A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Jonah Field’

Big Piney and Marbleton, Wyoming

Posted by graywacke on March 27, 2010

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (now pretty much an every-other-day blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  With 150 as a seemingly unattainable goal, I’ve landed in another WB OSer . . . WY; 66/60; 5/10; 5; 151.8.  Here’s my landing map, showing my proximity to Big Sandy, Marbleton and Big Piney:

Here’s a broader view:

It turns out that Big Sandy isn’t really a town, so this post features the twin towns of Marbleton & Big Piney.  But first, this about my watersheds – I landed in the Eighteenmile Canyon watershed, on to the Buckhorn Canyon, and for the second landing in a row (amazingly), on to a creek with the name Fourmile Creek!  So, in two landings, I’ve had an Eighteenmile Canyon and two Fourmile Creeks.  How about that.  Anyway, the Fourmile Creek flows to a new river – the Big Sandy (my 1060th).  This is my third Big Sandy River (the other two being in WV/KY and AZ).  This Big Sandy flows to the Green R (26th hit); on to the Colorado (150th hit).

Here’s my GE shot:

The facility to the east of my landing caught my eye, because it didn’t exactly look like a ranch.  I suspected it had something to do with oil & gas.  Zooming out a little confirmed my suspicion –  each of the deadend roadways ends at a well (or well cluster):

Here’s a Street View shot from the north-south road east of my landing, looking west towards the well facility that’s just east of my landing (get that??):

A little research, and it turns out that I landed on the northern edge of the Jonah Field.  From Wiki:

The presence of natural gas in and around Sublette County was known for years, but it was not deemed practical to extract, because of the low permeability of the gas-containing bedrock.  A project called Wagon Wheel Nuclear Stimulation Project was proposed, which would have been an attempt to detonate 5 small nuclear explosions to fracture the rock and enable natural-gas production. The project was abandoned and the Jonah Field was left undeveloped for years.

However, hydraulic fracturing [rather than nuclear explosions] was finally used to open (stimulate) the tight sandstone bedrock formations that exist more than a mile and a half underground, which allows gas to be recovered at economic rates.

Jonah Field is known for being one of the largest on-shore natural gas discoveries in the USA in the early 1990s. The startling fact is that Jonah has a surface area of approximately one township yet it contains 10.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. In comparison, the Hugoton Field covers most of the southwest portion of Kansas, a 14 county area, yet it contained only about three times the volume of gas in Jonah.

The effect of drilling gas wells on the population of sage grouse is a highly-contentious issue: one report states that grouse populations are as healthy as ever, another report states that grouse are in a serious state of decline.

[Let me guess.  The oil companies’ expert says the grouse are thriving; the environmental groups’ expert says they’re in serious decline.  I used to work for Mobil Oil.  I know it works that way . . .]

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service states that in fact oil and gas exploration represents the single greatest threat to sage grouse.

About hydraulic fracturing, from Wiki (& me):

Wiki:  Hydraulic fracture stimulation is commonly applied to wells drilled in low permeability reservoirs.  Most gas wells in the US rely on hydraulic fracturing to produce gas at economic rates.

Me:  A fracture fluid is pumped down a well under extremely high pressure, which opens up new fractures in the rock.  Once the fractures are open,  “proppant” is then pumped down the well.  The proppant enters the fractures and props them open; otherwise, the fractures would close back up when the pressure is reduced.

Wiki:  The fracture fluid can be any number of fluids, ranging from water to gels, foams, nitrogen, carbon dioxide or even air in some cases. Various types of proppant are used, including sand, resin-coated sand, and man-made ceramics depending on the type of permeability or grain strength needed. Radioactive sand is sometimes used so that the fracture trace along the wellbore can be measured.

Moving on to Marbleton & Big Piney.  From MountainManCountry.com:

It’s a curiosity, considering most Wyoming towns are few and far between, that Big Piney and Marbleton would only be a mile apart on Hwy 189. The town of Marbleton, incorporated in 1914, was the dream of Charles P. Budd, the eldest son of Dan Budd who founded Big Piney.  In the early days, there were a lot of drainage problems with the site on which Big Piney was built. So Charles Budd decided that it would make sense to move the town up on the bench to take advantage of the better building sites.

Charles did establish Marbleton on the bench in late 1913, but it never replaced Big Piney. Marbleton started out as Big Piney’s rival, each vying to be the major town site in this area. Marbleton now has a population of about 720 while Big Piney has about 400.

[so I guess Marbleton won . . .]

They have separate post offices and town governments. Any attempts to combine the two towns have been unsuccessful. The truth is people here kinda’ like it that way. Both towns cooperate with each other and have a combined fire department. Amazingly, through the years, both towns have grown and prospered. Industries supporting the town today include ranching, oil and gas mineral extraction and tourism. A small general aviation airport services the towns of Marbleton and Big Piney.

Here’s a GE shot, and you can see that Marbleton is on higher ground:

More about Big Piney from Wiki:

In 1987, actress Glenn Close co-produced a documentary about the vanishing cowboy of the American West, entitled, “Do You Mean There Are Still Real Cowboys?” The film focused on several generations of cattle ranching families in Big Piney, originally shown as part of the PBS television series, “The American Experience.” It was narrated by actor Robert Redford.

In the Big Piney/Marbleton vicinity is located the Wardell Buffalo Trap, a canyon used by Native Americans to trap bison.  Its potential archeological value led to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

About the Wardell Buffalo Trap from Wiki:

The Wardell Buffalo Trap in Sublette County, Wyoming is a small box canyon used by Native Americans for 500 years during the Late Prehistoric Period.  Nearly 55 feet of bison bones were found at the site. A campsite and butchering area is located nearby, and evidence has been found for a fence at the entrance to the canyon.

Here’s some more info from PindaleOnLine.com:

Wardell Buffalo Trap Revisited
by Clint Gilchrist & Dawn Ballou
September 10, 2005

‘Organized chaos’ may be the best way to describe a group of Indians on foot driving a herd of 1500-pound wild bison at full speed for as much as a mile into a specially built corral of juniper and sagebrush and then killing them with bow and arrows. It would have taken a long time for full-grown, excited, angry bison to bleed to death from the small 1-2” stone arrowheads, giving them plenty of time to raise havoc.

Based on their data from a 1970 dig, researchers speculate that a group of 100-125 individuals built a 50 by 30 foot corral of juniper and cottonwood at the base of a bluff in the box canyon. They possibly built drivelines of trees and sagebrush in a V shape ¼ to ½ mile stretching out from the trap. Small herds of maybe 20 bison were diverted on their way back from getting water. It was extremely dangerous and took intimate knowledge of the buffalo. It required extensive advance planning and then a coordinated effort during the drive and kill.
It seems inevitable that people would get injured or killed during the drive or kill. But the danger was acceptable because the success of the fall hunt could be the difference between life and death for the whole group in the upcoming harsh Rocky Mountain winter. One thousand years ago, right here in our Upper Green River Valley, this very scene unfolded over and over again each fall not far from Big Piney.

Most people have heard of “buffalo jumps”. With this method, people drove stampeding buffalo to their deaths by running them over high cliffs. This was a relatively effective method of resolving the problem of how to kill buffalo to get a supply of winter meat. However, the scene that took place near Big Piney was not a jump, but rather a “buffalo trap”, where the animals were herded into a confined pen and then killed.

The Wardell Buffalo Trap has become almost legendary in professional circles for its contribution to the knowledge of late prehistoric human buffalo procurement. It is the earliest known evidence of a communal bison kill involving use of bow and arrow in the northwest plains.

Here’s a shot of exposed bison bones from the 1970 dig:

Here’s a shot of the entrance to the box canyon – the buffalo trap is up this road a piece:

That’ll do it. . .



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