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Water-Quality Characteristics of the Snake River and Five Tributaries in the upper Snake River Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1998-2002

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5017

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

By Melanie L. Clark, Wilfrid J. Sadler, and Susan E. O'Ney

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Abstract

Grand Teton National ParkTo address water-resource management objectives of the National Park Service in Grand Teton National Park, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the National Park Service has conducted water-quality sampling in the upper Snake River Basin. Routine sampling of the Snake River was conducted during water years 1998-2002 to monitor the water quality of the Snake River through time. A synoptic study during 2002 was conducted to supplement the routine Snake River sampling and establish baseline water-quality conditions of five of its eastern tributaries—Pilgrim Creek, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, Spread Creek, and Ditch Creek. Samples from the Snake River and the five tributaries were collected at 12 sites and analyzed for field measurements, major ions and dissolved solids, nutrients, selected trace metals, pesticides, and suspended sediment. In addition, the eastern tributaries were sampled for fecal-indicator bacteria by the National Park Service during the synoptic study.

Major-ion chemistry of the Snake River varies between an upstream site above Jackson Lake near the northern boundary of Grand Teton National Park and a downstream site near the southern boundary of the Park, in part owing to the inputs from the eastern tributaries. Water type of the Snake River changes from sodium bicarbonate at the upstream site to calcium bicarbonate at the downstream site. The water type of the five eastern tributaries is calcium bicarbonate. Dissolved solids in samples collected from the Snake River were significantly higher at the upstream site (p-value<0.001), where concentrations in 43 samples ranged from 62 to 240 milligrams per liter, compared to the downstream site where concentrations in 33 samples ranged from 77 to 141 milligrams per liter. Major-ion chemistry of Pilgrim Creek, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, Spread Creek, and Ditch Creek generally did not change substantially between the upstream sites near the National Park Service boundary with the National Forest and the downstream sites near the Snake River; however, variations in the major ions and dissolved solids existed between basins. Variations probably result from differences in geology between the tributary basins.

Concentrations of dissolved ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in all samples collected from the Snake River and the five eastern tributaries were less than water-quality criteria for surface waters in Wyoming. Concentrations of total nitrogen and total phosphorus in samples from the Snake River and the tributaries generally were less than median concentrations determined for undeveloped streams in the United States; however, concentrations in some samples did exceed ambient total-nitrogen and total-phosphorus criteria for forested mountain streams in the Middle Rockies ecoregion recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address cultural eutrophication. Sources for the excess nitrogen and phosphorus probably are natural because these basins have little development and cultivation.

Concentrations of trace metals and pesticides were low and less than water-quality criteria for surface waters in Wyoming in samples collected from the Snake River and the five eastern tributaries. Atrazine, dieldrin, EPTC, or tebuthiuron were detected in estimated concentrations of 0.003 microgram per liter or less in 5 of 27 samples collected from the Snake River. An estimated concentration of 0.008 microgram per liter of metolachlor was detected in one sample from the Buffalo Fork. The estimated concentrations were less than the reporting levels for the pesticide analytical method.

Suspended-sediment concentrations in 43 samples from the upstream site on the Snake River ranged from 1 to 604 milligrams per liter and were similar to suspended-sediment concentrations in 33 samples from the downstream site, which ranged from 1 to 648 milligrams per liter. Suspended-sediment concentrations in 38 samples collected from the tributary streams ranged from 1 to 286 milligrams per liter. Seasonal variations were observed in suspended-sediment concentrations. Concentrations were highest in samples collected during late spring and lowest in samples collected during the fall in response to variations in streamflow.

Concentrations of fecal coliform in samples collected from the five eastern tributary streams ranged from less than 1 colony per 100 milliliters to greater than 200 colonies per 100 milliliters. A microbial source-tracking method determined that ribotype patterns for Escherichia coli isolates generally were matched to wildlife sources. Avian, bovine, and deer and elk sources were most frequently identified. Human sources were matched in 6 percent or less of the isolates for each basin.


Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and scope

Environmental setting and general hydrology

Sampling sites and description

Acknowledgments

Methods

Water-quality characteristics

Water types

Snake River, water years 1998-2002

Synoptic study of eastern tributary basins, 2002

Pilgrim Creek

Pacific Creek

Buffalo Fork

Spread Creek

Ditch Creek

Summary

References

Figures

1. Map showing location of sampling sites in the upper Snake River Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

2. Graph showing hydrologic conditions during water-quality sampling events on the Snake River above Jackson Lake at Flagg Ranch, Wyoming (site 1), water years 1998-2002, and
Pacific Creek at Moran, Wyoming (site 5), 2002, Grand Teton National Park

3. Trilinear diagram (Piper, 1944) showing water composition for streams in the upper Snake River Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

4-6. Graph Showing:

4. Streamflow and dissolved-solids concentrations for samples collected from the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, water years 1998-2002

5. Relation between dissolved-solids concentrations and streamflow for samples collected from the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, water years 1998-2002

6. Suspended-sediment concentrations and relation with streamflow for samples collected from the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, water years 1998-2002

7. Map showing distribution of land cover in the Pilgrim Creek Basin, Grand Teton NationalPark, Wyoming

8. Graph showing streamflow and dissolved-solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations for Pilgrim Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

9. Map showing distribution of land cover in the Pacific Creek Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

10. Graph showing streamflow and dissolved-solids, total-nitrogen, total-phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations for Pacific Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

11. Map showing distribution of land cover in the Buffalo Fork Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

12. Graph showing streamflow and dissolved-solids, total-nitrogen, total-phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations for Buffalo Fork, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

13. Map showing istribution of land cover in the Spread Creek Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

14. Graph showing streamflow and dissolved-solids, total-nitrogen, total-phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations for Spread Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

15. Map showing distribution of land cover in the Ditch Creek Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

16. Graph showing streamflow and dissolved-solids, total-nitrogen, total-phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations for Ditch Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

Tables

1. Sampling sites in the upper Snake River Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

2. Pesticide compounds, type, and reporting levels for samples collected in the upper Snake River Basin, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1998-2002 7

3. State of Wyoming water-quality criteria for surface waters and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waterquality criteria for selected constituents, 2002

4. Number of samples collected at the Snake River sites, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, water years 1998-2002

5. Summary statistics for physical and chemical constituents for the Snake River above Jackson Lake at Flagg Ranch, Wyoming (site 1), water years 1998-2002

6. Summary statistics for physical and chemical constituents for the Snake River at Moose, Wyoming (site 12), water years 1998-2002

7. Detections of pesticide compounds in samples collected from the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park,Wyoming, water years 1998-2002

8. Results for physical and chemical constituents for a synoptic study on Pilgrim Creek, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, Spread Creek, and Ditch Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

9. Results for fecal-coliform-bacteria samples for a synoptic study on Pilgrim Creek, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, Spread Creek, and Ditch Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

10. Possible source distribution of animal types, in percent, for ribotype patterns of Escherichia coli isolates in samples collected during a synoptic study on Pilgrim Creek, Pacific Creek, Buffalo Fork, Spread Creek, and Ditch Creek, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2002

Sampling the Snake River

Sampling the Snake River

Pilgrim Creek

Pilgrim Creek

Pacific Creek

Pacific Creek

Buffalo Fork

Buffalo Fork

Spread Creek

Spread Creek

Ditch Creek

Ditch Creek

 

 


Water Resources of Wyoming


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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