The Caribou City roadless area

This is an 80,000 acre roadless area in the middle of the Caribou Range, a relatively little-known range, but lengthy, Idaho/Wyoming border range. Its topography is relatively gentle compared to many other Idaho roadless areas. Caribou City, like the three other roadless areas in the range, has escaped being logged because of the extreme instability of the soils. They are very prone to landslides and mudflows.

A northern section of Bald Mountain (ridge) showing the great variety of vegetation according to slope. © Ralph Maughan

The lush riparian zone along Trout Creek, a stream that runs into the Salt River in Wyoming off of Black Mountain. © Ralph Maughan

The area is lush in many places -- moist in the stream bottoms and draws. There are slopes thick with spruce and fir, and often immediately adjacent to these a large slope of grass and brush. The area is full of deer, elk, and moose. It has a great variety of ecological communities, varying according to slope, moisture, elevation, and aspect toward the sun. The big Trail Creek fire of 1988, improved the diversity even more. Most of the obvious fire scars have healed.


South-facing slopes in the roadless area near Black Canyon. This area burned in 1988.
Other than the snags, the forest fire is hard to tell, but it greatly opened up this
slope, providing winter range and spring forage. © Ralph Maughan. Photo July 2005.

 

The Caribou City roadless area is closed to motorized use in the summer, and the new draft Caribou National Forest travel plan proposes to keep it that way. It has a large number of trails, although many are not well maintained. Cross country travel is also possible. This this relatively large area provides a near wilderness experience even though it has not been designated as wilderness by Congress or even recommended by the Forest Service. Outside of hunting season and 3-day holidays, you will not run into many folks in the backcountry.

Fishing is good for small trout after the spring and early summer turbidity goes down (the area is soft sedimentary rock, easily erodible).


 

The headwaters of Tincup Creek. Copyright © Ralph Maughan



About 1/4 of the area burned in the heavy fire year of 1988 (the year of the Yellowstone fires). Ironically, most of the damage was down by bulldozers trying to fight the fire, although by the year 2005, even most of those have become almost invisible.

The consists of a number of minor ridges, two major ridges (Black Mountain on the east) and Bald Mountain in the roadless area's center. On its west side is prominent Caribou Mountain, a scenic peak, but not roadless due to past and recent sporadic gold exploration. A friend who supervised one these operations, and did a good job seeing the roads closed and reclaimed told me there was enough gold to prompt continuing speculation, but not enough to develop a mine under today's typical operation of open pit gold mining.


Caribou Mountain from Della Basin (from the north). The mountain is mostly not
in the roadless area, but as the highest peak in the Caribou National Forest, its 
scenery is visible in much of the roadless area. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

The name Caribou City (and nearby Keenan City) were from old mining camps, long abandoned, and now almost undetectable.

Threats to the area are oil and gas exploration and logging (despite the unstable soils). The mountain range is in the Overthrust Belt. An oil or gas exploration well was drilled on Black Mountain in the late 1970s. It was abandoned, but some think it hit natural gas. So far this roadless area has escaped the Bush Administration's oil and gas "hit" list. With the decline in timbering on Forest Service lands in recent years, the threat of logging has decreased.

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Caribou City Roadless Area
Revised last on July 19, 2005.