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Foliage Reports September/October 2017

Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

Changing LeafDuring September, I’ll work on two pages simultaneously. This September Foliage 2017 post will contain more specific information about the ever changing foliage status in the area. The September 2017 Daily Journal for JH and GTNP Page will contain some foliage information, but will focus more on wildlife and landscapes. You’ll want to go to both regularly.

Note: Think of this page as a day to day or week to week resource containing mainly “record shots”. The photos are not intended to be “wall hangers”, but more documentary in nature. Also, this page will grow in size and scope as the month progresses. Check back regularly!

Archived Resources:

You can go back to the September Daily Updates and Photos pages for the previous few years and probably get a good idea of how the entire month unfolds.

September 2017 | September 2016  |  September 2015   | September 2014:  | September 2013: It will probably be apparent that not all areas change at the same time and some of the fall foliage can go well into October.

Foliage Scale 2015

Foliage Scale 2017

This scale should help with visualizing the approximate color hues. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being summer green and 10 being peak), I will give a three part number. The first one is an average of the least changed. The middle number is the overall average and the last number is the status of the most advanced trees in an area. Note: Some aspens and some Mountain Maple turn orange and red, while many aspens, cottonwoods, and willows peak at something in the 8 or 9 range before the leaves fall or turn brown.

Remember, peak Fall foliage is not a one day event! It evolves over several weeks. Some areas go first, then lose leaves while others are just beginning. You should be able to find colorful foliage anytime from around the 10th of September to the first week in October.

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September 24, 2017

Snake River Bottom

There may be people in the Park at this time expecting a foliage season that mimics last year’s season, but most areas are still at least a full week behind the last couple of years.

Arizona Meadows

Taken today at the meadows just west of Arizona Creek. I often call it Arizona Meadows, but it might correctly be called Kamas Meadow for the flowering plants there.

Arizona Meadows

This photo was taken on Sept. 21, 2014 at the same place.

Oxbow Bend is still four or five days away from being ready. The upper parking lot is farther along. There are a few yellow aspens near Jackson Lake Lodge.

Sprad Creek

Spread Creek is progressing, but not ready. The best color is on the West side of the valley.

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September 23, 2017

Togwotee

Aspens in Buffalo Valley are beginning to turn, but are scarce atop Togwotee Pass. As in yesterday’s post, many areas still need 3-7 days. The aspens behind the Chapel of the Transfiguration are barely showing changes. The area around Moose is usually bright yellow, but is also behind some years.

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September 22, 2017

Oxbow Aspens

Oxbow Aspens: Far from peak!

Oxbow Hillside Aspens

Oxbow Hillside Aspens: These are a little farther along.

Aspens

Aspens: A bright stand of Aspens near Spread Creek.

General Comments: I drove about 160 miles today, covering a lot of the park. Oxbow is still behind last year….probably prime Sept 29-Oct 3. The Cottonwoods near Schwabacher Landing advanced some in the past few days. If you want to find yellow and orange trees, just keep driving around. They are not dominant features yet. The leaves on the Black Hawthorn bushes are just beginning to turn, but are mostly green. In short, most of the valley is only at level 3 with a few 4 and 5 intensities if you compare it to the chart. Even with that said, there is still a lot of 1 and 2 values. I also drove up Togwottee Pass to the Lodge. That area also has a few yellow trees, but today most of the upper portions were covered in snow.

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September 21, 2017

David Langendonk Oxbow

David Langendonk took this photo at Oxbow Bend yesterday. Using my chart, it looks like there are some 1, 2, and 3 trees. David also included a photo of the hillside above the road at Oxbow. Those Aspens are more yellow, which is typical for that area.

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August 14, 2016: I’ll include this photo today showing a similar photo from last year. I’d suggest that it will take another couple of days relative to David’s photo to reach this stage. In other words, it looks like this year is roughly 7-9 days behind last year. Last year, peak at Oxbow was between the 19-21 +/-.  If using the same timing, I’d “suggest” peak should be around Sept. 27-30 this year at Oxbow Bend. The left tip of the Aspen stand usually goes off first and sometimes blows off before the right side peaks. Without heavy winds, peak could go into October. Compare the previous years: Foliage Reports September/October 2016 :  and Foliage Reports September/October 2015:

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird: We are having a “Wintery Mix” today, meaning the upper mountains are probably getting pounded by snow. Great! Some people stay home when the weather is not “Bluebird clear”, but I like being out for the possibilities of unique shots. The Mountain Bluebird was on Mormon Row this morning.

Washakie with Snow Flakes

I heard reports of Yellowstone road closures, but as far as I know, the main roads in the Tetons are open. Part of Mormon Row Road is closed, but that is because of muddy conditions and not heavy snow pack.

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September 20, 2017

East Side

This photo was taken on the Gros Ventre Road after you turn towards Slide Lake. At the bottom of the hill is the Shane Cabin.

Shane Cabin

Old timers might recall there used to be a stand of old Aspen trunks in the opening, but they have all but one fallen down. The trees would have been visible in the 1950s Shane movie. Generally speaking, most of the foliage changes are on the East side of the Park and the South end of the valley.

Mormon Row

The cottonwoods and aspens along Mormon Row are often some of the last to change…usually in the first week of October. Note the snow on the peaks!

Chambers Homestead

Chambers Homestead from Mormon Row. You can see some of the Aspens beginning to turn on the hillsides above Kelly.

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September 19, 2017

Gros Ventre Willows

Gros Ventre Willows: Finally…the leaves on the willows along the Gros Ventre River basin are changing! Cottonwoods are not as colorful, and as you can see on the distant hillside, Aspens are just beginning to turn.

The next few days may include periods of rain and snow for much of the Northwest. That’s great news! Early season snow in the high country should make this year’s Fall Foliage season unique and potentially stunning compared to years with no snow. The snow and rain in the NW should also help firefighters and help us with clearer Fall skies.

In the mean time, this page might help during foggy and rainy days: Making the Best of a Rainy Day:

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September 18, 2017

Schwabacher Pano

Schwabacher Pano: This is a two frame Pano taken this morning at Schwabacher Landing. As you can see, the cottonwoods are just beginning to show any hints of changes in areas of the river bottom. The cottonwoods are farther along south of Moose Junction and around the Wilson Bridge. Reports still suggest the Aspens at Oxbow Bend are not turning much in the two big stands. (Click the image to see it larger)

Washakie

Washakie: Late evening along the Gros Ventre.  Changes…but not prime!

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September 17, 2017

Cottonwoods

Cottonwoods: Taken along the Gros Ventre River. The temperature dropped to around 28°F overnight, frosting the back of the Bull.

Careful Approach

Careful Approach:

East Boundary Road

East Boundary Road: There are several zones of yellowing aspens along the East Boundary Road. They seem to turn early each year. Aspens on Shadow Mountain appeared to be just beginning to turn.

Snow Capped

Snow Capped Tetons: A quick shot showing the fresh snow across the mountain peaks.

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September 16, 2017

Cottonwoods

This was taken in the spruce and cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River. Depending on where you are in the valley, you might have experienced the first snow storm of the year. The mountains definitely have snow now, but I can’t say if it will last through the entire foliage season. It typically melts quickly. There are a few light flakes in the photo above. I haven’t been north in a while, but I have been hearing the trees are mostly green around Oxbow.

In the past day or two, I’d suggest there has been a switch has been flipped.  More of the trees are in the 2 or 3 stage of my chart above. In some areas, you might even say there are 4 and 5 stages, but there are very few areas with large patches of peak leaves.

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September 15, 2017

Black Hawthorn Berries

It was cool, dark and rainy this morning. I took this photo along the Moose-Wilson Road.

Misty Morning Cow Elk

Shot through a thin layer of drizzle at a high ISO near Cottonwood Creek.  A few trees will be colorful, a few mixed, and a lot just starting to turn.

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September 14, 2017

Changes

Changes: It’s almost the middle of September and I’m still struggling to find clumps of colorful trees. This photo was taken across from the GTNP entry sign at the south edge of the park. There are changes, but the zone is still more green than yellow.

Berry bushes along the Moose-Wilson Road are definitely changing. Some are orange and red! A few Aspens are beginning to change there. A few of the Cottonwoods along the Snake around Meadow Road are starting to have a yellow cast.

Ground Cover

Ground Cover: You can find a lot of color if you look down!

Choke Cherries

Choke Cherries: Look for berry bushes and then listen for Cedar Waxwings and other birds. They’ll likely be nearby.

Flat Creek

Flat Creek runs through the Town of Jackson. Some of the trees and bushes along it are beginning to turn.

Orange

These bushes near Karns Meadows should be vivid soon.

On my way to the Moose-Wilson Road, (see the Great Gray Owls on the daily report) I drove across the Snake River near Wilson. The Cottonwoods near the bridge are far advanced compared to Cottonwoods farther north in the Park. They are not peak, but will get there soon.

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September 13, 2017

East Gros Ventre Butte

East Gros Ventre Butte: I pulled off the highway to take this quick photo of a stand of Aspens above Flat Creek Motel and Elk Refuge Inn. The Cottonwoods and Aspens around the Mormon Row cabins and barns are still deep green. They usually change after October 1st.

Consider a trip down the Snake River Canyon now, then continue on to the Palisades Reservoir Dam for Mountain Maple color.

Gros Ventre

Gros Ventre Cottonwoods: Taken late in the evening along the Gros Ventre Road, with steel blue skies from a passing thunderstorm. Some of the Cottonwoods are beginning to turn.

If you are driving up from Salt Lake or from the South, consider Intermittent Springs: Another Lesser Seen Regional Waterfall near Afton.

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September 12, 2017

Fall at Oxbow Bend Each year, the big question is “When will it be peak at Oxbow Bend”. In earlier years, you could almost mark your calendar to be here for peak on October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. In fact, during the Government Shutdown, they locked us out on the peak day of October 1st. The past couple of years have been earlier, but it appears this year might be back on the old regular schedule. I keep driving around looking for pockets of bright color and I am not finding it yet. Check last year’s Foliage Reports September/October 2016 : for Sept. 12. You will see a lot of yellow by this date!

Aspens are turning some in and around Wilson and some cottonwoods are shifting in color along the Snake River. There is not much changing on Teton Pass nor on the Idaho side of the range. I received a report that most trees are still green at Oxbow, but a few are beginning to change on the hillside above the road.

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September 11, 2017

Service Berries

Berries: I spent the morning hiking a nice section of the Gros Ventre looking for Bull Moose and yellow leaves. Across the GV zone, the cottonwoods and willows are now turning to a 2 or maybe a 3 on my chart. In other words, there’s a shift, but only a few trees actually have much color.

Weather: If you believe the weather forecasts, we are in line for a few days of rain towards the end of the week. The forecast also calls for low temps in the valley around 29-30°F, so there might be a chance of mountain snow. We had rain in parts of the valley yesterday with mostly clear skies this morning.

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September 9, 2017

Spring Gulch Aspens

Aspens on Spring Gulch Road: Of the areas I’ve driven, the aspens on Spring Gulch Road have the most yellow color. JH still has some haze, but as seen below, the sky has cleared considerably.

Teton Range

Cottonwoods on Spring Gulch Road: The bridge over the Gros Ventre River is closed, so Spring Gulch Road isn’t getting a lot of traffic this year. The cottonwoods are still green in most areas.

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September 8, 2017

Willows GV

Willows along the Gros Ventre are starting to change.

Another photo taken along the Gros Ventre. Yellows leaves are not dominant, but each day I see more of them.

Mountain Maples

Mountain Maples: Taken in the Snake River Canyon west of the Wolf Creek Campground. Overall, I’d say it is still early down there, but if you feel the need for some color, there’s a fair amount of reds, oranges, and yellows. The Aspens are far behind in almost all areas.

Mountain Maples

Mountain Maples: A few trees are in peak form, but they appear to be far from the norm.

Mountain Maples

Mountain Maples: There was a lot of haze when I went down, as seen in this layered image. This little canyon near the Palisades Dam typically explodes with color, and it even better if the Aspens and Mountain Maples are prime at the same time. I’d suggest giving this area three or four days.

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September 7, 2017

Choke Cherry Leaves

Welcome to the 2017 Foliage Report! Last year, I started it in late August, but last year was early. Even now, the 7th of September, you’ll find very few stands of yellowing aspens or cottonwoods. There are a few random trees in near peak color, but they are randomly scattered. With that said, things are changing! It usually doesn’t take long, and quite a few zones have begun to shift.

Mt. Moran Sunset

The last time I heard, there were at least 88 major wildfires in the “West”, but I am unaware of any wildfires in our immediate vicinity. The smoke is finding its way into the Jackson Hole Valley, and barring a huge regional rain or snow storm, expect your 2017 Fall photos to have a golden color shift.  There may be days when the Teton Range or Sleeping Indian is barely visible. The same smoke my also give you some striking sunrise and sunsets if you get up early or stay out late.

Black Hawthorne Berries

Berry bushes, like this Black Hawthorn tree can have advanced color. Berries are thick on most Black Hawthorn trees and a few Black Bears are finding them. 399 and her two cubs have been seen munching on them along Pacific Creek Road, but photography there is limited to only a few seconds if rangers are around.

Mid-Sized Moose

Underbrush is bright yellow in a few zones like the Moose-Wilson Road, and a few of the low willows are changing along the Gros Ventre River. The Snake River bottom is still mostly bright green, but I see evidence of changes on the horizon. The Aspens around Oxbow Bend are still green as of yesterday.

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Comments (7)

  1. Mike, how is the smoke/haze situation?

  2. William, right after making the original post, I added a section about the smoke. check it out!

  3. John Patton

    The Mountasin Maples are really starting to color up through the canyon.

  4. jeff c birmingham

    We are shooting for the old dates we will be there the evening of the 28- hoping 8th . We r hoping to hit the peak. You just never know kind of like rolling the dice!!!! Hope we run into you out there mike!!!!!!

  5. Barb Cassel

    We got some nice foliage shots in Snake River Canyon on Friday the 15th of Sept, but there is much more to come!

  6. Samantha

    Hi Mike,
    First, your photos are beautiful! I looked at a number of your posts from fall in the Tetons over the years and found it really helpful as I’m planning a trip there next weekend. Based on what you’ve seen over the years do you think a few areas will be in peak September 23/24? I know it’s hard to predict, I’m just wondering your opinion on it.

  7. Samantha, Some areas will probably be peak. I’m guessing Oxbow Bend will be a bit later. The cottonwoods around the Mormon Row barns may be into October.

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