Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Yellowstone Opens New Trail at Grand Prismatic Spring

Significant resource damage and visitor safety concerns from off-trail travel on the hills south of Grand Prismatic Spring has led the park to construct and recently open the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail. To alleviate traffic congestion, safety concerns, and resource impacts, the park also made a parking area near the Fairy Falls Trailhead at Midway Geyser Basin. Parking is very limited at this popular destination.

Trail crew rehabilitated the hillside resource damage. They also designed and built the trail with assistance from the Montana Conservation Corps and Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps. The new trail gradually climbs 105 feet over 0.6 miles from the Fairy Falls Trailhead to an overlook with views of Midway Geyser Basin.

The trail and overlook protects a heavily visited part of the park. Superintendent Dan Wenk remarked that the trail and overlook, “provide a different view of Grand Prismatic Spring and minimize the growth of unsightly, unofficial social trails in the process.”

The park also advises visitors to pack their patience. Anticipate traffic, limited parking, and delays at this and other popular park destinations.

Photos are available on Yellowstone's Flickr site.



Jeff
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fire Danger Moves to Very High

Interagency Fire Officials - which includes Glacier National Park - made the decision yesterday to raise the Fire Danger Level from "High" to "Very High". When the fire danger is "Very High", fires will start easily from most causes. The fires will spread rapidly and have a quick increase in intensity, right after ignition. Small fires can quickly become large fires and exhibit extreme fire intensity, such as long-distance spotting and fire whirls. These fires can be difficult to control and will often become much larger and longer-lasting fires.

Hot, and mostly dry weather will continue through the weekend, with thunderstorms expected tonight into Saturday across all of western Montana. On Sunday, a cold front passage may lead to critical fire weather conditions in northwest Montana as winds become breezy and the relative humidities drop.

Elevating the fire danger enhances public awareness that wildfire probability increases as temperatures rise and vegetation dries out. Since July 1 there have been a total of 69 reported wildfires in the area; many were lightning caused; with over half being human-caused. As the numbers reveal, human-caused fires are a contributing factor to the overall fire danger situation.

At this time, campfires are banned on Weyerhaeuser property lands in Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Missoula, Sanders and Ravalli counties due to very high fire danger. Interagency Fire Officials will continue to monitor conditions, and look closely at the number of human caused fire starts to determine if fire restrictions need to be ordered and put in place in the greater Flathead area.

While recreating in the Flathead, please stay on designated roads and never park on dry brush or grass, as exhaust pipes and vehicle undercarriages can be very hot and easily start a wildfire. Please check spark arrestors on off-road vehicles, chain saws and other equipment with internal-combustion engines to ensure they are in working order. Never leaving a campfire unattended, and making sure they are completely extinguished before leaving is something expected of every recreationist.

Additionally, an interagency fire information line has been established in order to streamline calls, share facts and serve the public during fire season. The Office of Emergency Services Information Line is 406-758-2111, and the Interagency Fire Fact Sheet can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/FlatheadOES. Fact sheets will be updated as needed during the fire season.



Jeff
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park will host the 14th annual Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day on Tuesday, July 25th, from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the West Glacier Community Building in Glacier National Park.

The event is free of charge, and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring a sack lunch to enjoy during the one-hour lunch break. Held yearly on the fourth Tuesday in July, this event alternates between the two national parks with Glacier hosting in odd years, and Waterton Lakes hosting in even years.

Science and History Day is an opportunity for the public to hear the latest results from scientists and historians carrying out projects in and around the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Presentations for this year are grouped into themes of history, wildlife, and aquatic and land environments.

Topics for the 2017 program include: changing landscapes in Glacier's alpine, threats to meltwater stoneflies and other rare alpine insects, the history of West Glacier's fire hose tower, and grizzly bear ancestry. An optional self-paced walking tour of the West Glacier Headquarters Historic District will be available during the lunch hour.

“We are honored to host Science and History Day this year,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “We welcome everyone from the U.S. and Canada to Glacier for this special event. Please come and learn more about history and research initiatives in the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.”

Waterton Lakes National Park Superintendent Ifan Thomas noted, “This event is a unique opportunity to hear from park experts about a variety of topics. Joint research initiatives reflect our longstanding spirit of cooperation as the world's first International Peace Park.”

Attendees are reminded that a passport is required for crossing the U.S./Canadian Border. A detailed agenda is available at visitor’s centers in Glacier National Park, and at https://www.nps.gov/rlc/crown/science-history_agenda.htm.



Jeff
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Glacier National Park Sets New June Visitation Record

This year, 620,962 people came to the park in June, up 28% over visits from last year.

Last June was also a record breaking month over previous years. Over the last ten years, visitation during June has nearly doubled, from 341,317 in June in 2007 to the 620,962 number recorded at the end of last month.

The park has experienced extremely crowded conditions in all areas of the park this summer season.

“We had thought the park seemed much busier than last year, even before we saw the official numbers,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “In the past, much of our visitation has been attributed to the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, this year the Going-to-the-Sun Road opened twelve days later than in 2016 and we still saw a dramatic increase.”

Park rangers initiated a one hour emergency temporary closure of the Many Glacier Valley for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend due to gridlock conditions in hotel and trailhead parking areas and access roads.

Bowman and Kintla Lake parking areas are routinely filling by 10 am or 11 am. Logan Pass parking is routinely filling between 9 am and 10 am. Avalanche Creek, Apgar Village, and the Apgar Visitor Center parking lots are also regularly filling in the morning or early afternoon.

In the North Fork area and other areas of the park as needed, rangers are temporarily restricting traffic to ensure that roads and parking areas remain accessible to emergency vehicles and do not become gridlocked.

Park shuttle ridership has also increased. As of July 10, ten days into the shuttle’s operational season, ridership had increased by 6,829 over 2016 levels, for a total of 30,644 riders.

Visitors should plan for crowded conditions and waiting periods for parking, particularly during peak times of day. Early morning and later evening continue to offer less crowded opportunities to visit the park during the summer months.



Jeff
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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fire Danger Elevated to Moderate in Grand Tetons

Based on current fire conditions, federal interagency fire management partners have elevated the fire danger rating to Moderate. This rating applies in Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the National Elk Refuge. Fire managers consider several factors – including calculated fire indices, moisture content of various fuel types, current and expected weather trends, and fire activity – when rating the fire danger. When the fire danger is "moderate" it means that fires can start from most accidental causes, but the number of fire starts is usually pretty low. If a fire does start in an open, dry grassland, it will burn and spread quickly on windy days.

At campsites around the Forest and Park, 24 unattended campfires have been extinguished by rangers and firefighters so far this season.

Area visitors are reminded to be cautious when building campfires. In Grand Teton National Park, campfires are only allowed in fire grates within front country park campgrounds and in established fire rings at some designated backcountry lakeshore campsites. Within campgrounds on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, fires may only be built in fire rings, stoves, grills, or fireplaces provided for that purpose.

Unattended or abandoned campfires can escalate into wildland fires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave the site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended, and should always prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use. Visitors are responsible for keeping fires under control.

Please visit www.tetonfires.com for the most up-to-date fire information in Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. To report a fire in either area, please call (307) 739-3630.



Jeff
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Friday, July 7, 2017

Resuscitation Efforts By Park Rangers and Bystander Successful at Jenny Lake

Grand Teton National Park rangers and staff responded to a medical emergency at the Jenny Lake boat ramp today at approximately 1 p.m. A 29-year old female from West Fargo, North Dakota, was in the area with her husband and three children when she went into cardiac arrest.

A bystander, a nurse, immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Several calls were made to 911 and park dispatch requesting medical help. A park ranger responded to the scene within four minutes of the call and took over chest compressions followed closely by park emergency medical service personnel who used a defibrillator and advanced life support interventions. Additional park rangers and staff responded to the area to help manage the scene.

The woman regained a heartbeat and breathing. A park ambulance transported her to Lupine Meadows where Air Idaho Rescue Helicopter was waiting to transport her to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Her current condition is unknown.



Jeff
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Fire Danger Moves to High on Flathead

The Northwest is heating up and drying out rapidly, creating a higher risk for fire starts in our area. Fire danger has moved to “HIGH” in NW Montana which means, all fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes. Unattended brush and camp fires are likely to escape. Fires spread rapidly and short-distance spotting is common. Fires may become serious, and their control difficult unless they are suppressed successfully while small.

“Hot dry weather is forecasted for the foreseeable future, area wildland firefighters have responded to 15 fire starts since June 28th in the Flathead area; of these starts, 11 were human caused and 4 were holdover fires from lightening. Timely initial attack by firefighters kept these starts at less than an acre in size,” said Flathead National Forest Spokeswoman, Janette Turk.

“Although the fire danger rating is transitioning to high, there are still no fire restrictions in place. Forest visitors should be very aware of the conditions while visiting and recreating in NW Montana. We can’t stop the hot weather and lightning storms, but we can do our part to be “Firewise” when we are camping, traveling, and at home in the wildlands. Take the time to find out the weather conditions and fire danger where you live. Get the information you need about the current wildland fire danger by calling your local fire protection agency.”



Jeff
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Public Open House to Share Info on Gros Ventre Roundabout

Grand Teton National Park is hosting a public open house on Tuesday, July 11, at the National Museum of Wildlife Art regarding the construction of a roundabout on US Highway 26/89/191 at the busy Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive intersection in the southern area of the park. Construction is anticipated to begin spring 2018. Anyone wanting to learn more about the roundabout, including construction plans, is invited to stop by the open house anytime between 5-6:30 p.m. on July 11. National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration representatives will be available.

The Gros Ventre intersection on US Hwy 26/89/191 has an average daily traffic volume of approximately 14,200 vehicles and almost 200 bicycle riders during the summer season. Safety concerns have been identified at this location, and the Federal Highway Administration indicates that this type of intersection has the greatest safety risks of any type of intersection in the country. It is a high-speed, two-lane rural road with an unsignalled intersection.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “The current situation at the Gros Ventre intersection is an extremely high-use area with some serious safety risks that need to be addressed.” These safety risks include:

◦Cyclists crossing the highway with vehicles frequently exceeding the posted speed limit,
◦Pathway users often not observing traffic controls,
◦Poor sight distances, advanced warning signs and pavement markings,
◦Safety risks with left turns in the intersection from Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive,
◦Poor sight lines for vehicles turning or crossing the intersection from Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive,
◦Visibility of pathways users to drivers is often obstructed by parked vehicles,
◦Confusion of unfamiliar drivers at the intersection, and ◦High presence of wildlife crossing the road.

The National Park Service, in partnership with Federal Highways, Wyoming Department of Transportation and Teton County, conducted safety audits and analyses, and evaluated several alternative solutions to the issue. A roundabout was determined to be the best safety improvement for pathway users, highway users and wildlife, as well as the best balance of safety, protection of scenic views and cost. Other considerations included tunnels under the highway and Gros Ventre Road, bridge underpass with additional pathway, pedestrian bridge, overpass or underpass with on and off ramps, stop light, and activated pedestrian crossing.

A roundabout is a circular roadway at an intersection designed to expedite the flow of vehicle traffic through an intersection and reduce accidents, as well as a reliable design to slow traffic through the area. It also provides an opportunity for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the intersection safely and efficiently.

Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring. During construction, two-lane traffic will be open at all times on the highway, except in short instances for specific construction activities. Traffic delays are expected for the highway, Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive from early spring into the fall. Daytime delays will be maximum 15 minutes between 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 30 minutes maximum between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. There will be some impacts to pathway users in early spring through mid-June. Access to the Gros Ventre Road from the highway will be rerouted via Antelope Flats Road for up to five days in early June to complete the temporary highway bypass. Additionally, the Gros Ventre Road will be closed after September 15, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for approximately two weeks to construct the roadway without vehicular traffic.

Vela said, “We understand that next year will include traffic impacts related to this project, as well as other area road projects associated with high water issues. We are coordinating with Teton County and others to work together to best minimize impacts and provide for safe access for all users.” Vela encourages those interested in the roundabout construction plan to visit the open house on July 11 to learn more.



Jeff
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