In this breathtaking up-and-down country, temperature and climate vary as much as the terrain does, providing a rich seasonal variety of plants and animals. It has been said that a person can experience summer heat in the depths of a canyon, while partway up cool breezes blow and at the top snow will be falling. Summer precipitation is often sparse in the lower country, the rain and the heavy upland winter snowfalls provide adequate moisture for the development of some of the nation’s lushest natural grasslands, the sustenance, in turn, of large numbers of deer, elk, and other animals.
Historically, after staying close to the village in winter, in spring the Nez Perce resumed their organized pattern of seasonal movement, traveling to specific areas in a planned sequence. The areas to which they traveled were based primarily on the seasonal availability of plants, animals, and fish. The general pattern was to move higher in elevation as the season progressed, following the availability of maturing roots and berries. By late summer, most of the people were in the mountains, and in the autumn they returned to the river valleys in time for the fall fish runs.