Ousel Falls in Late Winter: Signs of spring

Written by Anna Husted on  at

When Big Sky Resort closes for the winter season I feel like spring should immediately come upon us. This feeling comes from years of low-land living where April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately that's not how weather systems work in the mountains. With multiple days of new snow since we've closed for skiing, I took to the trails to seek out the hope of spring. Ousel Falls is still significantly frozen when I took these photos about a week ago, but melting had begun. I looked to Ousel Falls, which is located just south of Big Sky's Town Center, for spring because if the falls are melting I know it can't be far away. With spring and summer comes camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, sun tanning (and sun burning), and long sunny days that bring happiness. I have many more hikes to take this summer, including Beehive Basin, Castle Rock, and Garnet Peak. I can't wait for spring and summer.

The 2-mile hike to the 100-foot Ousel Falls took me across multiple bridges and past beautiful Engelmann Spruce trees.

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The mid-April afternoon I hiked Ousel Falls I only saw three tracks other than my own. After the first bridge I passed two women and a dog headed in the opposite direction, which meant I was hiking alone from there on in. Normally I hike with friends and bear spray, but this day was just me and the bear spray. This photo shows the other "falls" that can be seen along the hike.

Frozen Ousel Falls from the upper lookout.

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Ousel Falls again from the upper lookout. At the coldest times during winter the entire South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River in front of the falls is frozen. Ousel Falls was named for the Water Ouzel Bird, which can be seen throughout the Gallatin Valley.

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A close up of the right side of the falls reveals that melting has begun. Although we continue to get snow in Big Sky into June (and sometimes later), it won't take long for the falls to completely melt.