The Teton Wilderness area
of the Bridger-Teton National Forest

Entrance sign to the Teton Wilderness

© Ralph Maughan
 


Not to be confused with the Teton Mountains or Grand Teton National Park, the Teton Wilderness on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, is a vast expanse of wild country immediately to the south and southeast of Yellowstone National Park.

The Teton Wilderness is geologically and topographically subdivided into two parts -- the western wilderness and the eastern wilderness. The western portion is a little-traveled area of low mountains, ridges, broad meadows and much unstable topography (especially in the last several years in which Gravel Creek, Whetstone Creek, and Pilgrim Creek drainages have seen numerous landslides and mudflows). The country is deep, brooding, dangerous despite its subtlety.
 

Caving landslide in Gravel Creek
We were told there was a landslide forming in Gravel Creek.
Lee Mercer and I arrived on July 1, 1996 just in time to see it
really begin to slide (see cliff above with material sliding down it).
After several weeks the entire side of the mountain came down and
dammed Gravel Creek, forming a new lake. © Ralph Maughan  



In the western part of the Wilderness there are just a few lakes. With a few prominent exceptions, the trails are generally poor, badly maintained, and grizzly bears are extremely abundant. The eastern portion of the Wilderness is a land of high volcanic plateaus and stunning scenery. People are more numerous and the trails are better maintained. You can ramble for miles about timberline, although if you leave the trails be careful not to get lost or rim-rocked.


Standing on the Continental Divide, looking across
Cub Creek to the Cub Creek Plateau. Photo taken Aug. 15, 2002
Copyright © Ralph Maughan

 


Enos Lake is the largest lake in the Teton Wilderness. The eastern and northeastern
 shores burned in the  big forest fire year of 1988. Some of the rest burned in
the summer of 2000. This photo dates from the late 1970s. © Ralph Maughan.

The Teton Wilderness is a land of abundant and diverse wildlife, including black and grizzly bears, wolves, cougar, bobcat, coyote, wolverine, thousands of elk, mule deer, numerous moose, and an occasional bison.

Most of the use is from horse packers and elk hunters in the fall. 

The ethics of the commercial outfitters, a sub-set of horse packing hunters, has, unfortunately, been in steep decline. Many spread salt near the southern boundary of Yellowstone so their clients won't have to work very hard to shoot an elk. In 1999, outfitters Tory and Meredith Taylor of Dubois, WY (who take folks into the Washakie Wilderness) revealed that many Teton Wilderness outfitters were engaging in the unethical practice of salt baiting.  The Taylor's efforts have received national attention, and some enforcement action from the government. "Rangers to Monitor Elk Baiting." Billings Gazette. July 16, 2000. Gary Ferguson recently wrote a fine book, Hawk's Rest, about the most controversial part of the Wilderness -- the Thorofare.

The Teton Wilderness shares its boundary with the 704,000 acre Washakie Wilderness to its east and the SE corner of Yellowstone (a 600,000 acre portion of the Park without any roads) to its north. Bridger Lake near the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Thorofare Creek (IMO, Thorofare "River"), is, in my estimation, the most distant linear point from a road in the contiguous 48 states (about 21 miles).

The big news in 1997-2004 has seen the reinhabitation of the Teton Wilderness with wolves. The Thorofare Pack was established and used the area near Yellowstone Meadows and the Two Ocean Plateau in the Park and the Wilderness as its range in 1997.  The Washakie Pack was established and occupied the area immediately south of the Teton Wilderness Boundary -- the DuNoir Valley area. The Soda Butte Pack dominated the territory just to the north and northwest of the Wilderness, eventually killing the alpha male of the Thorofare Pack. After the demise of the Thorofare Pack, the Soda Butte Pack added most of the wilderness to its home territory. That pack was later  renamed the "Yellowstone Delta Pack," but they range southward out of Yellowstone Park into the Teton Wilderness.

thorobuttes.jpg (22256 bytes)

The remote Thorofare Buttes. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Much of the Teton Wilderness burned in the great fires of 1988, and there have been several more fairly large forest fires since. These fires have altered the scenery, and make following the trails of the western portion more difficult still.

Gravel Creek in 1996, burned in the Huck Fire of 1988

Gravel Creek in 1996. It was burned in the giant Huck Fire of 1988. Western portion of the Teton Wilderness
Copyright © Ralph Maughan

More of my photos of the Teton and Washakie Wildernesses.
Lone Eagle Woman spends much of each summer in the Teton Wilderness. Her photos.

 


The Teton Wilderness/ last updated Feb. 22, 2006/ email rmaughan2@cableone.net 

 

Return to the Yellowstone Country Wilderness Areas page
Return to Ralph Maughan's Wildlife Report
Return to Ralph Maughan's wolf report