Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gros Ventre Slide Area and Animals Galore Today

We had a terrific day of sightseeing today. It started when we left church this morning. As we drove home the whole herd of bison were grazing in the fields along Gros Ventre Road. We stopped to take pictures of them and listen to their growling noises. 

This guy has an itch he can't reach!

Oh my, his head itches too - No wonder these trees lean!

Then we changed clothes and had some lunch. We decided to go out and see some more of the sights. We began by driving up Highway 89 to one of the scenic turnouts along the road. From this viewpoint, we got some good pictures of the mountains. We were hoping to see some beavers at work because we had heard that there were some in the area but they apparently knew we were coming and vacated the premises. I pulled out my binoculars and found some Sand Hill cranes so I had Lee get some pictures of them because he is much more gifted at getting good pictures of birds and animals that are almost out of sight with the naked eye. He did get some good ones - even a couple of them flying off. They make the most interesting noises when they are flying. We'd never heard them before and now we'll always know that sound! 

Sand Hill Cranes

Sand Hills in Flight

One of the features that you can't miss seeing in this area is the Gros Ventre Slide area. This area that looks like a huge hole or gash in the side of a mountain on the east side of Jackson Hole is visible from much of the south part of Grand Teton National Park. From the roadside turnoff, we could see the slide area behind us as it features prominently in the distance. We decided to drive in that direction and get a closer look at the slide area and the lake it created. We drove back to Gros Ventre Road and headed toward the small community of Kelly. While on this stretch of road, we had to stop to get pictures of the herd of pronghorns that were getting their fill of the local grasses. It looks like today is a good day for animals!
A herd of Pronghorns

You can see the slide area as it appears larger as we approach it.

We continued down Gros Ventre Road past Kelly until we got to the slide area. This massive landslide occurred on June 23, 1925 following weeks of heavy rain. Approximately 50,000,000 cubic yards of rock slid off the north face of Sheep Mountain and into the Gros Ventre River valley. The rock formed a large natural dam, backing up the water and forming Lower Slide Lake. The winter of 1926-27 brought heavier than normal snowfall and the resulting snow melt combined with more weeks of heavy rain in May 1927. On May 18, residents began to notice debris from the flooding of the upper valley floating downstream in the river. Alarmed, several residents went to the dam to discover that the lake had over-topped the dam and was beginning to wash it away. Alerted to the situation, the residents of Kelly evacuated. The ensuing flood was 6 feet deep for at least 25 miles downstream. The flood destroyed most of the town, leaving only the church and the schoolhouse standing. Thanks to the prior warning, only six people died in the flood. The deluge also damaged ranches and part of the community of Wilson, 14 miles downstream on the Snake River.

What is amazing is that this happened in 1925 and the hillside still looks like it could have happened yesterday. As we were getting to the area that has the path to the slide area, it was approaching dusk which is not a good time to be out without bear spray and, of course, we had left it at home. But, Lee convinced me that we were invincible until I spotted a huge bone from some animal right on the path. It was all that was left of it and a very good reminder NOT to be on any trail in the area without your bear spray. Bears have shown up in town here so thinking that some trail is well traveled so bears would avoid it, is just plain dumb! Anyway, we managed to get our pictures and you never saw me hike faster than I did getting out of there.
Okay, who ate that and where are they now?

Debris from the flood

Miles and Miles of Debris!

Once we were safely back in the truck, I relaxed and got some lovely shots of the Red Hills. Then, wonder of wonders, as we were driving I spotted some wolves crossing the road quite a ways ahead of us. Lee was able to stop the truck and we got some pretty decent pictures of them. There were two of them and as they were crossing Antelope Flats, they were chasing and playing. It was just something I never thought we would see. The other times we have seen wolves it was almost pitch black and getting a picture was impossible.
Slide Lake

The Red Hills

All in all, it was a terrific day!

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