Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Caribou-Targhee National Forest can be found in the states of Idaho and Wyoming, with a small section located in Utah in the United States. The forest is broken into several separate sections and stretches over 2.63 million acres. Towards the east, the forest borders Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Bridger-Teton National Forest. The majority of the forest is a part of the 20 million acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The Caribou and Targhee National Forests were combined from original forest lands that were created in 1891. Two designated wilderness areas are located in the easternmost sections of the forest, bordering on the national park lands. Jedediah Smith Wilderness is a wilderness area made up of 123,541 acres and lies adjacent to Grand Teton National Park on the western slope of the Teton Range. It is known for karst limestone formations, the wilderness has many caves and provides terrific views of the less often seen west face of the Teton peaks. The smaller Winegar Hole Wilderness, made up of 10,715 acres, borders Yellowstone National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and was set to the side mostly to protect prime grizzly bear habitat.

While western sections of the forest have a mixture of sagebrush and grasses, the higher elevations in the east support lodgepole pine, and a number of species of spruce and fire. In addition to the grizzly bear, the majority of the major megafauna that is associated with Yellowstone National Park can be found in Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Moose, elk, wolf, black bear, mule deer, bison, pronghorn, and mountain lion have all been seen on the forest lands. An active peregrine falcon recovery program was initiated to return this bird species to some of their ancestral range. Brook trout, cutthroat trout, and pike are found in the lakes and streams as the forest is considered one of the best fishing areas in the world for the cutthroat trout.

Dozens of campgrounds and 1,600 miles of trails permit access to much of the forest. There are two trails that access the high altitude Alaska Basin directly west of the main Teton Range peaks and permit access to the trails in Grand Teton National Park.

Caribou National Forest, the smaller and more southerly of the two forests, is located in southeastern Idaho, western Wyoming, and northern Utah, and it has a total area of 987,221 acres. There are local ranger district offices located in Malad City, Montpelier, Soda Spring, and Pocatello in Idaho.

The larger and more northerly Targhee National Forest is located in eastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming, having an area of 1,643,501 acres. There are local ranger district offices in Ashton, Dubois, Driggs, and Island Park in Idaho. In Island Park is Big Springs, which is a first-magnitude spring that is the source of the South Fork of Henrys Fork.

Image Caption: The less often seen vista of the Teton Range from the west in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho, U.S. Credit: MONGO/Wikipedia