The Big Hole Mountains roadless area

The Big Hole Mountains are simply the northern part of the Snake River Range (see the Palisades Backcountry). The Big Holes are separated from the Snake River Range by Idaho Highway 31 which leads from Swan Valley, Idaho up Pine Creek Canyon and over Pine Creek Pass into the Teton Basin and the town of Victor, Idaho.

The western boundary of the Big Hole Mountains, and part of the roadless area boundary is the scenic, free-flowing Snake River in a basalt and limestone canyon downstream from Conant Valley.

This photo shows the limestone cliffs of the Big Hole Mountains rising above the South Fork of the Snake River along the western edge of the roadless area.

© Ralph Maughan
A stretch favored for fishing by Vice President Cheney
Don't you wish he'd give to conservation rather than just enjoy what the rest of us fought to conserve?

The Big Holes are about a thousand feet lower than the Snake River Range and not quite as spectacular. There are many trails, although upkeep on quite a few is spotty at best.

There are opportunities for solitude, although increasing numbers of dirt bikes and ATVs roam and ravage the area, and the more gentle north slope of the area (which is no longer roadless) has lots of snowmobiles in the winter (but not in the portion photographed below). The photo shows some early spring slab avalanches on Black Mountain in the rugged southeastern corner of the area.

© Ralph Maughan

The area has mule deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, black bear and coyotes. The South Fork of the Snake River corridor with its large cottonwood forest is regarded is some of the best wildlife habitat in Idaho. There is a large concentration of bald and golden eagles along the river corridor and much other wildlife. Idaho conservationists, in the past, had to keep fighting off a proposal to dam this section to create the "Burns Creek" or Lynn Crandall" dam. Support for more damming the Snake River in the area seems to have died out. Most battles today are with subdividers. Fortunately the Nature Conservancy was able to protect some of the most vulnerable riparian bottomlands.

First light (5:00 am in late June) Garns Mountain roadless area
© Ralph Maughan

The Big Hole Mountains might eventually become an expansion area for the wolves and grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone area. Both are known to have passed through the area.

Big Hole roadless area/  January 4, 2004 /