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Buffalo Fork River

Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP :

This page contains a quick overview for each month of the year. Hopefully, the information below will give you a feel for the weather, animal activity, access, and events for each month in the Tetons. Click the links below to see actual photos taken during each of these months.

Recent Daily Updates Archives:
2015:
Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov:
| Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013:
Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

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January Header

January Overview:

January, along with December, are our traditional COLD months. Many of the zones are closed for the winter, along with some of the roads.  Most of the animals have either left the valley, gone into hibernation, or have moved into the southern end of Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Days are short, yet the sun is low allowing you to take photos all day long.

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014 . Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested January “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

January  2015 Daily Updates and Photos: |  January 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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February Header

February Overview:

February can start out very cold, then warm slightly by the end of the month. In many years, Mountain Goats start becoming more dependable subjects. Red Foxes and Owls seem to appear in random places during this month. As in January, access in GTNP is limited. The southern end of the valley will probably be your best bet for the large game animals and possible wolves.

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes:   Jan: 2015  Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014 | Dec: 2013. Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

February 2015 Daily Updates and Photos:February, 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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March Banner

March Overview:

There can be a “hint” of a change in March.  Winter keeps a stronger grip on the landscape in the northern parts of the park and along the base of the mountains. It can start looking like early Spring in some areas and look like December in others.

Swan PlatformMost of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Mountain Goats “normally” start becoming more dependable subjects in March. Red Foxes and Owls seem to appear in random places during this month. Feb: 2015: Jan: 2015  Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014Mar: 2014:Dec: 2013. Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right.

  • Flat Creek Observation Deck: Look for Swans Along Flat Creek, Geese, Ducks and occasional River Otters.
  • Boyle’s Hill Pond: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill: (The link includes a map)
  • Miller Butte: Look for Bighorns , Elk, Pronghorns, Coyotes, Wolves, Eagles, Ravens, Bison. Watch for Mountain Bluebirds.
  • Gros Ventre River: Look for Moose , Bald Eagles, Elk, and Bison there.
  • Kelly Area: Look for Mule Deer at the edges of town and around the Shane Cabins. Also keep an eye out for a Porcupine near the Shane cabins. Watch for Mountain Bluebirds.
  • Alpine Junction: Watch for Mountain Goats near the mouth of the canyon.  March can be GREAT, or it can be lousy. It will depend on the snow pack each year.
  • Camp Creek along the Hoback River: Check out Bighorns along the road.
  • Sleigh Ride on the National Elk Refuge:  Best winter deal in the valley!

Important Winter Links

March 2015 Daily Updates and Photos  |  March 2014 Daily Updates and Photos

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April Banner

April Overview:

April is a month of transitions and can be difficult to predict from year to year. Some snow may start melting, yet get a thick new layer at any particular time. The large game animals adjust their movements from the south end of the valley based on snow pack. 2015 was a particularly warm year. Click here to view April of 2014, then click on March 2015 and you should get a good idea for the beginning week or two of April 2015.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • The Inner Park Loop Road is closed to vehicle traffic until May 1st. You can walk, hike, bike, or roller blade the road during April.
  • Access to some of the normal “hot spots” will be limited. Schwabacher Landing will not be open until May 1 along with a section of the Moose-Wilson Road.
  • The valley is waking up early this year. Grizzlies should be visible beginning in early April. Carry bear spray!
  • Elk, Bison, Bighorns, and Wolves are migrating north out of the National Elk Refuge. Moose are visible in many areas. This is a great time to see wildlife.
  • Most of the large game animals will be shedding their winter coats and may look “shaggy” for a while. Bucks and bulls will likely have lost their antlers.
  • Some birds like Trumpeter Swans will be migrating out of the valley, while others like Osprey will be moving in.
  • April is a good month to photograph the Teton Range with it’s full blanket of snow.
  • To start the month, sunrise will be a little after 7:00 am and sunset will be between 7:50 and 8:00 pm.

Important Winter/Spring Links

  • Best of the Tetons : Start Here!: This page will give you a good overview of the earlier Feature Posts
  • Helpful Links and Resources: Weather Reports, Web Cams and Ski Reports have links in the right navigation bar, but this page has many additional links.
  • Winter Closures: Many areas are closed during the Winter months. Click the link, scroll to the Winter section and look for the Winter closure maps.

April 2015 Daily Updates and Photos:  April 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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May

May Overview:

April usually kicks off the change from Winter to Spring, but May is the month in which the valley floor actually begins to look and feel like Spring. Most of the elk, bison and wintering Pronghorns will have left the National Elk Refuge and are often well on their way to their summer homes. Wolves and other predators become more active and generally follow the prey animals. May 1st marks the opening of the Teton Park Road from the Taggart Lake Trailhead Parking Area to the gate just south of Signal Mountain Lodge.

Winter snow will still cover much of the area around Jenny Lake and String Lake. Jackson Lake will thaw and eventually clear. I always like the bright green leaves of May on the Aspens. Around the valley, merchants prepare for the upcoming tourists. Old West Days over the Memorial Day weekend kick off the summer season. Check out the Wildlife Reports:  for more specifics. Bison  cows will be dropping their “red dogs” in the first couple of weeks of May. It’s always a treat to see them, especially when they are in the Arrowleaf Balsom Root plants of mid-May.  By late May, some of the Moose cows give birth, followed by the Elk and Pronghorns in early June.

Major Road Opening Dates:

  • Teton Park Road and Inner Park Loop Road  — May 1
  • 2015 Yellowstone Road Opening Dates Weather permitting, roads open at 8 am. Changes and delays are always possible.
    • April 17: Mammoth to Old Faithful;Madison to West Entrance;Norris to Canyon.
    • May 1: Canyon Junction to Lake;Lake to East Entrance (Sylvan Pass).
    • May 8: Lake to South Entrance;Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
    • May 22: Tower Fall to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass); Beartooth Highway.
    • June 11: Old Faithful to West Thumb (Craig Pass).

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Baby Bison, sometimes called “red dogs” start appearing next to their mothers in the Kelly area, along the GV Road, and Antelope Flats Road
  • Wildflowers, especially Arrowleaf Balsom Root plants, begin to bloom in numbers along the valley floor. Others appear later in the month
  • Grizzly Bears become more visible in the Oxbow area. Bring your fresh bear spray
  • Trees will be in full color in most areas of the valley by the end of the month
  • Migrating songbirds move through the valley. Watch for Western Tanagers, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Orioles and Grosbeaks
  • Moose, Deer, Elk, and Bison will often still be shedding their winter coats
  • Most roads in the Park will be open as May progresses towards Memorial Day and into early June. Access to the Mormon Row Barns should be easy.

May 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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June

June Overview:

June is the first of the Summer Months. By early June, most of the large game animals will have migrated to their summer grounds. Most reports for July and August will look and sound a lot alike. The big difference in the three months is the the babies being born around the valley. Watch for young moose, bears, elk, deer, pronghorns, coyotes, foxes, and so forth. June is also the month things can start to feel “hot” in the daytime. Many of the animals will be active in the mornings and afternoons and will bed down during the warm hours. Elk, Deer, and Moose usually move into the forests to find shade. Bison will often find a spot and just “hang” until things cool down. Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Grizzlies and Wolves will be watching for baby Elk, so if you want to see either, go to areas with the most Elk, like the area around Willow Flats. June is also the month tourists show up in large numbers.

Wildflowers start appearing in late May and begin to cover many parts of the valley floor in June. Arrowleaf Balsom Root should be visible around Antelope Flats Road and the East Boundary Road. Purple Lupine are the other prominent flowering plant in GTNP. While many people think of foliage season as the most colorful season here, June might be considered a strong contender.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Baby Bison, sometimes called “red dogs” start appearing next to their mothers in the Kelly area, along the GV Road, and Antelope Flats Road
  • Grizzly Bears become more visible in the Oxbow area. Elk start calving in early June and the bears move into the area for easy meals. Bring your fresh bear spray.
  • June is the month for seeing most babies, including Moose, Deer, Elk, Pronghorns, Bison and small critters.
  • Trees will be in full color in most areas of the valley by the end of the month. Green grass, flowers, and leaves will be evident.
  • Pilgrim Creek Road has beautiful Purple Lupines lined in front of it in June. Wildflowers will be accenting the valley in fairly large numbers.
  • Migrating songbirds move through the valley. Watch for Western Tanagers, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Orioles and Grosbeaks.
  • Most roads and facilities in the Park will be open to cater to the tourists. Be up early to have the best chances to see animals and avoid some of the tourists.

June 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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July

July Overview:

July is the much like the month of June. The babies of Julywhen you see them—will be larger, faster and usually darker than the babies of June. The lush green Spring growth gradually matures, dries and turns to a duller mid-summer color. Runoff from the thaws lessens and streams become smaller and clearer. Fishermen rejoice. Daylight hours remain long, however the yearly cycle shaves a few minutes off each end of the day as the month progresses. July and early August are the hottest months. Most of the large fur covered animals are most active during the early mornings and late evenings and will bed down during the middle of the day. Elk, Deer, and Moose usually move into the forests to find shade. Bison will often find a spot and just “hang” until things cool down. Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Bears and wolves will still be on the lookout for baby elk, usually around the Willow Flats area.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Moose!: Bull Moose are in velvet and their antlers are growing fast. The old winter fur will have been replaced with their slick summer coat. Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Baby Bison: Watch for young bison near their mothers along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are often found in the Oxbow Bend area, feasting on young elk. Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Bison and Pronghorns: By the middle of July, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope). By late July, watch for rut behavior for the Bison and even more so going into August. Many of the other animals like Deer, Elk, & Moose move into the forests during the daytime or bed down in the tall sagebrush. Sunrise is roughly 5:45 AM during the first of the month and sunset is at roughly 8:55 PM. You need to get up early or stay out late. Staying out late has a caveat, of course, as the Teton Range puts most areas into shadows long before actual sunset. Beavers have been active just before dark at Schwabacher Landing.

Wildflowers are also “Hot” during July. Common summer wildflowers include Mule’s Ear, One Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, Purple Lupine, Sticky Geraniums, Penstemon, Skyrocket Gilia. Grand TetonNational Park Service-Wildflowers.

Landscapes! Sunrise in early July is around 5:40 am, so you have to get up very early to capture the beautiful color. Oxbow Bend is now full of water. On calm days, you can get great reflection shots. On windy mornings, think about places like Snake River Overlook, the Mormon Row Barns, or the Old Patriarch Tree that look great without the fear of ruffled water. Schwabacher Landing is now open and getting a lot of traffic.

July 2014 Daily Updates and Photos

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August

August Overview:

August is more of a “transitional month” than June and July.  Maybe from day to day, it is not overly apparent, but things are definitely changing. Grassy areas are drying out. Streams are getting lower. Flat Creek opens to fishing on the National Elk Refuge (some areas). Days are still long, but getting shorter. Nights begin to get much cooler.  The first half of August can be “relatively hot”—even though it would feel cool to most people coming here from elsewhere. Bison are usually well into their rut season in August. Moose, Elk and Deer will be in velvet much of the month before they begin their rut season. With the daytime heat, expect the large fur bearing animals to be bedded down during the hottest hours. The babies of Spring will be much larger, darker, and more independent. Canada Geese practice their V formation in preparation for their trek to the south. Other songbirds slowly slip back through the valley, going almost unnoticed. Tourists continue to fill the roadways, rest stops, and stores for most of the month. By the third week in August, much of the young workforce pull up stakes and head back to college as tourism begins to slowly drop off.

Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Bears and wolves will still be on the lookout for baby elk, usually around the Willow Flats area.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose will continue to grow their antler through August.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Bison and Pronghorns: By the August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Wildflowers are often still visible in August. Common summer wildflowers include Mule’s Ear, One Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, Purple Lupine, Sticky Geraniums, Penstemon, Skyrocket Gilia. Grand TetonNational Park Service-Wildflowers.

Landscapes! Be up early for the best sunrise opportunities. Oxbow Bend is now full of water. On calm days, you can get great reflection shots. On windy mornings, think about places like Snake River Overlook, the Mormon Row Barns, or the Old Patriarch Tree that look great without the fear of ruffled water. Schwabacher Landing is open and getting a lot of traffic. Don’t forget about a trip across Jenny Lake on the boats for a hike to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. A Scenic Float Trip by any of the companies can get you to remote areas of the Snake River.

August 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  August 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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September

September Overview:

September is my favorite month. Many of the tourists leave the valley, giving everyone a little more elbow room. “Change” is the theme for the entire month—both on the landscape and the wildlife—and the changes are usually rapid and evident. Leaves begin to change and magically transforms the valley with a new palette of warm colors. Berries ripen and wildlife finds them. Fall officially begins on the 22nd of September this year, but hints of the new season will be evident at the first of the month. By the 22nd, Fall foliage will be in near peak form in many areas of the valley. Moose, Deer, and Elk will be in the rut much of the month. At some point, we’ll likely see our first significant snowfall in the high country, some of which might hang around all fall.  The valley floor might also see a short lived blanket of snow from an early storm.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose start stripping their velvet in early September then begin their rut period.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Black Bears often show up in September along the Moose-Wilson Road looking for berries.
  • Pronghorns: By the August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Streamlined Viewing Links:

September 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  September 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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October

October Overview:

Normally, peak foliage around Oxbow Bend is during the first few days of the month. Snow will be the big game changer in October. Temperatures drop considerably during the month and some of the snowfall will begin to stick in  areas of the valley. Early snows usually melt quickly on the valley floor, yet remain in the high country. Moose and Elk will continue their rut into the first few weeks and Pronghorns begin their later rut. More migrating birds pass through the valley, or leave the valley. After the Fall Foliage, the bulk of the tourists leave and the valley becomes amazingly quiet and peaceful.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose continue their rut into October.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Elk: Elk are seldom seen unless you are out very early or just before sunset. During the rut, you have a good chance of seeing them at Willow Flats, Lupine Meadow, and Timbered Island.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Black Bears often show up in September along the Moose-Wilson Road looking for berries.
  • Pronghorns: By August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Streamlined Viewing Links

October 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  October 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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November

November Overview:

Some locals view November as a “shoulder season” month. That’s short for “not much going on”. Of course, those people are merchants, tour operators, skiers, and so forth. All you’d have to do is look over last year’s November Daily Updates and Photos pages to know that is far from accurate when speaking about viewing and photographing wildlife and landscapes in and around Grand Teton National Park. In many ways, November might be THE BEST month to capture wildlife images on a consistent basis. First off, days are much shorter and the sun stays low in the sky much of the day. The hours are compressed, but more importantly, the quality of the light is better for much longer.  Weather wise, November is a transitional month with winter storms blanketing the mountains and some snow starting to build on the valley floor—however not so much that you can’t get around. One of the major park road arteries, the Teton Park Road closes on November 1st, but there are still plenty of places to go to and see. Trumpeter Swans can be incredibly fun to photograph as they migrate into the valley, landing and taking off on Flat Creek. Later in the month, Bighorn Sheep move onto the National Elk Refuge as they gather to begin their rut. All of the ungulates still have their antlers and are usually active and visible. Lastly, when you do find something of interest, you’ll often be the only person there taking the shots. November might be considered the “locals little secret”. Variety is the hallmark of the month if you are willing to go out into the cold and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.

Suggested November “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Flat Creek Observation Deck: Look for Swans Along Flat Creek, Geese, Ducks and occasional River Otters.
  • Boyle’s Hill Pond: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill: (The link includes a map)
  • Miller Butte: Look for Bighorns near the end of November, Elk, Pronghorns, Coyotes, Wolves, Eagles, Ravens, Bison. Bighorns.
  • Gros Ventre River: Look for Moose , Bald Eagles, Elk, and Bison there.
  • Timbered Island and Lupine Meadows: Watch for Elk and Pronghorns
  • Kelly Area: Look for Mule Deer and Moose at the edges of town and around the Shane Cabins.

Streamlined Viewing Links

November 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  November 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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December

December Overview:

Winter is here to stay! I can almost sum up the month in three concepts: Cold days and nights—short daylight hours—limited access. That’s not all necessarily bad, but it is a far cry from the norms of summer. The cold brings heavy snow and that creates numerous winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing, shoe shoeing, and so forth. Some animals are hibernating, while others are more available to us than ever, such as Bighorn Sheep and possibly Mountain Goats. Some of the winter sunrises can be spectacular and you seldom need a graduated neutral density filter!  The sun goes behind the mountains by 4:30 pm, so it’s easy to be back for dinner. The sun is low in the sky, allowing you to take photos almost all day long with limited high contrast issues. Many roads are closed during the Winter months, however other opportunities seem to fill the void.

Consider a sleigh ride on at the National Elk Refuge. The Bighorns on Miller Butte are always good in December, including the opportunity to witness their annual rut. Swans move into the valley for the Winter, with good access spots along Flat Creek and Boyle’s Hill. Check out a guided snowmobile trip to Granite Hot Springs and see Granite Falls along the way. Holiday lights wrap about every tree and all four of the Elk Antler Arches downtown. At the end of the month, plan on going to one of the torch light parades to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. Fun photography!

In many ways, the months of December, January, and February are almost carbon copies of each other. Check out each of last year’s Daily Updates to get an idea of the opportunities! Nov: 2013  | Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 . Bull moose drop their antlers during the month of December and early January, so prime moose opportunities become more limited in January and February.

Suggested December “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

December 2014 Daily Updates and Photos: | December 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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Comments (2)

  1. Jim

    I really like this overview. And while it provides great information, I was wondering if you would be willing to venture your thoughts about how 2015 is progressing along weather wise. That is, will the lack of snow and cold weather “advance” this schedule any? Reason I am asking is that I plan to be in the area around mid-June and am really anxious to see balsam root, lupines, oh, and wildlife… :-). Does it still look like that will be the case? I know it is hard to tell, but would love to know your thoughts.

  2. With all the warm weather, 2015 seems to be ahead of most years as of mid-April. I don’t know how that will relate to wildflower season. By mid-June, I’d feel comfortable suggesting quite a few wildflowers will be covering the valley. Balsom Root are replaced with various other yellow flowers. You can always look over May, June, and July’s Daily Updates to get a good feel how last year progressed.

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