Why You Should Visit
TNC’s Sweetwater River site contains significant natural habitat for plants and wildlife, as well as Native American cultural sites and portions of the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express historic trails. The project area includes 21 miles of the free-flowing Sweetwater River, one of Wyoming's most extensive and intact high desert streamside areas. Along the river, dense stands of native willow provide cover for numerous mammals and birds. Dry grasslands populated with big sagebrush extend for miles upland of the river.
The project area includes 2,305 acres of TNC land (encompassing 6 river miles) and more than 2,300 acres of private land protected by conservation easements and deed restrictions. In addition, nestled between these parcels is a 5,900-acre Bureau of Land Management section.
Why TNC Selected this Site
The Sweetwater River is one of the most intact examples of a middle-elevation streamside system remaining in Wyoming. TNC began working in the area in 1991 in order to prevent the habitat fragmentation that typically accompanies subdivision, to better control livestock grazing in the streamside corridor, and to protect the abundant native plants and animals in the area.
What TNC Has Done/Is Doing
When TNC acquired the property, the streamside understory was dominated by non-native plant species, and willow regeneration was all but absent. For brief periods during fall, and occasionally during spring, cattle graze the project area. They are part of a carefully monitored program to encourage the growth of native plants that require periodic grazing to thrive. Until the 19th century, bison filled this niche. Now, TNC is using cattle to improve conditions for native plants.