For variety and beauty of scenery the region covered by this history is unsurpassed, and each year sees an increasing number of tourists from all lands enjoying its attractions. Yellowstone Park is the wonderland of the world. Its mountains, rivers, lakes, falls and geysers have been described by the ablest pens in all languages. Due south of it lies
In the Shoshone Mountains on its eastern boundary the Yellowstone River has its rise in several small streams and flows north. The Snake, flowing from the north, passes through Jackson Lake, on its southwest journey between wild mountain ravines. The lake mirrors in its depths the massive form of Mount Moran, and is guarded by the lofty Tetons, the Alps of the Rockies. The giant of this magnificent trio lifts its hoary head nearly fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. From Teton Pass a panorama of matchless beauty greets the eye, lovely valleys, billowy slopes covered with a- thick, plush-like verdure of varied evergreen, and snowy mountains dazzling white in the rare atmosphere.
On the south of Jackson’s Hole rises the Gros Ventre range, where the Hoback River takes its source. It flows northwest into Jackson’s Hole, and unites with the south branch of the Snake River. John Day’s River flows north along the eastern slope of the Salt River Range, and enters the Snake near the Idaho boundary. A few miles west of its mouth Salt River, another tributary from the south, enters the Snake. Salt River is the main stream of the beautiful Star Valley, whose cultivated fields and pretty villages nestle between the most picturesque of mountain ranges. Despite its high altitude, this valley is capable of sustaining a population of many thousands.
The Piney, La Barge, Fontenelle and other eastward-flowing streams, water a region famous in the cattle history of the state. All are tributary to Green River, as are the streams rising in the Wind River Range to the east. Green River flows along the eastern boundary of the original county, out into Sweetwater County, and on to the Colorado. Ham’s Fork flows from the northwest and joins Black’s Fork, which, with Smith’s Fork and other streams, supplies water for the famous Bridger Valley. Henry’s Fork and its tributaries water the southeast comer of the region.
On the west numerous small streams having their rise in the Uinta Mountains unite to form Bear River, which pursues its winding course, enriching the valleys of three states, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, before losing itself in the briney waters of the Great Salt Lake. Bear River nearly doubles upon itself in its journey of nearly four hundred miles, and its mouth is about fifty miles from its source.
In spite of these splendid water courses the agricultural development of Uinta County has been slow. In the minds of the early settlers the short seasons and the high altitude were too great a menace to farming and they turned to what they thought the safer road to wealth, livestock raising. The native grasses that had nourished countless herds of buffalo, deer and other wild annals, were utilized for cattle, and fortunes were made on the free range. Later, big ranches were taken up and devoted to the care of livestock and cutting native hay. Then through circumstances as romantic in their own way as any of the developments of the frontier, came the discovery of the possibility of agricultural wealth. A few chance grains of wheat or oats from the feeding grounds would take root and spring up in surprising vigor, and under the benign influence of the constant mountain sunshine, would mature in an astonishingly short time. Canals and ditches from the generous mountain streams furnished a steady supply of water, and the rich virgin soil combined with these elements in producing grains superior both in quality and quantity to those of lower agricultural lands.
With an altitude nowhere less than five thousand five hundred feet, the winters of Western Wyoming are long and severe, but so dry is the air and so abundant the sunshine that the newcomer from lower-lying regions feels inclined to doubt the veracity of the thermometer registering 30° below zero, and even lower. The snowfall is abundant, making up for the dearth of summer, and there is a charm in the winter prospect that no one can escape. Spring comes on slowly, and summer frosts are not unknown. However, they do not seriously interfere with vegetation, which, with the adaptability of nature, develops an amazing hardiness. From July until late autumn the climate is wonderful and must be experienced to be appreciated.
The mountain flora is profuse and varied, and adds much to the loveliness of the view, decking hills and valleys with a brilliant beauty that changes from month to month. .Professor Marcus Jones, the painstaking botanist of Salt Lake City, says that no place on earth holds a greater variety of wild flowers than the stretch of hills between Goodman’s ranch and Evanston in July.
Most of the mountain streams are fringed with willows, backed up by the hardy cottonwood. The quakingasps, with their shimmering leaves, group together in the next higher places, gathering around slow-melting snowdrifts on the hillsides and running back into the ravines. Sarvice berries, haws and choke cherries love the same moist soil, and their glossy foliage delights the eye long after the pretty blossoms have fallen. Still higher up the evergreens flourish, climbing in stately beauty, to the forbidding timber line, which is here about ten thousand five hundred feet above sea level. And everywhere between these green vistas grows the sagebrush, toning down their vividness with its soft, unobtrusive gray.
Game is still plentiful, and the region around Jackson’s Hole, owing to its proximity to the Yellowstone Park sanctuary, is the finest hunting ground in America today. Bear of many species, mountain lion, mountain sheep, elk, deer, antelope and moose abound. The same wild life is to be found throughout the county, though not in such numbers. Coyotes still lope across the hills, and on a wintry night their doleful howls are carried to dwellers of towns as well as of ranches. The work of the beaver is still to be seen along the streams, much to the disgust of the rancher, whose plans seldom coincide with those of this untaught builder of dams. Elk have become so accustomed to the presence of man that they are a constant menace to haystacks, and no winter passes that the state does not have to make provision for feeding these animals now cut off from the free range on which their ancestors feasted. On the predatory animals, the bear, the wolf, the coyote and the fox, a bounty is paid by the state and trappers are still able to make their capture profitable.
Fish are plentiful in streams and lakes, the favorite being the mountain, salmon and rainbow trout.
There is a great variety of feathered folk throughout the region. On the night preceding August first, when the open season for sage chicken and grouse begins, the hills are alive with hunters armed with shotguns, and they are still able to bring in a goodly supply of the delicious wild fowls that were within easy reach of all a score of years ago.
The smaller mountain birds, of which we shall mention only a few, are an interesting study. The waxwing, or cedar bird, winters in the Bridger Valley, from whence in the early spring great flocks of the crested beauties make their flying excursions, and flirt their brilliant feathers half concealed by the soft gray overlapping plumage. The notes of the gamble sparrow are to be heard in every valley, as is also the merry, questioning song of the wild canary. Most loved of all the songsters is the mountain meadow lark, whose liquid strains delight the ear from early dawn to dark for many a month. Storks are found in some places, and curious and stately pelicans strut along the shores of some of the northern lakes, where are also a few wild swans. Hawks are common, and occasionally one may see an eagle. There are many migratory birds, from the bluebird, with its wonderful hue, and the sociable robin, both of which come to prospect for homes before the winter snows are gone, to the flocks of wild ducks and geese that call the hunter again to the mountain lakes and streams in the late fall.