The Red Hills of the Gros Venture River are reminiscent of the canyons of southern Utah. The Gros Venture country changes character several more times before the end of the road.
We had the perfect spot staked out to watch and photograph the recent full eclipse of the moon. The Red Rock area above Slide Lake on the Gros Ventre River (pronounced the French way: Grow Vaant) north of Jackson, Wyoming, had been a great back backdrop the night before and we planned a repeat performance for the Blood Moon.
We started up the river with plenty of time to spare in order to explore some country new to us but of significance to my wife’s family. In 1900, her great grandmother made a six week journey by wagon from Big Piney, Wyoming, to see Yellowstone National Park. Part of her route followed the Gros Ventre.
The Gros Ventre Road turns east off the Antelope Flat Road a few miles from Kelly, Wyoming. We passed Kelly Warm Springs, a small pond that is popular for swimming despite the precautionary signs warning of potential health hazards. A couple miles further and we left Grand Teton National Park and entered the Teton-Bridger National Forest, a fact noted by a marked decline in the quality of the paved road.
By Slide Lake, the road had turned to gravel. We read the signs about the mud slide that formed the lake and checked out the adjacent Forest Service campground. It was nearly deserted this time of year.
After Slide Lake the country north of the road changed character quickly. Called the Red Hills, it looked more like the red rock canyons of southern Utah than someplace associated with the Tetons. These red canyons, almost devoid of vegetation, gave way to a broad nearly treeless valley after about three and a half miles.
While there were plenty of places to dry camp, there is only one other small fee campground, named Crystal Creek, at the east end of the Red Hills.
We bumped along through the valley until we came to the amazing wetlands of Upper Slide Lake. The extensive wetlands look like a birding nirvana and will require more exploration, preferably in the spring.
What can’t be readily observed is the Gros Ventre Wilderness just south of the road. There are a few points of access down river from the Goosewing Ranger Station (about 20 miles from the Antelope Flat Road), but in the eight miles from the Station to the end of the road, there are a number of wilderness jump-off points.
Down river of Goosewing, the river flows west-northwest. But several miles up river of Goosewing, the river flows north and up river of that, flows almost due east, forming a huge “U”. The upper Gros Ventre River is in the heart of the wilderness.
Cloud cover thwarted our attempts to see the eclipse, but as we traveled back down river, we could see the Teton Range from several vantage points. It reminded us that if you are looking for something different to do when you visit Jackson and GTNP, the Gros Ventre might be just the adventure you seek.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho