NOTES FROM THE FIELD GREATER YELLOWSTONE AND THE GALLATIN RANGE
Evan Iskenderian - Jackson Lang - Brooke Meredith - Michael Romney Lone Peak High School Student Researchers
AA University of Montana – Lone Peak High School CAS Research & Publishing Project The University of Montana and Lone Peak High School thank the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation for their support and Hammond Property Management for providing meeting space.
Brooke Meredith – Gallatin Range Profile
Big Sky is nestled immediately west the Gallatin Range. These mountains were named for the river below its west edge that was christened by Meriwether Lewis after Albert Gallatin – U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1801-1814 - as he helped Lewis and Clark plan their famous expedition to the West. The range’s east side is flanked by the Yellowstone River.
Stretching south from the Gallatin Valley to northwest Yellowstone with a length of 75 miles and width of 20 miles, the range holds many towering peaks, with over 10 exceeding 10,000 feet. The Gallatin’s highest peak, Electric Peak, sits at a whopping 10,969 feet and rests at the northwest portion of the park. Much of the mountainous landscape consists of sedimentary rocks, such as limestone, shale and sandstone; with the occasional ancient lava flows.
With many high-rising peaks and unique flora and fauna, the Gallatin Range is ideal for exploring, mountaineering, hunting and much more. One of the many popular locations in the range is the Petrified Forest, basically fossilized wood. Dating back to 30 million years, this 230 square mile section of land holds enough history to date the earth back to its early beginnings. With all the Gallatin Range has to offer, it is what makes our little portion of the world so much more special, as well as the main reason for all the tourism.
As one of the most distinctive and extraordinary places in America, the Gallatin Range embraces many wonders of the natural world. Even though it is in our backyard, it is a place we can’t take for granted. So next time you see a grizzly or herd of elk, make sure not to forget the exceptional place where you live. And with all these mountains have to offer, our little portion of the world is quite unique.
Evan Iskenderian - Peaks in the Gallatin Range
Known for its abundant wildlife and scenery, the Gallatin Mountain Range extends from the Gallatin Valley South of Bozeman to northwestern Yellowstone National Park, just north of West Yellowstone.
Many famous peaks and wondrous hiking and exploration opportunities exist throughout this region displaying some of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s finest views and wildlife.
Of the many peaks in these mountains, the tallest is Electric Peak standing at 10,969 feet. The awe-inspiring pinnacle is located near the Montana-Wyoming border. Electric Peak was named after its first official summit in 1872 by geologists who were members of the Hayden Survey led by Henry Gannett. The men named the massif after they experienced electrical discharges from their hands and hair following a lightning storm.
Mount Holmes is the second loftiest summit in the range. Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming in Yellowstone, it rises to 10,336 feet, towering over the others in the Gallatin Range in Wyoming. The most common approach to the summit is on the Mount Holmes Trail, a 10.8 mile hike to the top and can be accessed by the Norris-Mammoth Hot Springs road in the northwest region of the park.
At 10,333 feet, Mount Bole is the third highest peak in the range. Located just north of Hyalite Peak, it is one of the less common summits, and is easily accessible from the Bozeman-Big Sky Area due to its close proximity to Hyalite Peak and Hyalite Canyon out of Bozeman.
Similar to Mount Bole, Mount Chisholm is also 10,333 feet and is in the same general region as Hyalite Peak and Mount Bole. Chisholm and Bole share the title of the tallest peaks in the northern Gallatin region giving spectacular views to Hyalite Canyon and the Madison and Bridger ranges.
Ramshorn Peak, the seventh tallest, is the most relevant to Big Sky. At 10,298 feet, it is reachable from Big Sky and offers marvelous views of Lone Peak and the town of Big Sky. On the way up, it is likely you will see Big Horn sheep among the rugged rocks of the mountain as you climb the steep 2,500 feet in approximately 4.5 miles. A good approach is by way of the Buffalo Horn trailhead to the Ramshorn Lake trail.
Michael Romney - The Gallatin River
Along with towering mountain peaks, vast forests and fascinating geography, the Gallatin Range and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem boasts numerous legendary rivers, none more scenic than the Gallatin River. The easternmost fork of the Missouri River, the Gallatin runs for approximately 120 miles, from its origins in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park to Three Forks, Mont., where it joins with the Jefferson and Madison rivers. It’s one of just 24 U.S. rivers that flow south to north. The Gallatin originates in the high alpine Gallatin Lake, at about 8,825’ above sea level, and descends to 4,000’ at the Three Forks junction.
Known as Cut-tuh-o’gwa” (Shoshone for “swift water”), the river was home to the Shoshone and Crow Native American tribes for millennia. When the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived in July of 1805, Captain Lewis renamed “Cut-tuh-o’gwa” for Albert Gallatin, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary noted its incredible scenery. Today the river is a popular destination for tourists. It’s famous for fly fishing, as outdoorsmen can try their luck on the many species of trout, including rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout and mountain whitefish. The turbulent Gallatin Canyon section, which includes the Class IV ‘Mad Mile’ offers access to adrenaline filled whitewater rafting and kayaking.
At peak runoff, usually in late May or Early June, the river becomes one of the primary drainage for the Spanish Peaks and some of the Madison Range; stream flow at that time can top 6,000 cfs (cubic feet per second).
Water chemistry, aquatic insect and animal populations, as well as human pollution are monitored by numerous sources, including the Big Sky Based Gallatin River Task Force, which focuses on sustainability and education for the upper Gallatin River and watershed.
Jackson Lang- Petrified Wood and the Petrified Forest
Petrified wood is one of the most fascinating topics in nature. Those who have been lucky enough to see the phenomenon in person know how beautiful and sometimes alien-like the wood is. Despite its impressive appearance, the way in which the wood hardens and takes on an array of colors is unknown to many. It is commonly believed that petrified wood takes millions and millions of years to solidify, but scientific research has revealed that this process can occur in a relatively short period of time. Petrified wood begins to form when wood or other plant material decays in an area rich with silica. The presence of silica is important in the process because, as the wood decomposes, it is replaced with molecules of silica. Eventually, silica replaces the wood entirely, leading to the crystallized, colorful makeup that can be observed in nature.
Arizona claims one of the most renowned gatherings of petrified wood in the nation in Petrified Forest National Park. However, both Yellowstone National Park and the Gallatin Range have their own collection of petrified wood. In the Gallatin Range, this forest can be observed on a 2.1-mile trail positioned northwest of Gardiner near Sheep Mountain. Much more accessible to Big Sky residents is the petrified forest in Yellowstone, located on a 3.5-mile trail located four miles east of Tower Junction.
Described by geologists as a “window to the past”, this geologic wonder contains now-hardened vegetation such as redwoods, magnolias, and maples, which grew in the area millions of years ago. The process in which the wood in Yellowstone formed was actually slightly different than the aforementioned process. Instead of completely replacing the wood, the silica prevented absolute decay, which left a tree ring pattern on the wood that can be easily observed.
Visible ring patterns in the petrified wood add to its elegance and are a great reason to visit the petrified forest in Yellowstone.