To 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 t