Natural Features & Ecosystems
Big Hole is in the conifer/alpine meadows ecoregion and is characterized by three different landforms: mountain slope, floodplain, and bench. Three primary vegetation types describe the upland areas of the site: forest, which is dominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) with a small component of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa); floodplain and aquatic communities which is dominated by willow (Salix spp.) and graminoids (tufted hairgrass Deschampsia caespitosa/sedge Carex spp.); forest ravine, which is similar in composition to the floodplain; and sagebrush steppe, dominated by big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) with several quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) groves. The flat area or “bench” below the visitor center has two primary communities: grassland, which is dominated by Idaho fescue/bluebunch wheatgrass (Elytrigia spicata, previously Agropyron spicatum); and shrubland, which is dominated by big sagebrush/Idaho fescue. The elevational gradient is roughly 456 feet (~139 m).