Elk, elk and more elk at Scab Creek!
Road, campground and trailhead are all open
by Dawn Ballou
June 12, 2005
We scoped out conditions at Scab Creek campground and trailhead access on Saturday, June 11th. The road in, trailhead and campground are all dry and accessible.
The most remarkable thing about the Scab Creek area right now is that there are still elk all over! We saw about 30 elk in various green valleys, lounging along the main road driving in and in the aspen groves along the way. There is elk sign all over the campground.
There is an elk feedground right next to the Scab Creek Campground, but they only feed the elk during the harshest months of the winter when natural feed isnít available. The feeding ended a couple of months ago, but there are still a lot of elk hanging around and enjoying the lush green grass in the drainage swales and valley bottoms. They will be dispersing and moving up to the high country soon. Now is a great time to get good close-up pictures of a lot of elk right from the road, something that is usually very hard to do unless you go up to Yellowstone Park.
Scab Creek is about 30 miles south of Pinedale. Take Hwy 191 south and turn onto Hwy 353 at the small town of Boulder. Travel a couple of miles on the paved highway and then turn east onto Scab Creek Road, just past the Air Force Seismic Research Station facility.
Trails are free of snow up to about 9,500 feet. Above that, hikers will encounter snow consistently depending on aspect and location. The leaves are just coming on the aspen trees here and there is lots of green grass and wildflowers.
We didn't see any campers at Scab Creek campground or vehicles in the trailhead parking area. Scab Creek campground is a BLM recreational facility, so itís not right next to a mountain lake or stream, but it is scenic in its own way. Note that there is NO DRINKING WATER at this campground or at the trailhead. The BLM has plans to do major renovation here this summer, rearranging the access points for the trailhead and backpacker staging areas and modifying the layout of the campground. Bring your own drinking water for extended stays. The BLM hopes to make another attempt at drilling a well here for drinking water, but once you see the huge rocks strewn about, you'll understand the difficulty in drilling a well here for drinking water. It is a 2-mile hike to fishing.
From a geological standpoint, the Scab Creek area has unique rock formations and evidence of ancient glacial activity. Rock chucks (marmots) live among the boulders and are fascinating to listen to and watch. The whole area is just fun to explore.
Antelope and deer are also easily seen in the Scab Creek area now. We even saw one antelope that was wearing a radio collar. This must be one of the animals being tracked for one of the ongoing wildlife movement studies for antelope.
Antelope, deer and elk all have been calving these past few weeks and there are newborn wildlife babies everywhere. While the animals are over the winter stress now that food is plentiful, they are still wary and very protective of their helpless young.
Please keep a good distance away from wildlife if you are in the area, especially on ATVs. Keep dogs under control and donít let them jump out of the back of the truck and chase wildlife. Itís best to observe wildlife from a distance and use a telephoto lens on your camera to get those great close-up shots so as not to cause undue disturbance to newborns or protective Moms. These animals will often let you watch for quite awhile and get great photos as long as you stay in your vehicle and are quiet, but as soon as you open the door to get out, they bolt. If you get too close, animals may feel threatened and charge, so keep your distance.
Photos by Clint Gilchrist and Dawn Ballou