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Pinedale Online > News > April 2006 > Condition Update: McDougal Gap, Cottonwood Creeks

Road still snowed in. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Road still snowed in
Snow still blocks the North Cottonwood Creek Road. The parking area at the road junction is free of snow and mostly dry.

South Cottonwood Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
South Cottonwood Road
The South Cottonwood Creek road is still snowed in at the forest boundary.

McDougal Gap Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
McDougal Gap Road
The McDougal Gap-North Cottonwood Creek Road traverses the east and west sides of the northern Wyoming Range, giving access to the Greys River area from the east.

Lander Peak. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Lander Peak
Lander Peak sits just east of Triple Peak in the northern Wyoming Range.

McDougal Gap. Photo by Pinedale Online.
McDougal Gap
McDougal Gap is a very scenic route between the eastern and western side of the Wyoming Range. It is still inaccessible due to snow.

Snow Sentinals. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Snow Sentinals
The snowplows left unusual snow formations next to the road leading up to the forest boundary along the North Cottonwood Road into the Wyoming Range.
Condition Update: McDougal Gap, Cottonwood Creeks
April 23, 2006

As we move into the end of April, people are doing a variety of activities. Some folks still arenít ready to let winter go yet. Thereís still enough snow in the mountains to find decent late-season snowmobiling and even skiing, if you know where to go. The snow is getting pretty crusty and melting down, making it easy to catch a snowmobile ski on the crusty surface or find a rock below the sinking snow. Be alert for avalanche danger if youíre skiing or sledding in the mountainous backcountry.

Others are SO ready for winter to be over and are pouring through seed catalogs and getting greenhouses ready to keep little plants safe during the occasional cold spells that are sure to come still in the next several weeks. It usually isnít "safe" to put plants outside until about the 1st of June, others play it safe and wait until Fatherís Day, mid-June. It has been known to snow on the 4th of July here, and it can snow any day of the year in the high mountains, so outside gardening is definitely a challenge.

We know a lot of you are itching to get out and into the mountains, but itís still a bit early to get to most of the favorite spots on the forest. The snow is off the valley roads and they are mostly dry and firm. The road into Green River Lakes and other popular recreation areas and lakes are still inaccessible and usually donít open up until the end of May.

Rivers and streams are starting to come up and get muddy with spring melt, so fishermen are dealing with spring run-off for stream fishing.

If youíre out antler hunting in the open sagebrush hills, be sure to know where you are. Certain areas of the desert are still under wildlife winter range closures. Also be sure to check for ticks when you get home.

This weekend we checked out North and South Cottonwood Creek roads/McDougal Gap road in the Wyoming Range to get an update on the road and snow conditions. The road is mostly bare up to the cattle guard at the North/South Cottonwood road junction, but is still snowed in past there.

We arrived at the McDougal Gap road entrance just in time to catch up with Pinedale Roundup newspaper crew Rob Shaul and Lindsey Ross as they were loading their snowmachines back onto their trailer. They had sledding up to the base of Triple Peak early Saturday morning and hike up to the top. Then they got in some awesome downhill skiing on the steep slopes of one of the bowls on the north side of Triple Peak. They reported the snow in the trees is still around four feet deep and the snowmobiling in was still good. They were lucky they had GPSíd where they had parked their snowmachines, because apparently they found themselves quite a ways away from where they thought they were when they skied down. We were able to see their ski tracks using the telephoto lens. Be sure to check out this Thursdayís Pinedale Roundup newspaper to get the full story and their photos of their ski trip up on Triple Peak. The view from that high is awesome.

Weíve also been very interested in the Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail recently and have been doing quite a bit of exploring trying to retrace the actual route. The Lander Cut-Off was used by emigrants in the late 1800s and goes from South Pass along the western slope of the Wind River Mountains. It veers across BLM land generally along the Big Sandy River, crosses Hwy 191 just north of Hwy 351, crossing the New Fork and Green Rivers. It crosses Hwy 189 just north of the Sublette County Fairgrounds north of Marbleton. From there, it goes west into the Wyoming Range, ultimately ending at Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho. The trail is designated by markers along its length and there are some pretty good stretches that can still be driven or traveled with a 4-wheeler or mountain bike. Itís a rough road and a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. Expect to go slow, bring water and be prepared for flat tires.

It appears from diary accounts that some people chose to avoid the two river crossings and diverted from Landerís Trail just east of the New Fork River crossing and instead traveled southeast to take advantage of a ferry that was operating across the Green River about a mile or so southeast of Big Piney. The New Fork and Green Rivers merge just northeast of there, so the detour saved travelers one river crossing and the ferry made it a lot easier to cross the river. The probable short bypass trail of Landerís Route is shown on 1890s Government Land Office maps. This precise trail isnít marked on the ground today, however one can come pretty close to finding it by taking rough back roads across BLM backcountry east of Big Piney.

The photos in this report from our weekend excursion and exploring arenít particularly scenic in the traditional sense. Things still havenít greened up yet and we spent a good deal of time traveling back roads and desert terrain scoping out remote areas most causal tourists never see. For anyone who is intimately familiar with the area and knows the major landmarks, these photos will give you a good idea of what things look like for conditions as of this weekend.

Once temperatures warm up a bit more in the next few weeks, spring will take over and things will green up. Leaves will come out on the trees and the wildflowers will be awesome, even in the desert. If youíre wondering about when things will open up in specific areas, see our news archives for past years to get an idea of the progression of the seasons from month to month from our previous condition reports, area tours and photo stories.

If there is any particular area you want to know about, let us know and weíll try to check it out on one of our upcoming outings for a photo story.

Story by Dawn Ballou. Photos by Clint Gilchrist and Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!

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  • North Cottonwood Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    North Cottonwood Road
    The road is bare and mostly dry up to the cattle guard at the forest boundary of the North Cottonwood Creek road.

    Triple Peak. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Triple Peak
    Rob and Lindsey went back-country skiing on a bowl high on the north face of Triple Peak on Saturday

    Triple Peak Snow Bowl. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Triple Peak Snow Bowl
    This is where Rob and Lindsey treked to for a backcountry downhill ski adventure on Saturday.

    Ski Tracks. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Ski Tracks
    Rob and Lindsey's ski tracks were visible in the snow bowl on the side of Triple Peak on Saturday.

    Snow melting along road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Snow melting along road
    Snowplow berms are melting fast along the road edges of the North Cottonwood Creek-Ryegrass road.

    Antelope. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    This antelope (pronghorn) buck roams the high desert of the Cottonwood Creeks near the Wyoming Range.

    Antelope fence block. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Antelope fence block
    Antelope don't jump fences, they crawl under them. Fences such as this one with 5-strands of barb wire create major obstacles for antelope to pass from one area to another. Wildlife experts recommend 4-wire fences leaving a 14" gap along the bottom and replacing the lowest strand with smooth wire so antelope can get through.

    Antelope obstacle. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Antelope obstacle
    This fence is great for cattle, but difficult for antelope to get through due to the lowest strand of barb wire which prevents them from crawling under the fence.

    Lander Cut-off route. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Lander Cut-off route
    The Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail traversed from right to left (east to west) across the barren desert in about the center of this photo. It was a rough road with little water for people or stock for many miles.

    Confluence of 2 rivers. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Confluence of 2 rivers
    The Green and New Fork Rivers converge just south of Highway 351 northeast of Big Piney. The river crossings were major challenges to the emigrants on the Lander-Cut-off of the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. View looking west. The New Fork River is in the foreground, Green River is further back. Big Piney is in the distance on the far left. The Wyoming Range is in the distant background.

    Rendezvous Grounds. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Rendezvous Grounds
    This view is looking north along the Green River toward the Green River Rendezvous grounds in the distance. The Gros Ventre Mountain Range is in the far distance. The rendezvous grounds was the site of 6 of 16 Fur Trade era rendezvous in the early 1800s. Here, for several weeks in July, fur trappers, traders and Native Americans met for the Green River Rendezvous.

    Fremont Peak Storm. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Fremont Peak Storm
    Winter clouds boil over the top of Fremont Peak in the Wind River Mountain Range on Saturday.

    Distant drill rigs. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Distant drill rigs
    Natural gas drill rigs are dwarfed by the majestic Wind River Mountain Range. Once the rigs are done drilling, the towers will be removed. View looking east across the Pinedale Anticline to the western side of the Wind River Mountain Range and Bridger Wilderness area.

    Green River Fishing Access. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Green River Fishing Access
    There are numerous developed boat access points for fishermen along the Green River.

    Backcountry roads. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Backcountry roads
    There are many miles of backcountry roads to explore by 4-wheeler, truck or mountain bike. High-clearance vehicles are recommeneds. Be sure to check the BLM travel maps to make sure which roads are open for travel.
    Pinedale Online > News > April 2006 > Condition Update: McDougal Gap, Cottonwood Creeks

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