The Absaroka Mountains

pinnaclesfromdunoir-smallOur ranch is located in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains and looks across the Wind River Valley toward the snowcapped peaks of the Wind River Mountains. The 60 square mile grazing lease for our cattle during the summer is located at the southern end of the vast expanse of the Absarokas. Many of our rides take place in these mountains and it might interest you to know more about them. If so, read on. Here is an excerpt from Bayard’s book, “Wyoming from the Air”.

The Absaroka Mountain Range in northwest Wyoming covers a vast stretch of wild, unspoiled country 150 miles long and 75 miles wide. The Range extends into Yellowstone Park and the edge of southern Montana. It forms part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest wild ecosystem left in the lower 48 states. Much of the area is administered by the Shoshone National Forest, the first national forest in the US.

A striking feature of the Absarokas is its vast Alpine meadows interspersed with forests of pine, spruce and aspen. The meadows provide rich and abundant feed for a broad array of wildlife as the melting snow leaves the ground moist and fertile. This is the time when a myriad of wildflowers of almost countless varieties begin to appear and cover the slopes with a wide display of changing colors. In late June many meadows and hillsides turn a glorious pink with a profusion of bitterroot flowers. These plants have an unusually large root which provided an important part of the diet for the local Indian tribes like the Shoshone, Sioux, Blackfoot and Crow. The women worked hard to harvest as many as they could with their digging sticks before they began to bloom and become bitter. The gaudy yellow of balsam arrowleaf covers many slopes at about the same time. The pale blue, sweet smelling lupine also begins to bloom early and keeps doing so until the very end of summer.

0713-smallAside from game meat one of the most important sources of protein for the Indians in this area was the white bark pine nut. These trees are closely related to the limber pine, but grow at higher altitudes just below the tree line. They are one of the most important foods for grizzly bears. It is worrying that of late years a particularly virulent pine bark beetle infestation is killing many of them, seriously impacting the diet of these omnivorous bears which can digest anything from pine nuts and roots to ants and carrion.

The Sheep Eater Indians or Tukudeka, a branch of the Shoshone, carved out an unusual niche for themselves in the high Alpine regions of the Absarokas where they spent the whole year rather than migrating from mountain to valley as did most of the Indians and the wild animals. Like other tribes, they collected pine nuts and roots, but their main source of food was the bighorn sheep which were abundant in the area and which also stay high during the winter feeding on windswept slopes and lichen.

The Absarokas offer outstanding recreational opportunities with many blue ribbon trout streams, excellent hunting for trophy animals, hiking and wilderness pack trips.