Intermountain Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Forest: Uinta National Forest
District: Heber Ranger District
Description: Silver Meadow is a wet meadow containing one of the largest and most dependable populations of dainty moonwort (Botrychium crenulatum), a tiny fern that grows one leaf and one branch of spores on each plant. Especially in the West, most moonworts are uncommon and hard to find even for known populations. Besides dainty moonwort, the meadow is known for nice displays of pink elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica), white spikes of orchids and blue camas during moonwort season. The drier lands around the meadow contain a wide variety of wildflowers such as sticky geranium and larkspur, and stands of dark spruce and fir trees.
Viewing Information: Dainty moonwort plants emerge above the ground between mid July and late August. They only emerge in order to mature and disperse their spores. The moonworts live symbiotically with soil fungi underground, and don’t need to produce their own food. The ferns average about ½ inch tall, and are quite difficult to see at first. You need to be on your knees once you arrive in a likely spot, bending over isn’t usually good enough to find one. Once you find one, you will be surprised to see the little fern fronds scattered all around you. Knee pads would keep your knees dry. The moonwort plants are best seen on the east side of the meadow in the wet sites with shorter vegetation, mixed in with patches of pink elephant head flowers. Be sure and explore the drier uplands surrounding the meadow for displays of other wildflowers.
Safety First: Be aware of the narrow but deep stream hidden among tall sedges on the east and north sides of the meadow – don’t fall in! Protect this fragile meadow – please don’t ride vehicles or horses through it, because the ground is very wet and deep ruts or pocks would result, possibly leading to permanent gullying or other damage. Be careful when climbing through the log fence protecting the meadow from vehicles. Walk carefully and slowly in the meadow, to avoid stepping on moonworts and young frogs. Thunderstorms occur during moonwort season. If a storm happens, get out of the meadow, where you are at highest risk of being hit by lightning.
Directions: From Heber City, travel north on Highway 40, then turn east onto State Route 35. Travel about 25 miles until you pass Wolf Creek Summit and the Wolf Creek campground. Then look for a left turn (north) onto Forest Road 174, a graveled dirt road. There should be a small sign at the junction showing the road is the way to Silver Meadow. Silver Meadow is about two miles northeast of the junction.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Uinta National Forest, Heber Ranger District, Wasatch County.
Closest Town: Approximately thirty three miles from Heber City, Utah.