Degraded land just north of Yellowstone Park to be restored to native prairie

Land at the site of Cinnabar to be restored-

Story in the Billings Gazette. Yellowstone Park land to be restored to native vegetation. By Brett French.

I found this quite interesting. I had seen the name “Cinnabar” on a lot of old maps. I didn’t know what it had been or what had happened.

The article has interesting sidebars.

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Update: this land is actually inside of Yellowstone Park. I’ve driven through it many times and marveled at how hard hit it is by wintering wildlife. Without fencing, restoration of any part of it would have no chance.

Pronghorn graze on essentially nothing near site of Cinnabar. Copyright Ralph Maughan
Pronghorn graze on essentially nothing near site of Cinnabar. Copyright Ralph Maughan






  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    This land actually lies inside Yellowstone National Park right near the northern boundary. Many people don’t realize that much of the area on the west side of the river between Gardiner and the Royal Teton Ranch is within the Park. This is some of the most desolate ground I’ve ever seen but it gets an awful lot of use by the declining pronghorn population as well as wolves, elk and deer. This is also the area where most of the buffalo trapped in the Stephens Creek capture facility are hazed.

    I drove by the fencing last month and wondered what it was for and now I know.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks Buffaloed.

    I updated the story. I know the road well and area well. I didn’t realize that’s where Cinnabar had been.

  3. Layton Avatar


    Don’t know if you know it or not, but just FYI, there is an old townsite that is also called Cinnabar that is pretty close to Stibnite in Central Idaho.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Yes. I did know that, but had forgotten. I’ve meant to visit Stibnite, but have never made it.

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    This is also the area where I’ve seen the infamous white tailed jackrabbits.

  6. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Sounds like a good plan to re-nature that piece of land. I like the basic idea! We humans all too often construct something in the countryside and after a while we abandon it. Of course we will leave it up to nature to erase our traces. And yes, the usual Billings Gazette readers mob is of course against the plan (makes it even more attractive) .

  7. jimbob Avatar

    I was going to say “This is some great news for once!” Then I read Peter K.’s post. You’ve got to be kidding me. Who would possibly be against restoration of land? You’d have to have quite a radical agenda to be against making land in a national park healthy.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The Billings Gazette has a cage of knuckle-dragging troglodytes who comment day after day, but for quite a different “reader’s comments,” check out the Salt Lake Tribune.

  9. Monty Avatar

    I have hiked in this area for years–usually in the spring–after the area was “hammered” from winter grazing. I have always been suprised that any ungulate could survive on this dry parcel of land (isn’t this about the only place in Yellowstone that supports rattelsnakes). This is a place that I could always find deer & Bighorns. Without fencing, how does one “restore” this parcel? Isn’t this also the dryest place in Yellowstone?

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    An exclosure is already present on this parcel.

    I don’t know how lont it has been up. I guess it could be 50 years. The contrast between the wildlife-grazed land outside, and the ungrazed vegetation inside the exclosure, is amazing.

    Somewhere, I have a photo of it.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    An exclosure is already present on this parcel.

    I don’t know how lont it has been up. I guess it could be 50 years. The contrast between the wildlife-grazed land outside, and the ungrazed vegetation inside the exclosure, is amazing.

    Somewhere, I have a photo of it.

  12. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    There is one of those up Kinny creek to Ralph. I’m sure you have seen it. Is that road still closed and is because of the expanding moose population in that area? I have seen quite a few up around the giant quakies in years past.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E

    That’s amazing. I walked up Kinny Creek last Monday and looked into the exclosure. I cut my finger slightly on the barbed wire.

    Kinny Creek road is closed for good. A lot of people walk up there. I think there is growing irritation about the livestock use in the area.

    The Forest Service just felled some aspen sideways to Kinny Creek to try to protect the tiny stream. I didn’t see any moose habitat or moose.

    The amazing local story (to me) is the rebirth of the beaver population in the East Fork of Mink Creek.

    Three years ago the first beaver came in. Today I noticed ponds all the way from the mouth of Lead Draw to the Scout Mountain campground.

    The much abused state section in the East Fork is succumbing to beaver pond flooding. The county, state and Forest Service are also closing the section to camping and direct vehicle access because the fecal coliform count is out of sight. The barriers are going in right now.

  14. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I go deer hunting right there every year except this one. Drive(or used to, it was closed last year also, so I walked in from the hi-way) to the end of Kinny creek then go south and puts me at the head of the next draw over. Ton of deer in there. I have seen moose or moose sign every year for about the last six-seven. Two years ago I was talking with the people that live at the last place before the cattle guard and they had a cow and twin calves right there by the house. Have also seen a cougar cross the road from east to west at dusk right at cherry springs.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E

    I climbed into the head of the draw you are talking about from the south last August. There were just a few seeps of water this year that I saw (I didn’t walk down the draw).

    I haven’t seen any moose sign this year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some around.

    In 2007, I saw moose in Valvehouse Draw and in the brush near the top of Porcelain Pot.

    Yes there are cougar all around the area. Someone told me they say a cat chasing two deer near where you mentioned — ridge across the road from Cherry Springs.

    Of course, there was the thread on cougars at Idaho State University.

  16. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I usually see them just to the east of where I start to hunt in those long fingers going up the west side of Dead Indian. I also see them or sign all around the ridge line of that draw we are speaking of. Ranchers drop off salt blocks along that ridge in the spring; usually all gone by fall. I think some moose have found them and decided to stay.
    Another really good contrast photo would be at the fence that runs parallel to the hi-way anywhere between Kinny creek and lead draw. any number of places where the cows eat it right down to the dirt.

  17. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I have also seen at the big saddle near the top of Scout mountain 5 different moose at once in about a 5 acre spread. that was 4 years ago middle of November.

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E.

    That’s great. The most I had heard of was 3 moose, probably a cow and 2 calves. I’ve never seen more than a cow and a calf on the Westside Ranger District.

    This fall the Forest Service did a huge amount of prescribed burning on the ridge on the south side of the East Fork of Mink Creek over into Valvehouse Draw.

    It is so much I worry about winter range.

    The objective is to reduce fire danger to the wildland/urban interface, but this is in the middle of the forest.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan