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Best of the Tetons

“Don’t it always seem to go? You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Lyrics from “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell ~ 1970.

Moose-Wilson Status

Joni’s words seem to ring true lately. I spent quite a bit of time with the black bears along the Moose-Wilson road this year. There have been more in the area than some years. For maybe a week, photography was great. As of last Tuesday afternoon, we are prohibited from seeing and photographing them along the road. They are not gone, but the opportunity has been severely thwarted. The Park Service probably made a good call on it. And, it might reopen soon? Who knows? The Moose-Wilson Road and Black Bears – My Experiences

The challenge, and focus of this post, is to acknowledge “what you’ve got” while it is happening and get out and photograph it while it is there.

There are always yearly trends and cycles. Leaves turn color and drop in the fall. Snow falls and remains on the valley floor around Thanksgiving. Bison rut in August. Many babies are born in early June. Grass turns green and deciduous trees add new leaves in May (or so).

But there are always little gems that fit between the common phases. Many are short lived and often don’t repeat.

Great Gray Owl

Three or four young Great Gray Owls appeared along the Spring Gulch Road at about the same time the Government Shutdown closed the Parks. It was good…really good… for a week or so. The owls eventually moved off the roads and one of them was hit by a vehicle. They haven’t been back. Great Gray Owls of Fall

Foxes 2008

A few years ago, a family of foxes showed up only a few feet off a main road in downtown Jackson. It was great, and it lasted a couple of weeks. She hasn’t been back. Red Fox: A Spring Vixen

River Otters

River Otters have been seen in some years along Flat Creek near the Visitor’s Center. But, not every year.

Chaning Beaver Terrain

Beavers can dam an area, creating a new pond that kills a beautiful stand of trees. The same pond might create spectacular reflections and habitat for numerous animals. Yin Yang.

Beaver with Willows

Beavers of Schwabacher Landing

Pfeiffer Homestead, On Antelope Flats Road

Forest Fires can change a landscape within only hours. The historic Pfeiffer Homestead, On Antelope Flats Road, burned to the ground during a prairie fire.

Shane Cabin

Time, decay, and the elements are constantly wearing down man made structures. The Luther Taylor cabin (the Shane Cabin) is now classified as a “ruins” site, and if I understand it correctly, will be allowed to fall down. The Shane Cabins: Authentic Homestead in Grand Teton National Park

In 2017, you may find it will be illegal to lightpaint the barns and structures inside Grand Teton National Park. The use of “artificial light” may trigger the requirement to acquire a Commercial Photography Permit.

T.A. Moulton Barn

Al Pounian took this wonderful shot around 1964. While the barn is sill there, all of the other outbuildings and fencing are totally gone. Thankfully, some of the fencing and corrals at the John Moulton Barn, a half mile north, have been repaired or replaced in recent years. The “Missing” GTNP Farming and Ranching Photos:

Flat Creek in November

Some wildlife related opportunities have a weather twist to them. Swans migrate through Jackson Hole in mid-November and December. In some years, Flat Creek freezes solid and we miss many of our chances to photograph them taking off and landing. In 2014, a pair of Trumpeter Swans paraded their little cygnets in front of viewers most of the summer. We looked forward to them again this year, but none of their babies survived. Trumpeter Swans: A Family of Swans Along Flat Creek in the Summer of 2014

Lupines

I used to get up at 4:00 am to be at this spot long before sunrise. During high water in Pilgrim Creek, this old gravel pit fills with water adds a few reflections on calm mornings. Around the middle of June, Purple Lupines begin springing up and can cover the ground like a blanket. This shot was taken at 5:40 am on July 1st, 2008. The patch of willows in the middle of the pond are now much taller, and are eliminating almost all reflections. I haven’t gone there early for this shot in years. Ansel Adams took his image at Snake River Overlook in 1942. At the time, the trees were much shorter, giving him a good of the bend of the Snake underneath. Since then, the trees have grown much taller and block views of the bend.

Moose Clan

Some species of animals are on the decline. One year, I found a herd of moose scattered in the sagebrush east of Blacktail Butte. I counted 28 antlered moose, plus plenty of cows and a few bulls that had already dropped their antlers. I haven’t seen those kinds of numbers since. Moose were much more common around Oxbow Bend than now. People saw moose in Yellowstone regularly in the early years, but many never see one on a trip through the park now. See: Montana, Wyoming investigate plummeting moose populations

Jenny Lake Trail

Other times, a governmental agency closes an area we’ve always used. We took it for granted. Sometimes, areas are closed to vehicles because of abuse or overuse, but either way, the vehicle access is gone. People can still hike in. There are several roads up the Gros Ventre that come to mind along with roads back to the Snake River in the South Park Feed Grounds. I have an old fishing guide book here somewhere that mentioned a good fishing spot called “First Creek”. It’s somewhere near the far north end of the Jackson Lake Dam, but that area is completely closed all human activity. I never got to fish it and never will! The photo above was taken at the top of the trail at Jenny Lake. The last time I was there, the trail was still closed, and it has been closed for at least a year. A piece of asphalt broke off, creating a potential hazard.

Kelly Warm Springs

Kelly Warm Springs: In 1927, the natural dam created by the Gros Ventre Slide gave way and flooded much of Kelly. “But, for uncertain reasons, Mud Springs (today’s Kelly Warm Springs) began producing more water after the Kelly flood. Settlers cut the Mormon Row Ditch to the springs and began irrigating dry lands.” See: Mormon Row Irrigation and the Kelly Warm Springs: Sometime starting in the 1940s, people began putting tropical fish into the warm pond and many of them flourished. Currently, there is a plan to poison the entire pond and ditch to rid it of the tropical fish. For many years, families and kids have gone there with buckets and nets, making a sport out of catching them. For better or worse, things will not be the same there soon.

Buck Rail Fence

Shrinking budgets can affect what we are seeing. The photogenic old buck rail fences across from Triangle X ranch showed up in many people’s portfolios, in magazines, and paintings. They have been replaced with less attractive barbed wire fences. Over the years we’ve lived here, many of the iconic old fences have been removed. Wild West in Jackson Hole: Cowboys, Wranglers and Horses

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Over the past 11 years, the spruce trees at Schwabacher Landing’s classic reflection pool have grown considerably. Even though the mountains are the same height, the larger trees are affecting the apparent scale of the Teton Range.

Get it While the Gettin’ is Good!

I could probably come up with another dozen or so examples, but you should get the idea. For the most part, the loss of the photographic opportunities are out of our control. Some are still available, but are slipping away fast. A few opportunities will be gone soon and future bloggers will be reminiscing about them. Occasionally, we get special windows of time to photograph bears, otters, owls, or newborn animals. Those times, to a photographer, are similar to a powder day to a skier or snowboarder or a Green Drake hatch to a fisherman. You have to “get it while the gettin’ is good!

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Critters

Maybe they don’t have the “mass” of the large game animals and predators, but they are equally fun and equally challenging to photograph!

This page contains photos of some of the smaller mammals found in the Jackson Hole valley and Grand Teton National Park. With few exceptions, I don’t go out looking for the critters. Instead, I am usually out taking photos of something else when I catch a glimpse of something moving nearby.

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Short-tailed Weasel or Ermine

I’ve only see a few Weasels or Ermine while out in the valley. They are elusive and seem to always be on the move. This page contains lots of facts about them. Weasel (Short Tailed) or (Ermine) . There are possibly some Long-tailed Weasels in the valley.

Weasel

Weasel: I photographed this Weasel along the Gros Ventre while searching for moose. I’ve seen photos others took inside the Gros Ventre campground. Other photographers have been known to capture images of them along the road on the National Elk Refuge, though I haven’t been so lucky.

Ermine

Ermine: Needless to say, seeing a small white mammal in an ocean of white snow is not an easy task! This one happened to run across the top of the snow along the Snake River south of Hoback Junction. I’ve seen them on numerous occasions along Spring Gulch Road, but I have never been able to capture one in my camera. A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of one running across my back yard. I’d love to get thousands more photos of them!

Great Gray and Ermine

Great Gray Owl and Ermine: I’ll take that back. I captured this shot of a Short-tailed Weasel (Ermine in winter) along Spring Gulch Road, but only after the Great Gray captured it first.

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Coyotes

You might find a coyote about anywhere in the valley at any time of the year. They are leery of humans as they are shot as pests outside the park.

Coyote

Coyote: Occasionally, a coyote will stop long enough to get a few shots. I photographed quite a few of them in the National Elk Refuge, along Mormon Row, and at Elk Flats.

Coyote Pups

Coyote Pups: During the past couple of years, coyote raised a litter of pups under one of the buildings along Mormon Row. These two were close to the Moose Visitor’s Center.

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Wolves

Despite the fact there are numerous packs of wolves in Grand Teton National Park, I seldom see them and almost never get to photograph them.

Wolf

Wolf and Coyote: Knowing wolves are near the top of the food chain, I was hesitant to include them on this page, but I thought this photo merited the inclusion. This large black wolf was milling around on the east side of the park. The Coyotes were amazingly brave around him—possibly trying to lure him away from their den. Watch for Wolves along the Snake River, around Willow Flats and Oxbow Bend, and near Uhl Hill on the east side of the park. Some are seen in the Buffalo Fork river bottom and housing areas.

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Porcupines

A lot of farmers kills porcupines on sight. They strip the bark and kill trees and can cause a lot of damage. Inside the Park, they are protected.

Porcupine

Porcupine: I photographed this Porcupine along the East Boundary Road a few years back. It seemed out of place with no trees anywhere near.

Porcupine

Porcupine: This Porcupine had been killing a valley resident’s trees next to his house on West Gros Ventre Butte. A friend of the homeowner trapped the animal. I went with the trapper to release it along the base of the mountain north of Wilson. We had expected it to move slowly out of the trap and get into the closest clump of trees, but instead, it took off like a thoroughbred racehorse coming out of the gate.

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Badgers

Watch for badgers anywhere there are Uinta Ground Squirrels and soft dirt. A few dig holes around the Gros Ventre Campground and around the Mormon Row barns.

Badgers

Badgers: I photographed these along Mormon Row a few years back. I also seen them in the pastures near Elk Flats and near the Kelly Warm Springs.

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Red Squirrels

Most of my shots of Red Squirrels were taken in my back yard. One has been building nests and stashing food there for years. However, they are commonly seen in almost all wooded parts of the valley. At certain times of the year, Red Squirrels harvest cones from the various Spruce and Pine trees.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel. This mother was moving her six babies from one hole to another.

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel: A few weeks later, the youngsters came out and explored their surroundings before being run off by the mother.

Jumping Red Squirrel

Jumping Red Squirrel: One of the advantages of having a resident Squirrel is being able to get shots like this. I put peanuts in a tree trunk for her. She’d go back and forth getting the peanut and returning to her nesting cavities. I set up with a couple of strobes for some high speed-sync action. She’s an athlete, but she doesn’t wear Nike shoes!

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River Otters

River Otters can be found in about any of the valley’s waterways. But, that’s easier to say than it is to actually find them and photograph them. They are constantly on the move and can travel large distances in search of fresh food sources…fish!

Otter Family

Otter Family: I photographed this family a few years ago along Flat Creek. Another group is often photographed on the snow near Oxbow Bend and around the Jackson Lake Dam. I’ve photographed them along the Gros Ventre River and along Pacific Creek.

River Otters with Catch

River Otters with their catch:

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Muskrats

These critters are quite a bit smaller than otters, but are often found in the same areas.

Muskrat

Muskrat: I photographed this Muskrat from the observation platform along Flat Creek.

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Chipmunks

This might be a “least Chipmunk”, but actually, I believe there are at least three species of Chipmunks in the area. They are common in almost all parts of the valley. Watch for them in the tops of the sagebrush and scavenging for food and seeds around campgrounds and pullouts.

Chipmonk

Chipmunk: I photographed this one along the Gros Ventre river as it heads out of the Park and into the Slide Lake area. Again, they are common everywhere.

Chipmonk

Chipmunk: I took this photo along the Moose-Wilson road a few years ago. Black Hawthorne berries attract a variety of animals including Black Bears and Grizzly Bears, along with many species of birds.

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Yellow-bellied Marmots

Marmots are fairly common in the Jackson Hole valley. Watch for them in rock piles along the road.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: They spend much of their day sunning on the rocks. They are quick to hide if a hawk or predator is in the area. A good place to find them is in the rocks at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. They hibernate in the winter.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: Occasionally, you’ll find a Marmot in a large tree trunk. This one was near Pilgrim Creek in GTNP. Obviously, they are difficult to spot.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: As far as I know, this is still a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I’ve seen a few pockets of the dark ones in the valley. This one was photographed at White Grass Ranch a few years ago. I went back to photograph them again, only to be told the Park Service trapped them out and moved them to another undisclosed location in the park. They were interfering with preservation efforts. Another group  of dark Marmots can sometimes be seen at the base of the mountain near the Cascade Canyon and Hidden Falls boat ramp.

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Red Foxes

These sly little critters inhabit much of the valley, but are not always easy to find or photograph.

Red Fox

Red Fox: A few years ago, Red Foxes were plentiful in the Wilson area. This one is “mousing”.

Red Fox

Red Fox: They can be very agile while chasing their prey. I’ve watched them capture a mouse or vole, then bury it, mark their spot, and continue hunting. On the way back to the den, especially when they have kits, they gather them up and carry a large mouthful of food to their young.

RedFoxSnowBank_Mar24

Red Fox: I prefer Winter for photographing Foxes while their fur is long and full. I photographed this one in the north end of the Park. Lots of people photographed a Red Fox in Karns Meadows a few years back. Some can be seen along the fence lines around Kelly. Check out this earlier Feature Post showing more of this Fox. Red Fox: A Spring Vixen

Red Fox

Red Fox: By late spring, Foxes begin to shed some of their winter coats. While this one might look like a black fox or a silver fox, they are still Red Foxes and will have a white tip on their tail. I photographed this in the pastures in Wilson.

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Uinta Ground Squirrels:

Uinta Ground Squirrels are plentiful throughout the sage flats of Jackson Hole. Hawks, owls and other raptors feed on them, along with Badgers, Foxes, and Coyotes. Interestingly, they spend roughly eight months of the year underground or hibernating.

Uinta Ground Squirrels

Baby Uinta Ground Squirrels:  You can see them on almost any summer day around the Mormon Row barns.

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Pikas

Pikas are usually found in the higher elevations. Watch for them in rock piles gathering clumps of grass and vegetation.

Pika

Pika: I photographed this little Pika on my way up to Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems

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Beavers

The American Fur Traders came to Jackson Hole to trap beavers during the time span of 1825-1840. They could have effectively trapped the entire population in a year or two. Populations of beavers are now well recovered. Watch for beavers in the river bottoms and see more images on this Feature Post: Beavers of Schwabacher Landing

Beaver

Beaver:  I photographed this beaver at Schwabacher Landing. They can also be seen along the Gros Ventre river and Pacific Creek.

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Ground Squirrels

There are a few different species of Ground Squirrels in Jackson Hole. At slightly higher elevations watch for Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels.

Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel: These are larger than the Chimpmonks found in the valley. I photographed this one near Inspiration Point on my Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems hike.

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Raccoons

Raccoons are mostly nocturnal feeders. They are not native to the region, but have moved in and are thriving.  While fly fishing, I saw a family of Raccoons working their way along the bank of the Snake River.

Raccoon

Raccoon: I photographed this Raccoon in my back yard one night after our dog ran it up a tree. They come around looking for leftover bird feed.

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Pine Marten

I have so little experience with Pine Martens…here’s a link with more info: Pine Martin | Wilderness Classroom

Pine Marten

Pine Marten: I took this photo of an elusive little Pine Marten while waiting for a mother Moose and Calf to stand up near Taggart Lake Trailhead. I’ve seen them on the road going into the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, but didn’t get shots. For a while, a Pine Marten was hanging around the parking area a the Pacific Creek boat launch near Moran Junction.

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Others?

Oh yes! There are lots of others! This guide will give you a much longer list of animals in GTNP: Mammal-Finding Guide via the Grand Teton National Park web site. There are mice, voles, shrews, bats, rabbits, wolverines, ferrets, woodrats, gophers, and the list goes on! As I have the opportunity, I spin my camera around and try to capture them.

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Beavers of Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing 2008

Beaver with BranchesBeavers have been a fixture at Schwabacher Landing for many years. They are responsible for the beautiful pool of water found in most of the images there. A slow moving branch of the Snake flows in front of the Teton Range north of the parking area. Beavers dammed the flow years ago. When we moved to Jackson Hole in 1986, a channel of the Snake River cut across the river bottom allowing boaters to launch from the parking area. It fed back into the main channel of the Snake. I an not sure of the year, but at some point, the channel was cut off at the main river, restricting the flow at Schwabacher Landing to only a trickle of water. Each year, the beaver families attempted to dam up the old branch of the Snake, but during high water, the dams were washed away.

South Dam - November 2013

Busy as Beavers: The family of beavers have now built several new dams in the old channel and they appear to be holding up well…at least for now! Who knows when the Snake will change it course again, jeopardizing all of their recent work. For now, they are busy adding to their dams and cutting down large cottonwoods that once stood along the river banks. The image above was taken in November of 2013 from the south, looking north towards the big parking area. There are at least three more dams above this one in the old channel. None of the cottonwoods above are “safe” from these aquatic rodents!

Schwabacher Landing Satellite View

Schwabacher Landing via The Photographer’s Ephemeris: The map above shows most of the dams (in red) with a few of the important locations identified. Much of the area of the river bottom is braided with small channels. You can see how the old channel could have been used by boaters for many years—giving Schwabacher Landing its original name. (Note: click the map image to view it larger, or click the link to go to the interactive map where you can move around and zoom in as desired). The Park Service graded and added an asphalt road at the top of the bench in 2013, making travel down to Schwabacher Landing much better, safer and easier. I don’t recommend going there is a large camper or with a trailer, but people do it on occasions. The turnaround might be tight on some days.

Reflected Beaver

By late summer and fall, it seems the beaver family’s primary mission is to store up food for the winter, yet they must maintain their existing dams. This beaver, with its bright orange teeth, is headed back to the main lodge with some of this winter’s food supply. At many beaver ponds I’ve been to, beavers are skittish when people are around. They often hit their tail hard against the water to create a loud splash as they go under and usually stay. This family of beavers is more tolerant of all the tourists visiting Schwabacher Landing. Possibly there are fewer predators in the area with all the human traffic? At any rate, the beavers go on about their business with little regard for people. If you want to read more about beavers, check out this informative link: Beavers: Wetland & Wildlife

Dogs in the Area: While there are no signs at either parking area to let people know, dogs are not permitted out of the parking area….EVER! Even while in the parking area, they have to be on a leash. People have been seen taking their large dogs down to the side of the stream—spooking the beavers. A barking dog inside a vehicle can change their behavior. Pets in the Park: and Pets in GTNP: These two official pages explain the pet rules in GTNP. The short version is you can only have a pet where you can drive a vehicle. Pets must be on a leash at all times and you are required to “scoop the poop”.

Leary Beaver

Beaver on Land: It took quite a few trips to get a shot like this one. It was a bit of a self imposed challenge. I was hoping to capture a shot out of the water, with eyes open, a bit of its front feet and at least some of its tail. I got lucky that day with all the pieces falling into place.

Beaver with Branches

Beaver with Branches: This is probably the easiest kind of shot to get of the beavers as they swim by with clumps of willows and cottonwoods.

Web_BeaverByGrass_Oct18

Just Swimming By: Of course, they swim by often with no branches.

Beaver at Sunset

Red Sky: I took this one late in the evening while I had a red sky. As I mentioned earlier, getting swimming shots is relatively easy. For a photographer, the tougher challenge is to capture images showing at least some of their tail—otherwise, they can look like just a large wet rat!

Aftermath

Dead Spruce Trees: A few years after the beavers built their dam and lodge, some of the existing spruce trees died. They are now systematically taking down the big cottonwoods in the vicinity. Needless to say, a family of beavers can drastically change a large area of the landscape to the benefit of a lot of other species of plants and animals.

Cottonwood Trunk

Cottonwood Trunk: The beavers do half the work and the winds finish the job. Only a few yards away is a tree the beavers attempted to take down. Instead of falling to the earth, it fell into another tree and is still standing. I’d be curious how long it takes a group of beavers to chew through this much of a tree trunk. Once you see all the down cottonwoods, you’ll know to be especially alert while walking around the area on a windy day!

Stripping Bark

Once Felled: After the wind completes its half of the felling, the beavers strip the bark and eat it like candy. The smaller branches are carried back to the lodge area.

Dinner Time at the Cottonwood

Cottonwood Bark Feast: After stripping off a chunk of the bark, they sit back and dine away. One site I read suggests a beaver can grow to up to 60 pounds. This one is definitely a tubby.

Teeth Marks

Teeth Marks: Their teeth are perfectly adapted to do the job.

Cottonwood Pattern

Evening Light on a Downed Cottonwood Stump: These teeth marks were on the tree trunk I included earlier. It is a beautiful pattern.

Beaver on the Dam

Heading to the Main Channel: Actually, the main channel of the Snake River is a good half mile away, but in this case, the main channel is the old river landing channel. There are ample supplies of cottonwoods downstream.

Beaver Crossing a Dam

Young Beaver Returning with Branches: Some of the larger beavers return to the lodge with huge clumps of branches, often covering their entire face. This one had just the right amount. They often hold the branches in their mouth and one paw, then hop across flat areas like this on the other free leg.

Beaver with Clump of Branches

A Bigger Meal: I got lucky with this shot. The clump was large, but I got a small opening to capture the eye. I’ve deleted a lot of images in which the face was completely covered.

Late October 2009

Late October 2009: The current dam at the old “landing” is about 60 feet south of this 2009 dam. I always thought it added a nice touch to the composition.

Late November 2006

Late November 2006: Not that many people get to see Schwabacher Landing in the winter time. The large pool freezes over solid enough to walk across. The entire river bottom is closed to public entry after the 15th of December, but the road down to the parking area might be closed even sooner. In many previous years, the road was kept open to aid the elk hunters, but the area was closed to hunting last year. Currently (it’s late October as I write this post), you can still drive to the “landing”. The crowds of summer and fall are gone now. The beavers have been active all summer, but I was hesitant to make this post any earlier. It’s your chance to really experience the area, but it won’t last much longer!

Black Kettle

The Beaver Trade: Beavers played an important part in the history of the Jackson Hole valley. During the period between 1825 and 1840, trappers entered this valley to harvest beaver pelts to be used for fashionable top hats in Europe. French trappers were responsible for giving the Tetons their name. This area was originally called Jackson’s Hole for the trapper Davey Jackson while much of the west side of the Teton range was called Pierre’s Hole.  The rugged mountain men spent the late winter and early spring trapping beavers before taking their bounty to the regional rendezvous. Some of the depictions in popular movies like Jeremiah Johnson, show a solitary trapper in a vast, dangerous world. In reality, large brigades of trappers moved into an area as a team to trap the beaver population. They trapped an area out, then moved on with little regard for sustainability or the damage they might have done to the ecology. Some of the same trappers later became guides for the army and wagon trains as they expanded West. After 160 plus years of recovery, I suspect much of the a Schwabacher Landing looks similar to the mountain man days. The Jackson Lake dam may have played its part in changing the downstream ecology, but that’s an entirely different story.

Beaver at a Dam

Photography Notes: I used a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on most of the photos of the beavers on this page. I also used it for the detail shots. The early landscape shots were probably taken with a Nikon D300 and a 24-70 lens. Some people use 500mm and 600mm lenses there, especially to capture beavers going over the dams or on the lodge. I don’t own one, so it’s an easy call for me. Some shots are difficult because of the severe back lighting at certain times of the evening. The beavers cross through light areas right into dark areas on a regular basis so dealing with a wide range of exposure can cause problems with metering and exposures. Stopping action after the sun goes down is another challenge. The beavers come out to feed, work, and play late in the evening and work until late.

2006I’ve seen them working early in the morning, but not that often. A few years ago, I was set up at the north pool waiting for the morning sunrise. A beaver approached me. I stepped back from the tripod. He walked right under it, then stopped to preen not far from me. I snapped off a few shots, as seen  here in the 2006 image.

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Mountain Man Rendezvous:

From 1820-1840, rugged and adventuresome young men ventured into the Northern Rockies to trap critters for their fur. The main prize: beaver pelts! The pelts were used to make fashionable top hats for wealthy Europeans. It was a colorful and noteworthy time in American History. While no actual Rendezvous occurred in Jackson Hole proper, many Rendezvous did take place within only short distances of here. I believe there is plenty of evidence the trappers worked in the valley. In most years, a Rendezvous was held to allow the trappers to sell and trade their pelts for money and supplies. By all accounts, most rendezvous were loud and rowdy. If you are ever in Pinedale, WY, be sure to visit The Museum of the Mountain Man. Visit their site for more information and photos of both the history of the mountain men and the museum itself. Their book shop is brimming with books on the subject.

Ft Bridger

Throughout the Northern Rockies, numerous Mountain Man Rendezvous are held each year. Many of them are held on, or very near the original sites. Colorful characters attend the events, clad in period garb from head to toe. Many can speak the language and most are well versed in the history. They are almost always friendly and willing to talk with visitors, even the ones carrying cameras!

Many StringsI spent a few summers going to the area’s Rendezvous. I’ll go to several of them again this year, too. I developed lasting friendships with many of them and am deeply saddened to hear of one’s passing. My little buddy “Leprechaun” passed away just this year.

A couple of years ago, I was given the camp name “Shadow Catcher”. That was quite an honor of course. That’s also what the Native Americans called Edwin S. Curtis. I definitely share a kindred spirit with many of them.

Tips

If you go to a Rendezvous, be aware they might not want you to take their picture. All it usually takes is a little eye contact, a point to your camera and a nod. You’re good to go! Or you can simply ask them and get an answer. Few of them will ever ask you to pay them, but if you ever plan on using the images for anything commercial, I’d suggest getting a model release and paying them “something”. Some will accept a photo of themselves, but if you say you are going to do it, please follow through! If you snap a shot of someone doing something—like using a draw knife to make a bow or playing a banjo—ask before you leave them. If they say no, delete the photos right in front of them. I did that with one of them at one Rendezvous. The next time I saw him, he let me take all I wanted. It’s all about respect!  In reality, most of them dress up to “put on the show” and are more than willing to be photographed, but few of them like “posing” for shots. Candid shots are usually better anyway. Tony “Many Strings”, seen here, is a regular and seems to love having his photo taken. Under a pelt, he sells CDs with his wonderful music.

In some cases, you have to be careful of your own safety. They can be throwing knives and “hawks” (short for tomahawks), which are both sharp. There will likely be hot pots and kettles. In some areas, they will be firing black powder rifles and shooting arrows out of their bows.

Camp Henry

Most of the Mountain Man participants are long time friends (and sometimes enemies)! When I came home after seeing my first Rendezvous camp at Ashton, Idaho, I told my wife it reminded me of group camping or family reunions “with a theme”.  The theme, of course, is all wrapped around a 20 year slice of American History. Usually, there is what they call a “primitive camp” near the center of the main Rendezvous area. Tourists usually leave the areas on Friday and Saturday around 5 or 6 pm, leaving them to spend the rest of the evenings still in their period clothing. They often have campfire talks, sing songs, or simply drink the night away. Outside the main Rendezvous area, there is often a “tin can” camp. Some shed their period gear and spend the night in relative luxury, but must wear their gear to go back into the camps. Unless you are in period gear, a photographer is not welcome in the camp after hours.

Leprechaun and Shamrock

There are Mountain Man Rendezvous being held all over the country, and all year! The historic Rendezvous all happened in the Northern Rockies—mostly in NW Wyoming, Eastern Idaho, and Northern Utah. The Bannock and Shoshone Indian tribes were relatively friendly to the trappers in this area, while other tribes to the north were much more hostile. Still, it boggles my mind to hear of Mountain Man Rendezvous being held in Florida, or even Oklahoma! But then, there are Shakespeare Festivals all over the world.

West YS

Lastly, there is a group or organization that calls themselves “The American Mountain Men” (AMM). These are the hard core modern mountain men. Check out their web site for more information. This group prides themselves in “getting it right”. They study every piece of literature and book they can get their hands on. From books, paintings, and manuscripts, they accurately recreate the life of the original Mountain Men. They go out on extended primitive camping trips and horseback rides across the region several times a year. They make me realize I am a true “flat lander”—yet I have the utmost respect for them. The same group can be found at the Museum of the Mountain Man during the Green River Rendezvous teaching their knowledge about the original Mountain Men to the public and visitors. Rest assured, anything in their camp will be well researched and authentic!

Griz

2017* Area Rendezvous Schedules

This list should be fairly complete, but it’d be easy to miss one. The first Rendezvous starts around Easter and ends with a bang on Labor Day. Some of the Rendezvous traders then trade in their fur garb and head south to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for a circuit of western shows and fairs. *Indicates updated 2016 date.

*Fort Buenaventura Rendezvous:  April 13-16, 2017 (Easter Weekend) Ogden, UT  (801) 399-8099. I’ve never been to this rendezvous, but quite a few people told me it would be worth a trip. Check their Facebook page on the link to for information and directions. This is the first (regional) rendezvous of the season as far as I know.

Bitterroot Rocky Mountain Rendezvous: I did searches on the Internet for dates but didn’t see them. Check with the Chamber of Commerce in Eureka, MT. The approximate dates are around May 1st this year. I have never been to this one and information is scarce.

*Jackson Hole Mountain Man Rendezvous: May 20-29, 2017. Part of Old West Days.  Traders usually start showing up to the Teton County Fairgrounds during the week prior to Memorial Day and stay until the end of the Memorial Day weekend. Since the event is in town, there is no black powder shooting, but both Mountain Men and visitors can throw a Hawk and Knife or shoot a Bow and Arrow at one of the targets. Traders are set up on the grassy area, loaded with gear and trinkets, and plenty of stories to tell. Visitors are welcome and there is no admission fee.

*Port-Neuf Mountain Man Rendezvous: June 2-4, 2017 near McCammon, Idaho . I haven’t been to this rendezvous. Not sure, but I believe it is heavily concentrated on black powder shooting and contests. Check out their web site for more details.

*Cache Valley Rendezvous: Usually over Memorial Day weekend, July 21-24, 2017: This is near Logan, Utah in the Blacksmith’s Fork Canyon. Sponsored by Old Ephraim Mountain Man Club/435) 563-1913. I had a great time there a few years ago. There are lots of camps and tents scattered up and down the valley floor. Besides all of the characters, this rendezvous is great for shots of the tents, tipis, and morning smoke. Open to the public with a small entry fee unless you are wearing pre-1840 garb.

*Fort Henry Rendezvous:: First Weekend in June 7-11 2017 . Hosted by the Fort Henry Buckskinners. For most of the recent years, this event was held at one of the historic sites called Camp Henry, near Ashton, ID. This year, the event is moving to the old historic Fort Henry site near Parker, ID. The people running this Rendezvous always put on a great event. It is free to the public and visitors are truly welcome there. Besides the normal Rendezvous activities, this event hosts the Idaho Hawk and Knife Competition. It is also one of the few rendezvous with a cannon shoot. Those things are absolutely amazing. Some can shoot a bowling ball out of sight! This is about 75 miles from Jackson.

*1838 Rendezvous: June 29-July 1, 2017. Riverton, WY. Held at one of the original historic Mountain Man Rendezvous. Open to the public. I drove over to this Rendezvous a few years ago and had a good time.

*Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders Annual Father’s Day Rendezvous: Father’s Day weekend 2017, Troy, Idaho

*Idaho Free Trapper’s 33rd Annual Backwards Rendezvous: June 15-18  2017, Kennedy Ranch, Cascade, ID

*Green River Rendezvous: July 6-9, 2017. Pinedale, WY. Even if you don’t have a calendar, you can count on this Rendezvous happening on the second full weekend in July. There are three parts to this Rendezvous. Trader’s Row is located a block off the main street downtown. It’s easy to find. The streets are lined with contemporary artists, craftsmen, antiques and food vendors . Up on the hilltop, a the permanent Museum of the Mountain Man is surrounded by a group of  “American Mountain Men” (AMM). Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, you can attend the Green River Rendezvous Pageant. It starts at 1:00 pm. Check the web site for all the details. Pinedale is about 75 miles from Jackson.

*Rocky Mountain National RendezvousJuly 7 – July 16 2017. The RMNR does not require membership in anything, our only requirement is that participants abide by our simple rules, and join in the spirit of rendezvous. The Elkhorn Ranch, near Montpelier, ID

West Yellowstone Smoking Waters Rendezvous: First Week of August, West Yellowstone, MT. Located just on the west edge of West Yellowstone, this Rendezvous gets a lot of traffic. It is next to the main road heading into town. I like to go there to see old friends, plus I get to go through Yellowstone in both directions if I desire. There are usually plenty of traders and an area for Hawk and Knife throwing. The black powder shoots are off premise a few miles.

Red Lodge Mountain Man Rendezvous: Early August. Located near the highway just north of Red Lodge, MT. This is a “two for one” trip for me when I get to go to this one. I get to drive through Yellowstone and over Beartooth Pass to get to it. Afterwards, I have the choice to go back through the Park or drop down to Cody and through that part of the park on the way home. Admission is free and visitors are welcome during daytime hours.

Teton Valley Mountain Man Rendezvous: ? Victor, ID 9000 S. Hwy 33. I am not sure if this event is still ongoing. Check the Chamber of Commerce via the link.  Tents and tipis are easily visible from the highway. Trader’s row is separated a short distance from the contemporary vendors, artists, and craftsmen. Check out their Facebook page for photos and comments from last year.

Bear Lake Rendezvous: August 3-6. 2017, Laketown, ID. I haven’t been to this Rendezvous. I spoke with a few people that did go and they said it was a very good rendezvous. It is located on the south end of Bear Lake. Check out their page for more information and events.

*Hugh Glass Rendezvous: August 24-27, 2017 , Lemmon, SD. Hugh Glass is the trapper/guide portrayed in “The Revenant”.  Click the link for this year’s info, see a few gallery photos and a video of last year’s event.

*Bear River Rendezvous: Weekend before Bridger. August 25-27, 2017.  Evanston, ID. I’ve been to this one, located in the park next to the Bear River. I had a very good time there and got lots of wonderful images. No admission and the public is welcome.

*Fort Bridger Rendezvous: Sept. 1st-4th 2017; Labor Day weekend, Fort Bridger Historic Site, Ft. Bridger, WY. Okay….This is the biggest rendezvous of the area. Admission is $4 for people 12 and up unless you are in pre-1840 dress from head to toe. Free admission if you are! I’ve heard it said that Fort Bridger is the second largest city in Wyoming over that weekend, followed only by Cheyenne. Whether that’s true or not, I can tell you that even is HUGE! Just the area where they park their “tin can” campers is huge! There is a ton of history at the site itself between the Native Americans that used the area, Mountain Men and travelers on the Oregon Trail, and vehicle travelers on the Lincoln Highway. Food, vendors and dealers are set up on the streets outside the historic area, then Trader’s Row and primitive camps are inside. You’ll likely fill the cards on your camera.

Nationwide Rendezvous Schedule

Mountain Man Rendezvous Calendar via Crazy Crow Trading Co.’s site

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I included a few photos on this blog page. You can see more, and even purchase prints at my main web site. Here’s the link to the Mountain Men images at Teton Images.

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