WY-007 Sweetwater Willows

Marker text: Wyoming's Wildlife - Sweetwater Willows - In summer, the trilling "Kroo-oo-oo" of the sandhill crane is heard along the Sweetwater River. The endangered whooping crane has been seen in the marshy meadows immediately south of this spot. The Sweetwater's wide floodplain, enhanced by the irrigated and naturally occurring wet meadows, supports wildlife as large as the 1,000 pound moose and as small as the 1/4 ounce pygmy shrew. The vegetation zone in the river's floodplain is called riparian habitat. Willows are often dominant woody vegetation in Wyoming's riparian habitats. Willows provide food and cover for moose in winter, food and dam building materials for the beaver, and streamside shade and insects for fish. Willow roots also help stabilize streambanks. Without stabilizing vegetation, the streambanks erode and spring floods cut deeper into the riverbed. This accelerates erosion and affects wildlife. Unstable streambanks result in a loss of land, soil moisture, and vegetation growth. This affects wildlife and livestock, and ultimately man. Willows are one of the valuable plants that help maintain a healthy and diverse wildlife community.

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