Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bison Versus Automobile

Kind of reminds you of a certain auto insurance commercial... The couple in this video, filmed in Yellowstone earlier this month, were in a Nissan Xterra:


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Floating the Snake

This past summer Kathy and I, along with a few friends, took the opportunity to float the Snake River through the heart of Jackson Hole in the Grand Tetons. I knew this was a fairly popular activity for many visitors, so my expectations were already set fairly high. However, our own personal experience that day exceeded those expectations - we had an absolutely great time.

In addition to seeing some amazing scenery, one of my chief objectives was to see a variety of wildlife - especially bald eagles. Although we didn't see any mega-fauna, we did see several common mergansers, a couple of blue herons, an osprey, and six bald eagles - which happened to double the total number I've seen in my life!

Although it was late August, the morning of our trip was unseasonably cold. We were all dressed in fleece, gloves and long pants. After launching from Deadman's Bar, located just south of the Cunningham Cabin, our raft took us all the way down to Moose Landing (at Moose Junction), a distance of roughly 10 miles.

From its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, to its confluence with the Columbia River in Kennewick, WA, the Snake River travels a total of 1078 miles. Along the way it flows though the Jackson Hole valley, the Snake River Canyon, Hells Canyon, and the rolling Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State. The drainage basin for the Snake encompasses parts of six states, while roughly 50 miles of the river passes though Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park is home to the greatest variety of wildlife in the lower 48 states. With its lush willows to feed on, deep-water pools to swim in, and groves of aspen, the Snake River offers park visitors one of the best chances for seeing wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, pronghorn, deer, bears, beaver, or maybe one of the more than 300 species of birds that live in or migrate to the park.

Rafters will also enjoy spectacular views of the entire Teton Range, including Grand Teton, the highest mountain in the park. The first documented ascent of the 13,770-foot peak occurred on August 11, 1898 by four climbers. Two members of the Hayden Geological Survey claimed to have reached the summit on July 29, 1872. However, that ascent is disputed by climbers and historians who have concluded, after studying the climber’s accounts, that the two reached a side peak known as The Enclosure. Moreover, the 1898 climbers found no evidence of a previous ascent, including a cairn which was a common practice for the expedition.

If you're lucky you may notice a beaver lodge or two along the river bank. Beaver were nearly trapped to extinction in Jackson Hole during the 1800s when beaver hats were in fashion. However, they've made a strong rebound over the years, and have re-established numerous colonies in the wetland habitats around the park.

Roughly 8 miles downstream from the put-in at Deadman's Bar we passed a couple of cabins from the old Bar BC Dude Ranch. Established in 1912, the Bar BC was one of the first dude ranches in Jackson Hole. In 1985 Grand Teton National Park acquired the ranch, which was subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places five years later.

As we approached the end of the trip we floated past Menors Ferry. In 1894 Bill Menor came to Jackson Hole to set-up a homestead along the banks of the Snake River. In addition to his cabin and general store, he constructed a ferry that became a vital crossing point for the early settlers in the Jackson Hole valley. He operated his ferry until 1918 before selling out to Maud Noble.

The Menor Ferry is essentially a pontoon of two floats connected by a platform. This type of vessel is known as a "reaction ferry," which has a design that dates back to ancient times. The ferry uses the force of the river to propel the pontoon along a cable stretched across the river. The platform had sufficient room for a wagon and four-horse team. Menor charged 50 cents for a wagon and team, 25 cents for a horse and rider, but was free for pedestrians if a wagon was already crossing. The current ferry and cable system on the site today is a replica of the original.

All in all we had a great adventure. It was likely the best raft/float trip I've ever taken. Our outfitter was Barker-Ewing Scenic Tours, who did an absolutely outstanding job, and would recommend to anyone who was considering a similar trip. Most trips take about 2.5 to 3 hours. Morning and evening trips will be the best times for spotting wildlife, while mornings will offer the best views of the mountains.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Backcountry Skills: How To Cross a River

Spring hiking season is just around the corner for many areas in the lower 48. This means that snow in the higher elevations is beginning to melt, which usually results in high water in the creeks and streams along the slopes and valleys below. In many cases hikers won't have the option of crossing a stream via a footbridge, which means you'll have to get your feet wet. This can be a very dangerous situation for hikers, so you'll want to know how to do this without putting your life on the line. In this short video Backpacker Magazine offer several tips on how to cross a stream safely:


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Teton Crest Trail Uncut

Is anyone else ready for hiking season? I know I am, but it looks like we may have at least a few more weeks of snow, cold and overcast skies. If you haven't decided where you're going to hike this summer, perhaps this video will provide some inspiration. In 2011 Dan McCoy hiked the Teton Crest Trail in the Grand Tetons, and came back with this wonderful video that highlights some of the incredibly beautiful scenery he saw along the way. His four-day, 42-mile route took him from the Rendezvous Mountain Aerial Tram to Marion Lake, across the Death Canyon Shelf to the Alaska Basin, over to Lake Solitude, and then after climbing Paintbrush Divide, he returned to civilization via the Paintbrush Canyon Trail.

This video clearly underscores why the Teton Crest Trail is one of the premier backpacking routes in America. For those that don't backpack, there are fortunately a handful of segments can be reach by day hikes, which are linked to in the above paragraph. Enjoy:


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bill Would Clear Way for Recreational Paddling in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

Since first introducing Yellowstone National Park paddling legislation over a year ago, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis has worked with the Wyoming paddling community to revamp the legislation in response to concerns articulated by the National Park Service and other stakeholders, culminating in her introduction of H.R. 974 last week: the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act.

The bill would require the National Park Service to promulgate a rule allowing paddling within three years after funds are made available for such a rulemaking. The rulemaking will replace Park Service regulations passed in the 1950’s, which prohibited paddling in both parks primarily to curb overfishing. These outdated regulations have prevented the Park Service from even considering proposals from the paddling community to open up certain rivers and streams for recreational paddling like canoeing and pack rafting. Rep. Lummis included the three year window in the bill to ensure Yellowstone and Grand Teton officials have ample time to conduct the studies and analysis necessary to set new rules allowing for paddling access. The types of hand-propelled watercraft allowed on waterways in the Parks would remain at the discretion of the National Park Service.

“This bill would remove an outdated federal ban on paddling that was instituted because of overfishing but today imposes a barrier to the responsible enjoyment of these waterways by the public,” said Rep. Lummis. “I took great care to preserve the discretion of park managers to actually manage paddling as they do any other recreational activity in the parks, and to ensure park managers have the time and resources necessary to go through the proper studies and analysis. The end result will be yet another way for the public to have truly unforgettable experiences enjoying the Wyoming treasures that are Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.”

The Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act:
Reinforces the authority of park service management over waterways within their jurisdiction.

Improves an overly broad, outdated federal ban on paddling from the 1950’s only when a new management plan is in place.

Gives sufficient time according to the requests of the Park Service for the rulemaking process as well as a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review.

Ensures that the National Park Service remains in charge of all management and supervision of access for paddlers through their agency rulemaking.

Creates an open, public process where folks can ask about their priority areas and gives an avenue for assurance of conservation.

Supports the NPS’ authority to monitor hand propelled watercraft as well as charge cost recovery fees for registration.

For the bill text please click here.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

National Parks Draw Record-Breaking Crowds in 2014

Visitation at America’s national parks broke all-time records in 2014, as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016 with a major push to encourage more visitors to experience their national parks in 2016. In 2014, there were 292.8 million visits to national parks, breaking the previous record set in 1999 when parks saw just over 287.1 million visits.

“As the National Park Service strives to share a more inclusive and well-rounded version of the American story through the places we care for, it is gratifying to see more people than ever coming to their national parks to enjoy nature, learn about history, and spend time with their families,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “As we look ahead to our centennial in 2016, I am looking forward to announcing a new record-breaking number of visitors coming to experience national parks next year and beyond.”

The official number of recreational visits to national parks in 2014 was 292,800,082 – an increase of 19 million, or seven percent, from 2013 visitation of 273,630,895. Visitation in 2014 rebounded from a 2013 decline that included a 16-day government shutdown and many park closures for repairs after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast in late 2012.

“Visitor spending in the communities near national parks supports hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs in America year after year,” Jarvis said. “With this record visitation we should see something on the order of $15 billion in visitor spending, 250,000 or more jobs and a $28 billion effect on the U.S. economy when our annual economics of national parks report comes out in April.”

Several national parks saw record-breaking visitation in 2014, including Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Glacier national parks. The re-opening of the Washington Monument, some 21 months after it was rocked by an earthquake and repaired, also added to 2014 visitation numbers.

Of the 405 parks in the national park system, 369 of them track visitors, and the top 28 most visited parks accounted for half of 2014 visitation and half of the increase in visits between 2013 and 2014.

Grand Canyon National Park bumped Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area out of the top 10 most visited areas in the national park system. The list of top ten national parks remains unchanged, although Rocky Mountain and Olympic National Parks switched places.

Here are the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area 15,004,420
Blue Ridge Parkway 13,941,749
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 10,099,276
George Washington Memorial Parkway 7,472,150
Lincoln Memorial 7,139,072
Lake Mead National Recreation Area 6,942,873
Gateway National Recreation Area 6,021,713
Natchez Trace Parkway 5,846,474
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park 5,066,219
Grand Canyon National Park 4,756,771

Here are the top 10 most visited national parks: 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 10,099,276
Grand Canyon National Park 4,756,771
Yosemite National Park 3,882,642
Yellowstone National Park 3,513,484
Rocky Mountain National Park 3,434,751
Olympic National Park 3,243,872
Zion National Park 3,189,696
Grand Teton National Park 2,791,392
Acadia National Park 2,563,129
Glacier National Park 2,338,528


Cloud Display Captivates Park Visitors

A relatively rare display of lenticular clouds over the Teton Range last Friday captivated park staff and visitors alike with their graceful and continuously changing shape.

Lenticular (lens-shaped) clouds occur when stable, moist air flows over a mountain or range of mountains, creating a series of large-scale standing waves on the downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds.

“It was the most unusual cloud formation that I have ever witnessed over the Grand Teton in nearly 40 years of living in Jackson Hole,” said Jackie Skaggs, the park’s public affairs officer. “Often it looked like Niagara Falls, and then it would appear to be a huge bird with outstretched wispy wings and its beak just touching the top of the Grand Teton.”

Below is a photo of the cloud, which was published on the Teton's Facebook page last week:


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Summit the Grand Teton Via an eClimb

Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to climb and actually stand atop the Grand Teton? Visitors can now experience the Grand's 13,770-foot summit via a web-based interactive program, and make this exhilarating trek without the physical effort, and possible anxieties associated with such a lofty goal. Come take a virtual climb of Grand Teton National Park's most iconic peak and discover the legacy of mountaineering in the Teton Range of northwestern Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park naturalists invite classroom students, as well as adult visitors from far and wide, to explore the beauty and wonders of the rugged Teton mountains through the convenience of their personal computer and the comfort of a home, office or living room. This virtual mountaineering excursion—or eClimb—provides an introduction to the features, geology, history, and excitement of scaling the granite ledges and spires that form the Grand Teton massif: the highest peak in the Teton Range and second highest mountain in Wyoming. This web-based tour introduces viewers to the various elements (rocky terrain, plants and wildlife) that exist in Grand Teton's forest and alpine communities.

eClimbers can control images and sounds at each stop along their virtual tour, and they can activate videos to explore the human and natural history related to each location along the climbing route. By hovering their mouse over a photograph, hidden images will be revealed through the click of a button. eClimbers can also use videos to imagine scrambling over boulder fields and wedging through rocky alcoves as they experience the thrill of climbing and drama of a mountain rescue in a virtual landscape.

The Grand Teton eClimb is the third in a series of web-based, interactive programs that help orient visitors and educate them about the wonders of Grand Teton National Park. A String Lake eHike and videos of the Moose-Wilson corridor offer two other opportunities for virtual tours of the park as well.

To experience this innovative program, please click here.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Video of the Day: Cascade Canyon

The hike to Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park is regularly touted as one of the top hikes in America. The hike includes a boat ride across Jenny Lake, as well as visits to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and Cascade Canyon itself. The views of Mt. Owen looming more than a mile above the canyon are absolutely outstanding. The video below does a good job of showing exactly why this hike is so popular with hikers and pundits alike:

Hiking the Tetons - Day 1 - Cascade Canyon from Clark on Vimeo.

For more detailed information on this hike, please click here to visit our new hiking website for the Grand Tetons.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jaw-dropping Glacier National Park

58NationalParks has produced another excellent overview of Glacier National Park. If this video inspires you to visit Glacier this upcoming season, the best way to explore this wonderful park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park.

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Bears Already Starting To Emerge From Dens In Yellowstone

Blame the relatively mild winter weather for the early emergence of bears in the Greater Yellowstone area.

The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity in Yellowstone occurred on February 9. A grizzly bear was observed late in the afternoon, scavenging on a bison carcass in the central portion of the park.

With bears emerging from hibernation hikers, skiers, and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. The same advice goes for those taking guided snowmobile trips in Yellowstone.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety Web page, and in the park newspaper distributed at all park entrances.

Yellowstone also implements seasonal bear management areas closures to reduce encounters between bears and humans in areas where elk and bison carcasses are in high density. A listing of these closures can be found here.

Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a spotting scope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. All visitors traveling in the park away from developed areas should stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, keep an eye out for bears and carry bear spray. Bear spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How To Start a Fire With Your Cell Phone

Did you know that you can start a fire with your cell phone? With nearly everyone owning one, and taking them into the backcountry, this is a good skill to know in case you're ever caught in an emergency situation. Backpacker Magazine shows exactly how to do this in the video below:


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Montana State Parks Announces Strategic Plan

Montana State Parks announced earlier this week that the Montana State Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, Charting a New Tomorrow is now available.

Charting a New Tomorrow is a ground-breaking, business-minded management approach that will maximize the Division’s available resources, develop partnerships and build public engagement to create a bright future for outdoor recreation across Montana.

“This plan will strengthen the state’s park system and recreation programs,” said Chas Van Genderen, Montana State Parks Administrator. “Montana State Parks will lead the way for parks and recreation throughout the state.”

The Montana State Parks & Recreation Board tasked the Division with creating the strategic plan to serve as a guiding framework for management of the park system and state-wide recreation programs through 2020. The plan addresses budgetary and staffing shortfalls which have historically challenged the park system while focusing on strategic partnerships and engaged constituents.

“We want to provide residents and their guests with the best experience possible.” said Van Genderen.

Implementation of the strategic plan is underway and will continue to be Montana State Park’s focus for the next few months. The first stage involves conducting a facility condition assessment and establishing operational and staffing standards based on peer analysis with surrounding state park systems. Once the analysis is complete, the Division will begin the process of reallocating resources to the most significant sites in order to meet standards and improve visitor experiences at those parks.

Charting a New Tomorrow is the result of a year long process that included contributions from the Parks Division, legislative members, agency partners, user groups and other stakeholders through surveys, community listening sessions, and public review. The plan was approved by the Parks Board at their December 17, 2014 meeting.

To view Charting a New Tomorrow visit:


Friday, February 6, 2015

2014-2015 Winter Count of Northern Yellowstone Elk

The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual winter survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population on January 20, 2015. The survey, using three airplanes, was conducted by staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the National Park Service. Staff counted 4,844 elk, including 1130 elk (23%) inside Yellowstone National Park and 3,714 elk (77%) north of the park. Survey conditions were favorable across the region.

The 2015 count was 24% higher than the 3,915 elk counted in 2013 and was the highest since 6,037 elk were counted in 2010. Survey conditions in 2014 were poor and resulted in an inaccurate count.

The Working Group will continue to monitor trends of the northern Yellowstone elk population and evaluate the relative contribution of various components of mortality, including predation, environmental factors, and hunting. The Working Group was formed in 1974 to cooperatively preserve and protect the long-term integrity of the northern Yellowstone winter range for wildlife species by increasing our scientific knowledge of the species and their habitats, promoting prudent land management activities, and encouraging an interagency approach to answering questions and solving problems. The Working Group is comprised of resource managers and biologists from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park), U.S. Forest Service (Custer Gallatin National Forest), and U.S. Geological Survey-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Yellowstone Making Changes To Backcountry Permit Fees

Yellowstone will implement an overnight backcountry permit fee starting May 1. The money raised from the new fees will help defray the costs of running the park’s backcountry program.

Anyone obtaining a permit to stay overnight in the backcountry between Memorial Day and September 10 will have to pay a per-person, per night permit fee for all individuals 9 years of age or older.

Backpackers and boaters will pay $3.00 per-person, per night, with groups of 5 or more paying a total of $15 per night. Stock users will be charged $5.00 per-person, per night.

Visitors may purchase an Annual Backcountry Pass for $25, which covers the per-person, per-night backcountry fees for the individual pass holder for the calendar year in which the pass is purchased.

Yellowstone has accepted advanced backcountry reservations since 1996. The advance reservation fee remains $25 for trips reserved more than two nights in advance.

Reservations are currently being accepted for backcountry trips for 2015. Applications submitted prior to April 1 are processed in random order by lottery. Reservations received after April 1 are processed in the order in which they are received.

The park’s Backcountry Trip Planner and reservation applications are available online.

Revenues from the advanced reservation and per-night fees are expected to cover just over 40-percent of the costs associated with operating the park’s nine backcountry offices. This reduced dependence upon the park’s base operating funds will allow Yellowstone to reallocate money to support other important park operations.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Forest Service in the Rocky Mountain Region Recruiting for more than 500 Seasonal Positions

The Rocky Mountain Region of the USDA Forest Service has announced that it will begin advertising for more than 500 temporary positions throughout the Region’s National Forests and Grasslands. The current recruitment primarily is for seasonal forestry, range, recreation, visitor information, engineering, fisheries, wildland fire, archaeology and wildlife technician positions. The Region comprises 17 national forests and seven national grasslands, located in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Applicants interested in these jobs will be able to locate opportunities at Interested applicants will need to apply through

The openings for applicants to apply for Rocky Mountain Region Forest Service temporary positions will begin Feb. 3, 2015, for recreation, fisheries, forestry and other temporary positions. Job announcements are open for 7-days.

Candidates can find current temporary listings and more information about temporary employment in the Rocky Mountain Region by visiting Individuals interested in finding more information about specific positions are encouraged to contact the National Forest that hosts the position of interest. All applicants will use USAJOBS.GOV to apply for the seasonal positions.

Current and upcoming Forest Service job opportunities across the nation can be found online at:


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MTJP: A Visually Stunning Journey Through Great Smoky Mountains National Park During Peak Fall Color

This just might be the best video of the Great Smoky Mountains I've ever seen. It was produced last fall by a small start-up known as "More Than Just Parks". This spectacular 4-minute film is the culmination of two weeks spent extensively filming some of the most incredible parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

More Than Just Parks has set the goal of producing similar films for all 59 national parks. They hope that this will encourage folks to get out and have one-of-a-kind experiences of their own in our national parks! They also hope that these videos will help to build a greater awareness for all of the breathtaking natural wonders protected by our national park system.

MTJP | Smoky Mountains from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

For more information on the MTJP project, please click here.

If this video has inspired you to visit the Smokies this year, the best way to explore this wonderful park is to hike along one of the many trails that meander throughout the park. With over 850 miles of trails, the park is without a doubt a hikers paradise!

While making your plans, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.