Sun River Valley and Sawtooth Ridge

Looking south across the Sun River valley towards the Sawtooth Ridge in 1900 (C. D. Walcott, USGS-wcd00663), 1981 (G. E. Gruell, USDA Forest Service GTR-INT-158, plate 19b), and in 2015 (CW-2015-07-21-0059). The limber pine savanna surrounding the Sun River where it leaves the Rocky Mountains west of Great Falls, Montana is a unique dry habitat created by low precipitation, strong westerly winds, and frequent fire. Walcott’s photograph captures also captures the superb scenery of these mountain foothills.

This area is also important winter habitat for a wide range of ungulate species, migrating down-valley each year as the snowpack increases in the upper Sun River within the Rocky Mountains. Today’s Sun River Game, lying in the background of the photograph, provides critical habitat for wintering bighorn sheep, elk, and mule deer. Fescue, wheatgrass and june grass are important for elk early in the winter, but as later in the winter, creeping juniper, an important component of the ground cover, is increasingly important forage.1 This abundance of ungulates provides excellent opportunities for four and two legged hunters.   

Map and Footnotes

  1. Kasworm, W. F., L. R. Irby, and H. B. Ihsle Pac. 1984. Diets of Ungulates Using Winter Ranges in Northcentral Montana. Journal of Range Management 37(1): 67-71.
Center map