About Field Sites
Blacktail Deer Creek (BLDE) is an aquatic NEON field site located in Yellowstone National Park. It is 100 km (62 mi.) southeast of Bozeman, MT, just south of the Wyoming-Montana state line. It is hosted by the National Park Service. BLDE is a small perennial stream that flows through the northern part of Yellowstone National Park and into the Yellowstone River east of Mammoth Hot Springs. The creek flows through relatively open terrain, with a dense riparian willow canopy on the stream banks, and drains a watershed of 37.81 km2 (8100 acres). It is shallow with clear water and has the potential to flood during snowmelt and heavy rainfall events. The area is visited by tourists and fisherman regularly during the summer. BLDE is highly representative of a wildland area in NEON's Northern Rockies Domain (D12). The trophic structure and community interactions are probably more representative of those that were widespread in the region before Euro-American influence than any other place in the Domain. Thus, the site offers a rare opportunity to understand interactions among climate, natural disturbance, ecosystem processes, and community structure in integrated terrestrial and aquatic systems that are representative of those of intact wildlands across the Domain. Domain 12 comprises the northern part of the Rocky Mountain Range in western Montana, Idaho and northwestern Wyoming. D12 has two colocated field sites: BLDE and the YELL terrestrial site.   
The climate in the NEON Northern Rockies Domain can be harsh. In Yellowstone National Park, elevation differences can produce greatly variable weather and temperature. At the NEON BLDE site, the mean average temperature is 3.6°C (38°F) and the mean annual precipitation is 482 mm (19 in.). Summer temperatures can reach 25°C-30°C (70°F-80°F) depending on elevation. Snow typically extends through the fall, winter, and spring. In the spring and fall, snowfall of 300 mm (12 in.) per day can still be expected. Winter is typically below freezing, with average snowfall reaching 3800 mm (150 in.) per year, but in higher elevation portions of the park there can be substantially more snow.  
Yellowstone National Park contains geologic features that are the results of volcanism, glaciation, and geological processes fueled by a continental hotspot. The park encompasses the Yellowstone caldera as well as the fault-block mountain ranges that surround the caldera to the northeast and southwest. BLDE is located on the Blacktail Deer Plateau between the Gallatin and Washburn mountain ranges. The geology underlying BLDE includes mostly undivided alluvium, colluvium, and glacial and landslide deposits with some rhyolite flows, tuff, and intrusive igneous rocks. Geomorphic attributes of Blacktail Deer Creek include riffle-pool sections with a medium to large cobble sediment regime and clear water.   
Soils in BLDE consist of Cryaquolls and Histosols Undifferentiated Group. These soils are medium- to fine-textured sandy loam, loam, and loamy sands formed in aquatic environments; sand loams, sandy clayey loams, and loams formed in glacial till and alluvium (Shook Family-Badwater Family-Passcreek Family Complex); and loams formed in till and alluvium derived from volcanic rocks (Gallatin Family). These soil types make up 100% of the soil in the BLDE site. 
Blacktail Deer Creek is a small stream that drains a 37.8 km2 (14.6 sq. mi.) watershed. Flow records from an inactive United States Geological Survey gauge on Blacktail Deer Creek next to the NEON aquatic site show mean annual flow ranging from 4 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 13 cfs and peak stream flow ranging from 37 cfs to 198 cfs (period record of 1938–1993). Snowmelt dominates seasonal patterns in the surface water regime of Blacktail Deer Creek. Warming temperatures in late spring (May-June) causes the heavy snowpack to melt and discharge to consequently rise until peak flow, typically in June and July. After this point, discharge steadily falls until September, after which base flows remain relatively low and stable until the following spring melt. Discharge rarely, if ever, reaches zero.   
The riparian canopy is dominated by willows (Salix spp.). Vegetation at the site is composed of short grasses in the fields surrounding the stream and a dense corridor of cottonwoods and briar bushes at the streams edge. Understory vegetation also consists of roses and grasses. The upstream portion of the stream has some surrounding lodgepole pines that have been burned in a forest fire (not recent). Some of these trees have fallen across the stream and obstruct flow in the channel.  
The aquatic invertebrate community is dominated by 11 mayfly (Ephemoptera) genera including Drunella doddsi and Ameletus sp., 5 stonefly genera (Plecoptera) including Suwallia sp. and Classenia sp., and 4 genera of caddisfly (Trichoptera) including Glossomatidae and Hydropsychidae. This community likely provides adequate food resources for the stream's population of non-native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Yellowstone National Park is home to 13 native fish and six non-native fish species. Two species of native fish in the park, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) and arctic grayling, have historic ranges in the NEON BLDE site. Currently, there are efforts underway to restore populations of the YCT to streams in Yellowstone. Some of the common non-native species in Yellowstone include brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. Yellowstone is also home to moose, elk, bison, bears, and wolves.  
Past Land Management and Use
Yellowstone National Park has ties with 26 Native American tribes. Blacktail Deer Creek is traditionally the territory of the Shoshone-Bannock, Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), and Apsaalooké (Crow). Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and was managed by the U.S. Army from 1886-1918. In 1916, the National Park Service, who now manages the area, was created.
In 1988, fires in the watershed and surrounding areas affected 793,880 acres of Yellowstone National Park. Trees downed by the fire created pools in Blacktail Deer Creek and the creek saw a rise in nitrate and phosphate levels.
Science has always been an integral component of Yellowstone's approach to park management, from as early as 1877 when Park Superintendent Philetus Norris made the case for a resident Park scientist. One of Yellowstone's better known conservation initiatives, the reintroduction of Grey Wolves in 1995, resulted in increased willow heights along Blacktail Deer Creek by 2004 due to the reduced grazing by the resident elk population.      
Current Land Management and Use
Blacktail Deer Creek is located within Yellowstone National Park and is managed by the U.S. National Park Service. Sustaining Yellowstone's ecosystem is a priority in the management of the park. Yellowstone has in place plans for bear management, bison management, fire management, native fish conservation, visitor use management, and winter use management. Blacktail Deer Creek is located within the Bear Management Area, where access is restricted to occasional site visits as required by NEON activities from March 10-June 30th. Additionally, Yellowstone hosts scientific research unaffiliated with the U.S. National Park Service. In 2018, 142 permits were issued for research on biological resources, wildlife and vegetation, microbiology, ecology, and more.   
NEON Site Establishment
In June 2017, the National Park Service conducted an Environmental Assessment for sampling at Black Deer Creek. Following that, a sampling readiness review was conducted at Blacktail Deer Creek in February 2018. Initial operations capability reviews were conducted for aquatic observation systems (AOS) and aquatic instrumentation systems (AIS) in August 2018 and October 2018 respectively. The actual transition to operations for AOS occurred on August 22, 2018 and AIS transitioned to operations on October 24, 2018. 
 NEON. 2012. NEON Aquatic Site Summary, Site Information: D12, Blacktail Deer Creek.
 Aquatic Instrument System (AIS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 12. NEON.DOC.001669vA
 Beschta, R. L., & Ripple, W. J. (2007). Increased willow heights along northern yellowstone's blacktail deer creek following wolf reintroduction. Western North American Naturalist, 67(4), 613–617.
 Rissler, Erik, et al. (2017). NEON Site-Specific EHS Plan: D12CA1BLDE
 Climate. (n.d.). National Park Service. Retrieved May 1, 2020 from https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/weather.htm
 (2017). National Ecological Observatory Network: Northern Rockies, Domain 12 – Core site Environmental Assessment. National Park Service. https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=111&projectID=54573&do…
 PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a meteorological station located in the riparian area. The met station is outfitted with a subset of the same sensors used at terrestrial sites. Measurements include wind speed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, shortwave radiation, and PAR.
A phenocam is pointed toward the land-water interface of the site. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on the image below.
Field Site Data
National Park Service
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
The National Park Service is open to additional research activities taking place in this area. Apply via IRMA Permitting portal. NEON research area is limited to additional research due to sensitivity.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 12 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
2360 N 7th Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant NLCD Classes
Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands, Shrub/Scrub
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Undivided surficial deposits
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Alluvium and colluvium
USGS Geology Age
Pleistocene to Holocene
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D12 Field Sites
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