Sagebrush Ecology, by Louise: Each sage brush bush creates a miniature ecosystem as the snow gathers in drifts around each one. This means extra water at the base of the bushes. When the summer sun beats down and the temperatures climb to one hundred degrees, all manner of creatures seek out the shade of sage. So don't stick your hand or foot under the bush -- rattlesnakes live here, too!
A little further along we found more glacier lilies at the edge of the woods.
Off to the north from the roadside flower garden we could see iconic Sawtell Peak (9,875 feet) on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest with its communication equipment cap.
As we slid and mucked along, we could see Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes in the Centennial Valley ahead. Red Rock Mountain, Sawtell Peak, Mt Jefferson, Nemesis Mountain, and Taylor Mountain formed the timbered and snow-covered wall to our south -- all dark, north-facing slopes heavy with shade and water. This water is vital for the Wildlife Refuge we're visiting today.
According to the Refuge website (http://www.fws.gov/redrocks/), this road shown above was a stagecoach route from 1898 to 1917. Tourists traveled from the railroad terminus at Monida, now on I-15 south of Dillon, to West Yellowstone. In 1917, the stage was replaced by touring cars. I can't imagine how rough that ride must have been! Very intrepid tourists, those early visitors.
The website went on to say, "Red Rock Lakes NWR is primarily a high-elevation mountain wetland-riparian area. Red Rock Creek flows through the upper end of the Centennial Valley, creating the Upper Red Rock Lake, River Marsh and Lower Red Rock Lake marshlands. Red Rock Creek is near the headwaters of the Missouri River. These wetlands provide secluded habitat for the trumpeter swan, white-faced ibis, and Shiras moose.
The Refuge includes subirrigated meadows or "fens," grasslands, and forest as well. This minimally-altered natural diversity provides habitat for sandhill cranes, curlews, peregrine falcons, eagles, numerous hawks and owls, badgers, wolverines, bears, and wolves (in the backcountry), native fish such as Arctic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout, moose, and pronghorn antelope.