These bighorn sheep are beside a naturally turquoise lake formed by glacial rock flour…Blue, frozen glacial ice…
Got Milk?. . .
The beautiful turquoise color shown in the photo is the true color of the water. Sometimes called “glacial milk”, the unusual color is due to the presence of “rock flour”, which consists of tiny clay particles formed as rocks stuck to the bottom and sides of a glacier grind against bedrock. This abrasion reduces some of the bedrock to a fine powder that looks like the flour used to make bread. As the ice melts this rock flour is exposed and transported away by meltwater, often into a nearby tarn.
They won’t settle down! . . . .
Meltwater also transports pebbles, sand, and silt into the lake, but these larger rock particles quickly settle to the bottom of the lake. In contrast, the much smaller particles of rock flour remain suspended in the water until the fall when the meltwater stops flowing or the lake freezes over. Only then does the water become calm enough to let rock flour settle to the bottom. A core sample from the middle of the lake would probably reveal alternating layers of silt and clay called “varves”. . . . One layer of each (varve) for every year the lake has been in existence.
Why so blue? . . .
Sunlight includes many different wavelengths of light ranging from the longer “reds” to the shorter “violets” (ROYGBIV). A white T-shirt is white because it reflects all of the wavelengths, a black shirt is colorless because it absorbs all of the wavelengths, and a red shirt is red because it absorbs the OYGBIV and reflects the R (red wavelengths). Apparently the tiny particles of rock flour suspended in the lake are just the right size to reflect more of the blues and some of the greens than any of the other wavelengths.
Bighorn males, called rams, are famous for their large, curled horns. These impressive growths are a symbol of status and a weapon used in epic battles across the Rocky Mountains. Fighting for dominance or mating rights, males face each other, rear up on their hind legs, and hurl themselves at each other in charges of some 20 miles (32 kilometers) an hour. The resounding clash of horns can be heard echoing through the mountains as the confrontation is repeated—sometimes for many hours—until one ram submits and walks away. The animal’s thick, bony skull usually prevents serious injury.
A Rocky Mountain bighorn ram’s horns can weigh 30 pounds (14 kilograms)—more than all the bones in his body combined. Females (ewes) also have horns, but they are of smaller size.
Rocky Mountain bighorns inhabit the mountains from Canada south to New Mexico. They are relatives of goats, and have balance-aiding split hooves and rough hoof bottoms for natural grip. These attributes, along with keen vision, help them move easily about rocky, rugged mountain terrain.
Wild sheep live in social groups, but rams and ewes typically meet only to mate. Rams live in bachelor groups and females live in herds with other females and their young rams. When fall mating arrives, rams gather in larger groups and ram fighting escalates. Usually only stronger, older rams (with bigger horns) are able to mate.
In winter, bighorn herds move to lower-elevation mountain pastures. In all seasons, these animals eat available grass, seeds, and plants. They regurgitate their food to chew it as cud before swallowing it for final digestion.
Lambs are born each spring on high, secluded ledges protected from bighorn predators such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions—though not the golden eagles which target lambs. Young can walk soon after birth, and at one week old each lamb and its mother join others in a herd. Lambs are playful and independent, though their mothers nurse them occasionally for four to six months.
On our return trip from South Dakota we were able to spend a couple of hours in Yellowstone National Park. It brought back such sweet memories of when my husband and I were going to college in Bozeman and we would spend any spare time camping and hiking around in the park with our three oldest when they were little guys. It was simply wonderful. Now we were experiencing it with all our kids, what an amazing place.
Would it be a visit to YNP without seeing elk in Mammoth?
Emma and her daddy.
Bison raising a bit of dust.
With his namesake!
Cow elk, grazing.
A nice sized bull elk.
A tired little boy.
We had decided to stop at a spot to walk through and look at some of the geothermal areas with the kids. We had thought this spot would be a bit safer than others in respect to worrying about one of our littles falling into something until we spotted the guy above. At first all we could see was a group of people gathered around and a bit of brown fuzz moving. We thought it must be a bison with as close as people were and then we saw that it is was a Grizzly! Whoa!! It’s not smart to be around a bison that close let alone a bear. Luckily the guy decided to run off into the trees, towards the trail we were going to go on. We decided our hike would have to be postponed until our next trip through. Their were people dumb enough to go running down the trail to get a better look at the bear, some of them with little kids even. Yikes. It was still pretty neat to get a quick glimpse of the guy though.
To top it all off, on our way out we were able to stop and listen to this guy bugle back and forth with another bull. ALWAYS extremely neat!
Just the couple of hours we spent zooming through the park made us decide we will have to return this next year with tents and all the gear to spend more time in this little spot of heaven.