Trapper Creek WSA Location: Big Horn County, along the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains
Nearest Town: Shell (5 miles)
BLM Acreage: 7,200 acres
Recommended for Wilderness: 7,200 acres
Access Points & Directions:
Trapper Canyon lies on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, about five miles southeast of Shell, Wyoming. Although surrounded by private land on three sides, the BLM has an easement across private property on Trapper Creek Road (BLM Road 1114), located along the south boundary of the WSA. Access is from Shell southeast on Trapper Creek Road, staying straight - making no turns, to the southeast boundary.
The southeastern portion of the WSA can also be accessed via Trapper Creek Road (BLM Road 1114) as it spurs northwest off of Alkali Road. Head northwest on Trapper Creek Road from Alkali Road for approximately 1.4 miles to a two-track. Head north on the two track for just over 1 mile. Four-wheel drive is recommended.
Allowable Uses & Restrictions:
Routes within the Spanish Point Karst Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) have been closed to motorized use, otherwise, motorized use is limited to designated routes. Motorized use off of routes is strictly prohibited. Please abide by all posted regulations.
Primitive & Unconfined Recreation:
The Trapper Creek unit provides outstanding opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation. The types of activities that could be engaged in and the setting of the WSA are essentially similar to those traditionally associated with a “typical” wilderness setting and experience. The setting of the canyon, its outstanding scenic values, the ecological diversity, geologic features and wealth of wildlife would provide an excellent resource base for a variety of activities. These activities could include hiking, spelunking, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing and supplemental activities such as photography, nature study and wildlife observation.
The Trapper Creek WSA encompasses 7,200 acres of BLM-administered public land with no private or state inholdings. Trapper Creek is one of the most spectacular canyons on the west slope of the Bighorns. It is characterized by the dramatic vertical relief of the cliffs, spires and massive rock outcrops of the canyon walls, the presence of a clear cascading stream and the rich color combinations. It contains important habitat for rare and endangered species such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons and is crucial winter range for elk and deer. The lower entrance to Great Expectations Cave (Great X) is located in the WSA. The elevation difference between the lower and upper entrances is 1,403 feet, making Great X the third-deepest cave in the United States.
Trapper Creek WSA is predominantly natural with evidence of past human activity being very limited. Trapper Creek is contained in the most spectacular canyons on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains. The canyon is characterized by the dramatic vertical relief of the cliffs, spires, massive rock outcrops of the canyon walls, the presence of a clear cascading stream and the rich color combinations. A riparian vegetative community is found the length of Trapper Creek. A conifer zone dominated by Douglas fir is located on higher-elevation north-facing slopes in the canyon. The canyon’s south-facing slopes support mountain mahogany and juniper, as do lower-elevation north-facing slopes. Sagebrush and grasses are the dominant vegetation on the canyon’s rims.
Within the canyon, man-made intrusions are virtually nonexistent. Intrusions are limited to two-track trails leading from the main boundary roads to the rim of the canyon, and a small water pump and pipeline. The overall influence of these human imprints is so minor that they would not be perceived by the average visitor.
Although the WSA is small in terms of acreage and is long and slender, the opportunities for solitude are outstanding. The values of topographic and vegetative screening counteract any potential effects on solitude resulting from size and configuration. Additionally, the constraints on physical access provided by the canyon rims would make it possible to control use in order to maintain use levels at a point that would protect outstanding opportunities for solitude.
Opportunities for solitude in the WSA are also enhanced by the general absence of use. Livestock use in the canyon has not been allocated and has not occurred in most of the canyon, and recreational use has also been extremely limited. As a result, there are virtually no trails or other remains of previous use to intrude on a perception of solitude. This lack of use reflects the difficultly of access to and through the unit. Travel through the canyon is extremely difficult; there are no trails except those made by game. These game trails may be blocked by fallen timber, cross step talus slopes and involve wading the creek. Access to the canyon is limited to a very few routes by the unbroken cliffs of the canyon walls. Those routes which are possible to negotiate require crossing privately owned land.
Since the major portion of the unit is in the canyon, the presence of outside sights and sounds will not affect much of the use of the unit and will have little or no affect on the use of the canyon portion. However, uses which may occur on the canyon rims could be minimally affected. The area around Trapper Creek is uninhabited. Development in the forms of fences, livestock water reservoirs and vehicle trails exist in the area but are essentially unobtrusive.
A variety of supplemental values enhance the wilderness characteristics of the Trapper Creek WSA. These include geologic, ecologic, scenic values and wildlife values.
The geologic values associated with this WSA are derived from the exposure of features and formations revealing the geologic history of the region as well as from examples of geologic processes at work. In addition, a second geologic value relates to paleontology of the unit.
Another value relating to the geology of the WSA in the lower entrance to Great Expectations Cave (Great X) is located in the WSA. The lower entrance is approximately four miles downstream from the upper entrance. The elevation difference between entrances is 1,403 feet, making Great X the third-deepest cave in the United States. It is expected that intensive exploration of Trapper Creek will yield new discoveries of caves in the canyon. Strong interest in Great X among spelunkers will undoubtedly result in additional discovery of passages.
The Trapper Creek landscape contains high-quality scenic values. These values are based on the dramatic vertical relief of the cliffs, spires, massive rock outcrops of the canyon walls, the rich variety of vegetation, the presence of sinking stream segments turning into clear cascading stream, and the rich color combinations. This exceptionally high scenic quality rating enhances other wilderness values of the unit.
Fully 400-500 elk and 200-300 deer use portions of the Trapper Creek WSA as crucial winter and winter habitat. Elk also calve near the confluence of Jack and Trapper creeks. Golden eagles and prairie falcons use and nest in the Trapper Creek WSA. Three or four bald eagles use the Trapper Creek WSA for winter hunting territory. Several peregrine falcons have been observed in this WSA during the spring and summer periods. Bobcats, mountain lions and black bears frequent lands within the WSA yearlong as well.