Schwabacher Landing Beckons

Schwabacher Landing is an area along the Snake River that lets us wander through the Snake’s floodplain and along the braided meanderings of the river. This area can change dramatically depending on the time of year primarily due to the amount of precipitation and snow melt. Sagebrush dominates the view along the dirt road that leads us down to the Landing, but once there, the landscape is a wonder of plant and animal life, marshes and wetlands, all indicative of a rich floodplain. Best of all, it is autumn. Today we are walking below the Teton Range not long after sunrise on a sparkling blue-sky day (I have not modified that blue sky, in case you were wondering). The beauty just takes my breath away! Let’s explore.

Swabacher Landing

Just a few steps from the car, this quiet channel off the main river is a haven for waterfowl and beautiful pictures. These quiet waters also double the beauty by way of its reflections. Most all the golden trees we see here are cottonwoods, a type of poplar that can grow to 200 feet.

Schwacher Landing

A few more steps and we have the Tetons, with Grand Teton itself standing the tallest of the peaks. Let’s explore down this trail for a ways.

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As we walk along the edge of the channel, it is obvious it was a chilly night, still a bit chilly frankly. The frost on the grasses is still obvious in the shade.

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There’s an active beaver lodge, but no beaver yet today. Beavers are the largest member of the rodent family weighing up to 100 pounds. They are incredible swimmers and can stay underwater up to 15 minutes. They build lodges on the edge of calm water or dens under the banks of waterways so they’re able to swim in and out to avoid predators. We’ll look for other beaver sign as we walk today. Keep your eyes peeled.

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Let’s just enjoy for a moment. Straight ahead we see the mountains in the Cathedral Group. From this angle we cannot see them all, but the three highest are over 12,000 feet. Grand Teton at the left is the highest in the entire Teton Range at 13,770 feet. The peak in the middle is Mount Owen (12,928) and to the right is Teewinot (12,325).  The Tetons are so impressive because there are no foothills. Grand Teton simply rises straight up 7,000 feet above the valley and lakes immediately below. A gorgeous sight!

Grand Teton

There’s a thin cover of ice on some of the still water, but the sun is warming everything today, so it won’t last much longer.

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It is difficult to tell many ducks apart in the autumn. The females remain mostly brown, some males turn brown, and this past spring’s young are almost always brown beginning to get a bit of color if they are males. This is an unusual sight though. A female Common Goldeneye all by herself. Could it be a juvenile? Perhaps, but these birds usually are in flocks. Keeping distance is certainly her/his goal today. These ducks dive for their food, eating a wide range of insects, fish, and crustaceans as well as vegetation they find along water’s edge. I guess we all need our vegetables.

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Between the diving duck and fish sign (see the ripple rings to the right?), we are reminded that this glassy surface is deceiving. There is an abundance of life under this beautiful reflecting channel.

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If we continue walking around this channel we will come to a boat launch on the Snake River proper. Instead, lets head to a different trail and explore another part of the floodplain. There’s a trail that takes us into the woods and toward the mountains. Let’s go.

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Other difficult identifications include plants that were flowers and now are seed heads. All summer this Pearly Everlasting consists of tight white balls, but now they have opened to spread next year’s hope. If only there was a field guide of plants in autumn dress.

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Walking through the woods is a glory of colors on the ground. Just ahead the landscape opens up to a large rocky area devoid of trees and much of the growth we see here. It must get significant flooded in the spring. Would love to see that. Sounds like another trip to me.

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The trail ends here but the channel continues, heading back to the main river perhaps. What a view.

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There’s Mt. Moran which dominates the northern section of the Teton Range, sitting 6,000 feet above Jackson Lake. It is the fourth tallest peak in the range at 12,605 feet. Mt. Moran is named after Thomas Moran, a premier American West landscape artist.

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Oh my, wildlife! We haven’t seen any this morning besides ducks, and I was so hoping for moose. They do live here in abundance. So today we have to settle for a Least Chipmunk, a tiny critter I’ve never seen before. They are grayer and paler than other chipmunks, as well as being the smallest of the species. Their tale is 40% of their length.

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Well, we ran out of trail so let’s head back. Looking east we see a quite a different view from what we’ve been seeing. We are too low in the valley known as Jackson Hole to see the mountains in the Gros Ventre (Gro Vant) Wilderness and the Bridger-Teton National Forest which is straight ahead.

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I’ve never seen thistles so brightly colored–purple and teal green. I believe they are bull thistles, but no matter what they are, watch out for those thorns!

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We are walking through cottonwoods and balsam poplars both showing their golden leaves. The evergreens we see are lodgepole pine, Douglas fir with their bounty of cones on their crown, and Engelmann spruce.

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There, we found it and there’s more over there! Beaver sign. Beavers are herbivores, and although they spend a lot of time in the water, they do not eat fish. They eat a variety of primarily deciduous plants and trees, downing larger trees to eat the bark of some and the layer under the bark on all. Beavers use the wood to build their lodges and to dam waterways. They have been known to down conifers for building material, but they prefer deciduous trees such as this cottonwood. Today we have seen a beaver second hand.

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Let’s take one more look as we near the parking lot. What a beautiful day and a beautiful walk. Glad you came along.

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Until next time, enjoy the glorious colors that is autumn by you!

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