) (site 7) . The creek is a Hoback River tributary.
  • Snake River, Yellowstone NP, Teton Wilderness, John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton NP, Teton NF, Targhee NF, Bridger NF, Wyoming is part of the wild and scenic river system in three sections (site 12). The 47-mile section from the source in Yellowstone NP (N44˚8’ W110˚13’) to Jackson Lake backwaters (N44˚3’ W110˚43’) is classified as Wild and features deep canyons and hot springs. The 25-mile section downstream of the Jackson Lake Dam (N43˚52’ W110˚34’) to Moose (N43˚38’ W110˚45’) is noted for framing the views of the Grand Teton Range in the Grand Teton NP and is classified as Scenic. The 23 miles downstream of the Hoback River confluence (N43˚19’ W110˚44’) to the Palisades Reservoir backwaters (N43˚11’ W111˚0’) in the Bridger NF are classified as Recreational.
  • Soda Fork, Teton Wilderness, Wyoming (N43˚54’ W110˚7’), is classified as a Wild River (site 5).
  • Willow Creek, Teton NF, Wyoming, is classified as Wild for all 16 miles from the source at Pickle Pass (N43˚5’ W110˚39’) downstream to the Hoback River confluence (N43˚18’ W110˚40’) (site 13).
  • Wolf Creek, Targhee NF, Wyoming (N43˚14’ W110˚52’), is classified as Wild for ll seven miles from the source to the Grand Canyon of the Snake River.

Wilderness areas in the Greater Yellowstone section of the Middle Rockies forests ecoregion surround Yellowstone NP and reach north into the Big Belt Mountains of Montana.

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Custer, Gallatin  and Shoshone NFs, Montana-Wyoming (site 15), is a 943,000-acre wilderness with 700 miles of trails. The Absaroka Range is volcanic in origin and has active glaciers and tundra plateaus along with hundreds of alpine lakes, while the Beartooth Range to the east of the map area is granitic, with jagged peaks but also with vast boulder-strewn treeless plateaus. The Shoshone NF portion is east of the map area.  Near Livingston, the five-mile trail to Pine Creek Lake (N45˚29’ W110˚28’) in the wilderness passes Pine Creek Falls. The lake is in an alpine area completely encircled by Black Mountain. The approach to the lake is a 4.4-mile, 3,400-foot climb (Howe 2013). The West Boulder River trail passes vast meadows (N45˚31’ W110˚20’) on its 13-mile trek to snowfields at the base of Mount Cowan (N45˚23’ W110˚29’), the highest mountain in the Absaroka Range at 11,206’. The Upside Down Trail ascends 3,000 feet in elevation in five miles traveling east from Hicks Park Campground in the Boulder River Valley to the Lake Plateau (N45˚16’ W110˚11’). Bear Creek Trail to Knox Lake (N45˚8’ W110˚37’) is a five-mile hike northeast of Gardiner. There are three Research Natural Areas (RNAs) in the wilderness. East Fork Mill Creek RNA (N45˚19’ W110˚30’) is east of Snowy Range Ranch south of Livingston. It is an Engelmann spruce forest with whitebark pine understory. Further south in the same watershed is Passage Creek RNA (N45˚14’ W110˚31’), located on a tributary of Passage Creek and consisting of subalpine fir, Englemann spruce, meadows, and sagebrush habitats. Sliding Mountain RNA (N45˚13’ W110˚44’) is in the Big Pine Basin and includes an avalanche chute on the north side of the mountain. Forests are of spruce, fir, and pine, along with shrubland and grassland.

Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, Helena NF, Montana (N46˚52’ W111˚49’) is a 28,500-acre wilderness east of the Gates of the Rocky Mountains on the Missouri River (present-day Holter Lake) and includes Moors, Sheep, Willow, and Cap Mountains, part of the Big Belt Mountain Range (site 16).

Gros Ventre Wilderness, Bridger and Teton NFs, Wyoming (site 17), is 318,000 acres, hosting 250 miles of trails. The Gros Ventre (big belly) Range east of Jackson is less precipitous than the Tetons just to the west, but still has 10,000-foot summits. The area is known for big game habitat, lush meadows, and pinnacles of limestone. Prominent peaks are Doubletop Peak at 11,682 feet (N43˚21’ W110˚17’), The Sawtooth and The Elbow (N43˚17’ W110˚13’), Cream Puff Peak (N43˚8’ W110˚37’), and Sheep Mountain (N43˚34’ W110˚33’). Gros Ventre Slide Geological Area (N43˚37’ W110˚33’) is within the wilderness. Also within the wilderness along Horse Creek is the Gros Ventre Research Natural Area (N43˚23’ W110˚37’), which contains riparian forest, forbland, and alpine communities. There are alpine avalanche tracks in the south valley wall of the RNA. The Gros Ventre River, Shoal Creek, and Granite Creek in the wilderness are part of the National Wild and Scenic River system.

Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Targhee NF, Wyoming (north boundary at Lake of the Woods is at N44˚6’ W110˚51’ and south boundary on Mount Glorynear Teton Pass on State Route 22 is N43˚31’ W110˚57’) includes 123,500 acres on the west slopes of the Teton Range; there are unique karst features and 175 miles of trail (site 18).  Features are Teton Crest Trail, Alaska Basin, Table Mountain, Bitch Creek, Hurricane Pass, and Devils Staircase. Unlike the eastern slope of the Teton Range, which is precipitous, the western slope slants down at a more gentled angle. The forests are denser due to more precipitation.

Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Beaverhead and Gallatin NFs and BLM, Montana, is 255,000 acres in four separated units between US 287 and US 191 in the Madison Range. Bear Trap Canyon unit (N45˚30’ W111˚37’) is administered by BLM and is 6,000 acres in the canyon of the Madison River downstream from Ennis Lake (site 19). The Monument Mountain unit (N44˚59’ W111˚10’) in the Gallatin NF is 33,000 acres and adjoins the northwestern boundary of Yellowstone NP (site 20). The Spanish Peaks unit (N45˚20’ W111˚20’) is 76,000 acres and is in the Beaverhead and Gallatin NFs (site 21). The 141,000-acre Taylor Hilgard unit is in the Beaverhead and Gallatin NFs and includes Dutchman Peak (N44˚56’ W111˚28’), Taylor Weaks and the Wedge (N45˚1’ W111˚30’), the Helmet (N45˚10’ W111˚30’), and Cedar Lake and Mountain (N45˚14’ W111˚31’) (site 22). The Taylor-Hilgard area is accessible from Cameron on US 287 at Bear Creek (N45˚9’ W111˚33’).

North Absaroka Wilderness, Shoshone NF, Wyoming, is mostly to the east of the map area (site 23). A small area to the east of Yellowstone NP including the Crow Creek and Jones Creek watersheds north of US 14-16-20 extends into the map area. Included is Silvertip Peak (N44˚31’ W110˚6’). The entire wilderness is 350,500 acres, with 217 miles of trails.

Teton Wilderness, Teton NF, Wyoming, is a 585,000-acre wilderness of high alpine meadows amid the Absaroka Mountains at the Continental Divide, along with 12,000-foot peaks (site 24). It includes Two Ocean Pass National Natural Landmark, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Buffalo Fork Wild River, South Buffalo Fork Wild River, North Buffalo Fork Wild River, Snake Wild River, Pacific Creek Wild River, and Soda Fork Wild River (see all). There are 450 miles of trails. In 1987, a high elevation tornado left damage for 20 miles through the wilderness. The area was affected by the Yellowstone fires of 1988.  Other highlights are Yellowstone Meadows (N44˚5’ W110˚5’), Bridger Lake (N44˚7’ W110˚6’), and the Breccia Cliffs (N43˚48’ W110˚6’). Prominent mountains are Terrace Mountain, Soda Mountain, Hawks Rest, Gravel Peak, Smokehouse Mountain, Mount Randolph, Wildcat Peak, and Huckleberry Ridge. The wetlands of the Yellowstone River, called the Thorofare, provide isolated elk and grizzly habitat.

Washakie Wilderness, Shoshone NF, Wyoming, is mostly to the east of the map area (site 25). A small area of this 704,000-acre wilderness to the east of Yellowstone NP and west of Eagle Creek Meadows (N44˚22’ W110˚1’) extends into the map area

Winegar Hole Wilderness, Targhee NF, Wyoming (N44˚8’ W110˚59’) is a 10,700-acre area primarily set aside for grizzly bear habitat, adjacent to Yellowstone NP (site 26). It is bounded on the west by the Falls River and includes Winegar Hole, Boone Creek, and Calf Creek areas.

The National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and National Fish Hatchery System in the Greater Yellowstone subsection of the South Central  Rockies forests ecoregion consists of four sites.

Bozeman Fish Technology Center, Montana (N45˚43’ W110˚59’) focuses on recovery and restoration of sensitive, threatened, and endangered aquatic species such as the pallid sturgeon, trout, and woundfin (site 27).  Research is on propagation, fish passage, and nutrition. A two-mile National Recreation Trail to Drinking Horse Mountain is on the facility property.

Ennis National Fish Hatchery, Montana (N45˚13’ W111˚48’)  is located at Blaine Spring in the Gravelly Range west of the Madison River (site 28).

Jackson National Fish Hatchery, Wyoming (N43˚32’ W110˚44’) is located on the National Elk Refuge (site 29). The hatchery rears trout for mitigation for the Palisades Project downstream on the Snake River.

National Elk Refuge, Wyoming (N43˚34’ W110˚41’) hosts the world’s largest wintering concentration of elk (site 29). Notable landforms are the Flat Creek marshes, Millers Butte, Gros Ventre River, and Long Hollow. The visitor center is just north of Jackson on US 26-89-191 and the historic Miller Ranch buildings dated to 1885 are on East Broadway Avenue in Jackson. In addition to elk, notable species present are bison, trumpeter swan, bald eagle, and wolf. A five-mile bicycle trail crosses the refuge from Flat Creek to the Gros Ventre River, part of the Jackson Hole Community Pathways which connect the town with the refuge and Grand Teton NP. The riparian wetland complex along the Gros Ventre River north of Jackson on US Route 26-89-191 is an Important Bird Area (IBA) for the bald eagle and trumpeter swan. Flat Creek Marshes (N43˚32’ W110˚44’), located just north of Jackson, are the largest calcareous fen in Wyoming and are an IBA for trumpeter swan and long-billed curlew.

Other federal sites in the Greater Yellowstone subsection of the South Central  Rockies forests ecoregion are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Agricultural Research Service.

Axolotl Lakes Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) and Blue Lake Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), BLM, Montana (N45˚13’ W111˚53’) hosts the only known Montana population of axolotl, a neotenic tiger salamander (site 30). It is located in the Gravelly Range south of Virginia City.

Centennial Mountains ACEC and SRMA, BLM, Montana (N44˚34’ W112˚0’)  is 40,000-acres between I-15 and Yellowstone NP (site 31). The 3,000-foot rise of the north side of the Centennial Mountains overlooks Red Rock Lakes NWR and contain an abundance of wildflowers and big game, along with 60 miles of the Continental Divide NST. It is habitat for the grizzly, lynx, and wolf, as well as the only known Montana population of Whipple’s beardtongue.

East Fork Blacktail Deer Creek SRMA, BLM, Montana (N44˚51’ W112˚12’) is on the west edge of the Snowcrest Range (site 32). Gravelly-Blacktail State Wildlife Management Area is downstream to the west.

U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, Agricultural Research Service, Idaho-Montana (site 33) is a research facility focusing on sheep breeding and the sustainability of grazing land ecosystems of the shrub-steppe and Rocky Mountains. Other research focuses on sheep management, vegetation dynamics following fire, and sage grouse population trends. Tracts in the South-Central Rockies Forests include 16,000 acres in the Centennial Mountains south of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (N44˚33’ W111˚47’ and N44˚34’ W111˚35’), both of which are crossed by the Continental Divide NST; and three tracts in the Targhee National Forest: Myers Creek (N44˚31’ W111˚36’); East Beaver (N44˚36’ W112˚10’); and Snaky-Kelly Canyons (N44˚7’ W112˚43’).

State and local sites in the Greater Yellowstone subsection of the South Central  Rockies forests ecoregion include elk wintering areas, a river float, and waterfowl areas.

Beartooth Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚57’ W111˚50’) is a 32,000-acre area on the north end of the Big Belt Mountains and east side of Holter Lake (site 34).

Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚15’ W110˚49’) is a 4,800-acre elk wintering range in the Paradise Valley and adjacent mountains (site 35).

Gallatin Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚7’ W111˚7’), is a 8,600-acre area with lands in a checkerboard pattern within the Gallatin NF and overlooking the Gallatin River corridor (site 36).

Harriman State Park, Idaho (N44˚18’ W111˚30’) is on US Route 20 south of Island Park Dam (site 37).  This is an area of lodgepole pine and grassland along Henry’s Fork on the floor of Island Park Caldera. A former ranch owned by Union Pacific Railroad until 1977, the park is an IBA for great gray owl, bald eagle, and three-toed woodpecker.

Haymaker Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚37’ W110˚13’), provides winter elk range on the south side of the Little Belt Mountains adjoining the Lewis and Clark National Forest (site 38).

Henry’s Lake State Park, Idaho (N44˚37’ W111˚22’) is on the shore of a natural lake considered the finest trout fishery in the northwest (site 39). There are three miles of hiking trails through grasslands. The lake is an IBA for waterbirds and Franklin’s gull; there is a state fish hatchery on State Route 87 on the shoreline. The private shoreline of the lake is the subject of a ranchland protection program organized by The Nature Conservancy.

Madison-Bear Creek Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚11’ W111˚34’), is a 3,500-acre area with lands in a checkerboard pattern on the Cameron Bench adjacent to the west side of the Taylor-Hilgard unit of Lee Metcalf Wilderness (site 40).

Smith River State Park, Montana (site 41), is a 59-mile-long river float beginning at Camp Baker (N46˚48’ W111˚11’) and ending at the Eden Bridge (N47˚14’ W111˚23’). The river gorge cuts through the Little Belt Mountains. Camp sites are provided in the Lewis and Clark and Helena NFs.

Smith River Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚43’ W111˚11’), provides 3,000 acres of mule deer winter range on both sides of the Smith River (site 42).

South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area, Wyoming (N43˚24’ W110˚46’), is a 1,200-acre site established as a winter elk feeding area (site 43). Located eight miles south of Jackson on US 26-89-191, this area along the Snake River is also an IBA for trumpeter swan, eagles, osprey, and Barrow’s goldeneye.

Private sites in the Greater Yellowstone subsection of the South Central  Rockies forests ecoregion include two protected ranches.  Flat Ranch Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Idaho.  (N44˚34’ W111˚20’) is located on US 20 15 miles west of West Yellowstone on Henry’s Fork.  There is a visitor center and viewing of wildflowers, shorebirds, moose, and sandhill crane. Sun Ranch, Montana. (N44˚58’ W111˚38’), is a 19,000-acre property on US 287 between the Madison River and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness under conservation easement, providing critical big game winter range for elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn, pronghorn, and mountain goat. Research is conducted on the compatibility of wolves and cattle ranching, as well as grassland biodiversity and trout recovery. The site is an IBA for sage grouse and Brewer’s sparrow.