View Full Version : Terrain Terms

07-27-2011, 07:56 AM
I have a question about terms used to describe the topography. I've been elk hunting in Idaho the last couple of years and have had some issues with understanding what some of the people we talk to are referring to when it comes to the areas to hunt. Coming from a flat part of the country I am unfamiliar with a lot of the mountain terms.

Could some of you describe some of the common lingo used to describe the mountainous terrain.

For example: craig, basin, cooly, etc.

There are a few others I cant remember. Hate to sound like an idiot but I feel like bigger idiot when I cant find elk due to a lack of basic knowledge.

07-27-2011, 10:24 PM
Craig- Sharp cravas or cut in the land. Steep side. Usually found with good bedding gounds in them. Lots of brush often in the lower parts. Very narrow.
Basin- Walk to your bathroom. Turn on the light. Look into the sink. Observe the shape of it. Now apply that same shape to Geography. Thats exactly where the term came from, Basin.
Saddle- High ridge that is between two higher formations on the ridge(shaped like a saddle) Just like in Texas.

Now can you please explain how we Texans aint fixin nothin when we are fixin to do some elk huntin with our bros?

Cooly as I use it, is a cool basin or small field of vegetation with usually a small water source in it.

Bitterroot Bulls
07-27-2011, 10:47 PM
The way I use the terms:

coulee - side drainages, often canyonlike. Often used in Eastern MT. Many proper names in Eastern MT are coulee, like Black Coulee in Northcentral MT.

Crag - a steep rugged rock prominence, often in mountainous country. See the Bighorn Crags in ID.

Basin - the head end of a drainage, they are often bowl-shaped.

Finger Ridge - lower ridges running from a prominant ridge.

Burn - the result of a wildfire.

Park - Some use this as a relatively open stand of trees. Others use it interchangeably with meadow.

Meadow - Open, grassy areas surrounded by timber or rocks

Slide - A steep meadow-like area, often with trees knocked over in a vertical fashion from repeated avalanches.

Ribbon cliffs - Rock ledges running mostly horizontal along the sides of basins.

Dog hair - a thick stand of lodgepole pine.

Of course there are many more...

07-27-2011, 11:09 PM
This is actually a fun thread, how many more such terms there are????
Hanging valley, box canyon, knife ridge, reprod???

07-29-2011, 01:17 PM
Thanks guys. This is very helpfull. Is there a difference between a shelf and a bench?

I'm fixin to have a good hunt with all this knowledge.;) Its really amazing how much we use "fixin to". Never even notice it until a foreigner points it out.;)

Bitterroot Bulls
07-29-2011, 04:33 PM
Is there a difference between a shelf and a bench?

Not really in my use. Just flatter areas in otherwise not-so-flat country.

07-29-2011, 05:14 PM
In this part of Idaho Basin is usually pretty large (Stanley Basin and Copper Basin are two that come to mind and are both several miles wide and several more miles long. Otherwise it is commonly called a bowl.

07-29-2011, 08:35 PM
True that T43....

Foreigner? Im roughly offended :O lol
Born in Austin...just call McCall Home...if you lived here you would understand. :)

07-30-2011, 11:04 PM
A "crag" is an actual cliff. At least that is how it is reffered to in the mountaineering and rock climbing world. A "slide" is an actual avalanche path, much easier to visualize if you have seen a skiing video. Check out the book "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the hills" by The Mountaineers. This book is THE authority on mountain safety and travel.

07-30-2011, 11:16 PM
Interesting I always thought a crag was a spire type rock formation like was mentioned above. The bighorn crags in Idaho, Three fingered Jack in Oregon and the similar ones in the Tetons that I can't remember the name of. Here we call an actual cliff a "cliff".

07-30-2011, 11:55 PM
As a mountaineer and a climber I would call a spire a "spire", or a "tower". A cliff of moderate size, 50'-400', with no defined summit is a crag. Cliffs larger than that are called "walls", or "big walls". Many of the cliffs on the hike up to the Grand Teton are called crags in the climbing guide. Only the actual mountains have proper names, or some of the spires attached to the peaks. The rock outcroppings at City of Rocks in Idaho would all be called crags. This is a spire.

07-31-2011, 12:01 AM
here is a crag1384

07-31-2011, 12:04 AM
More high alpine spires. The Saber is in the middle. Located in Rocky Mountain National Park1385

07-31-2011, 05:58 PM
True that T43....

Foreigner? Im roughly offended :O lol
Born in Austin...just call McCall Home...if you lived here you would understand. :)

No offence intended! I've been through McCall the last 2 years I've been to Idaho and I completely understand why you would want to live there. Idaho is beautiful and McCall is too. I ate breakfast at the Pancake House and Christmas Shop one year and Dinner at Lardo's last year. We hunted the Middle Fork the first year and McCall last year.

2 years ago was the first time to hunt elk and the first time to go into the mountains period. The Middle Fork broke me in very quick and humbled me too. We hauled our horses from Texas with no idea what we were getting into. The drive from Yellow Pine to Big Creek pulling a horse trailer was an eye opener. But, I fell in love with Idaho.