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Pinedale Online > News > May 2005 > Wyoming Range Conditions

North Cottonwood Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
North Cottonwood Road
North Cottonwood Creek road is blocked by snow at the forest boundary.

First group of elk. Photo by Pinedale Online.
First group of elk
Six elk graze in an opening on the other side of North Cottonwood Creek.

Two moose. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Two moose
These two moose disappeared quickly into the trees in North Cottonwood.

Green leaves finally. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Green leaves finally
It's the middle of May and we're finally seeing the first green leaves on bushes.

White Phlox. Photo by Pinedale Online.
White Phlox
Low-growing wildflowers, (phlox, violets, buttercups, dandylions) are blooming.

South Cottonwood Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
South Cottonwood Road
South Cottonwood road is blocked by snow just past the bridge across the creek.
Wyoming Range Conditions
by Dawn Ballou
May 15, 2005

Two weekends ago we scoped out the Wind River side of our Upper Green River Valley. This past weekend we decided to head west and check out the Wyoming Range, McDougal Gap road and North & South Cottonwood Creeks and Bare Pass roads.

Basically, you’ll still run into snow blocking the roads at to the Bridger-Teton National Forest boundary where trees and aspect shade the road. Even though you can’t drive far into the mountains, we highly recommend this as a day drive right now for anyone who wants to do some fishing or see lots of wildlife. North Cottonwood Creek Road is blocked right at the forest boundary. South Cottonwood is clear to just past the bridge on the creek crossing past the forest boundary, then snow blocks that road.

We’ve long contended that you can jump in the truck about anytime around here, point it in any direction, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. All we wanted to do is see how far the roads were open on Saturday. As an added bonus, we saw tons of antelope, deer, moose, hawks, an eagle and FOUR different groups of elk! The weather was warm and beautiful (60s), wildflowers are starting to bloom and leaves are starting to come on the bushes near water sources.

We were glad to see that no one has tried to push through the snow banks to get further past up the roads in either drainage. The dirt roadbed gets soft pretty quickly and when people try to 4-wheel through these last drifts they tend to put deep ugly ruts in the road that last for weeks and make it a mess for people driving the road later. Warm weather will open these road up in the next couple of weeks, and there are plenty of great places to go right now without forcing getting further back on the mountain roads that are still thawing out.

Pussywillow-type buds are starting to swell on the willows next to the creek banks. Some bushes now have green leaves! Still no leaves on any of the aspens or trees anywhere. Low-growing wildflowers are blooming in-between the sagebrush and there is green grass everywhere. The rolling sagebrush plains have gone from brown to a lovely sea of silver gray-green.

The snow is mostly off the south-facing slopes all the way to the top of the foothills. Mt. McDougal, Triple Peak and Lander Peak still are white with snow. Triple Peak Snotel reports 28” of snow as of this weekend.

The animals are starting to migrate back into the mountains and forest with the warm weather and grass green-up. Moose are following the creeks eating on the grass and shrubs, and there is moose sign everywhere along the creek bottoms. The best part is the elk are still low in the drainage and can be seen in the sidehill openings. We saw four different groups in openings about half-way up the sideslopes grazing on the green grass. All together, we saw about 20 elk between the two drainages, in separate groups of two to eight in a bunch traveling together. The pictures with this story are stretching the limit of the camera’s 10X zoom, but you can still tell they are elk.

We didn’t see a lot of deer except for a couple on the side-hill with the first group of elk in North Cottonwood (they might all be in Pinedale right now since they are all around here in yards and throughout town).

There are antelope everywhere in the open sagebrush hills along Ryegrass Road. The pregnant does look huge and about ready to drop their young anytime now. One big buck had some deep scars on his side that looked like he’d been through a battle with something that tried hard to take a bite out of his side and neck. He looks to be getting around fine now, but we did wonder about what had happened to him over the winter and if perhaps he’d run into some wolves or a mountain lion.

Fishermen can still find places to park on dry ground at the forest boundary entrances and easily walk down to both creeks. The streams are flowing a little bit high, but still in their banks and the water is relatively clear. Special fishing restrictions apply, so be sure to know the regs for the particular stretch of stream you want to fish on these two creeks. We found one place along South Cottonwood Creek where something, perhaps a muskrat, had been eating freshwater snails and all that was left was a stockpile of beautiful shells, just as if they’d come from the seashore.

We saw several hawks and one was chasing an eagle. Couldn’t tell if it was a golden eagle or immature bald (probably one of you bird experts can tell from the photo and confirm this one for us). Red tail hawks, falcons, yellow-headed blackbirds, meadowlarks, magpies, bluebirds, killdeer, robins, flickers, sandhill cranes and mud daubers can all be seen now.

Give these roads and drainages a couple more weeks to dry out if you want to get deeper into the backcountry. For now, both places make a great place to go for a day drive to get out for fresh air, see pretty scenery and take pictures of wildlife. Both places are about 20 miles or so from the Hwy 189 junction traveling on gravel and dirt roads to the Bridger-Teton boundary. A sedan will have no trouble on either of these roads up to the forest boundary signs and there are miles of 4-wheeling fun on all these back roads where things are dry.

Photos by Clint Gilchrist and Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online

Antelope everywhere. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Antelope everywhere

Under the fence. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Under the fence
Antelope don't jump fences, they go under or through the bottom wires.

Antelope Buck. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Antelope Buck

Pregnant Antelope. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Pregnant Antelope
Pregnant antelope will be dropping their fawns soon.

Mangled Antelope. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Mangled Antelope
This antelope buck looked like something tried to take a big bite out of his side and neck.

Old Cabin. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Old Cabin
This old cabin is near the road between North and South Cottonwood Creeks.

Lander Peak. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Lander Peak
Lander Peak sits just to the left of Triple Peak in this photo.

Beaver dam. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Beaver dam
Beaver dam on North Cottonwood Creek. Snow-capped Mt. McDougal in the distance.

N Cottonwood Ck Elk. Photo by Pinedale Online.
N Cottonwood Ck Elk
Two elk were in this group on the sidehill in North Cottonwood Creek drainage, about 1/2 mile from the first group.

More elk. Photo by Pinedale Online.
More elk
This group of 6 elk traveled the sidehill to the ridge-top in South Cottonwood Creek, then disappeared over the top.

South Cottonwood Creek. Photo by Pinedale Online.
South Cottonwood Creek

Yellow Buttercups. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Yellow Buttercups

Willows budding out. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Willows budding out
Still no leaves, but buds on the willows are swelling next to the streams. There are moose droppings all over the place among these willows along the creek bottoms.

South Cottonwood Creek. Photo by Pinedale Online.
South Cottonwood Creek

S Cottonwood Ck elk. Photo by Pinedale Online.
S Cottonwood Ck elk
There were 8 elk in this 4th group seen on a sidehill in South Cottonwood Creek drainage, about 1/2 mile from the 3rd group that went over the ridgetop. They were moving in opposite directions on the sidehill.

Triple Peak Snow. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Triple Peak Snow
Snotels are reporting a little over two feet of snow depth still on Triple Peak as of this weekend.

Soaring Eagle. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Soaring Eagle

Snow coming off high. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Snow coming off high
South-facing aspects just have a few patches of snow left clear to the top.

Red willows. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Red willows
The willows are coming to life in vivid red and yellow colors along North Cottonwood Creek.

South Cottonwood BLM road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
South Cottonwood BLM road

Orange Lichens. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Orange Lichens
Bright orange and yellow lichens dot rocks next to South Cottonwood Creek.

Bare Aspens. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Bare Aspens
The aspen trees are still bare with no leaves yet.

Violets. Photo by Pinedale Online.

Snail Shells. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Snail Shells
Pinedale Online > News > May 2005 > Wyoming Range Conditions

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