Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Foundations Reach Halfway Mark in Bid to Raise $23 Million to Protect State Land from Being Sold for Development

Grand Teton National Park Foundation and DC-based National Park Foundation have reached the halfway mark in their campaign to protect one square mile of land in Grand Teton National Park from potential development. $11.5 million has been raised to date toward the goal of $23 million to purchase the 640-acre Antelope Flats parcel from the state of Wyoming.

The land has been part of Wyoming’s school trust since 1890 and the state is required by law to earn income from trust assets. The total value of the parcel is $46 million. In addition to the $23 million generated from private fundraising, the remaining half of the required funds will come from the federal government through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The state’s authority to sell the land directly to the federal government expires on December 31, 2016. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has made this her highest conservation inholding purchase priority in the country.

Fundraising momentum continues to build and many individuals and organizations have contributed to this urgent effort, including a generous $1 million grant from the Knobloch Family Foundation and $1 million from the Jackson Hole Land Trust.

“The Jackson Hole Land Trust is honored to be contributing to this land conservation project which will have a significant positive impact on the connectivity of wildlife habitat and migration routes within Grand Teton National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Jackson Hole Land Trust Executive Director Laurie Andrews. “As a community, we are responsible for preserving the public and private lands that make this place special and the board and staff of JHLT are proud to be doing our part to ensure this important piece of our valley remains whole and untouched.”

In addition to fundraising jointly with Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the National Park Foundation has authorized $1 million of its own funds for the purchase. “Working with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation to preserve the Antelope Flats property is among the National Park Foundation’s top priorities in this centennial year of our National Parks,” said National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. “Our million dollar commitment to the project has helped us reach the halfway point of the campaign and we must now redouble our efforts to get this across the finish line by year’s end.”

“We are so pleased with the incredible support we have received from our friends both locally and nationally to help make this land part of Grand Teton forever,” said Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson. “It is wonderful to have reached the halfway point. We still have an enormous amount of work to do to meet our goal to purchase the property prior to December 31.”

“We continue to be amazed by the philanthropic work of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Foundation,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. “The work they are doing to protect the Antelope Flats parcel from development is crucial to the future of the park and the bison, elk, pronghorn, and other animals that use this habitat.”

To learn more and to support this historic initiative, visit or contact Leslie Mattson at 307-732-0629 or or King Laughlin at 202-525-2500 or


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park is Now Open

Although the Berry Fire in Grand Teton National Park continues to grow in total number of acres burned, the road connecting Grand Teton to Yellowstone has reopened:
As of August 30th, Highway 89/191/287 has been reopened, allowing direct travel between Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Please travel with care.
As of today, the fire has burned a total of 13,177 acres along the north side of Jackson Lake.

For the most up-to-date information on the wildfire, please click here.


Berry Picker Surprises Bear In Swiftcurrent Valley

A Glacier National Park employee, while off duty picking huckleberries in the Swiftcurrent Valley, surprised what is believed to be a grizzly bear. She sustained non-life threatening injuries to the leg and the hands. The surprise encounter, which led to a non-predatory attack, occurred on Saturday, August 27th in the early evening hours, a quarter mile off the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail near Red Rock Falls, and reported to dispatch at 7:15 p.m. The park employee walked most of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail back before she was met by park rangers. She was then transported by Glacier county EMS to Browning for further treatment and evaluation. She was carrying bear spray but it was not deployed. Hikers reported a grizzly bear sow and two cubs leaving the area shortly after the incident.

The last visitor injury by a grizzly bear was on September 29, 2015 when a 65-year old male hiker surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs, receiving puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

Visitors to Glacier National Park are reminded that the park is home to black and grizzly bears. Bears spend a lot of time eating, so be extra vigilant when crossing through obvious feeding areas like berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies. Hikers are highly encouraged to hike in groups, make noise when hiking, and have bear spray accessible and know how to use it. For information on trail closures in the park, please click here.

At this time of year, bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia: a period of concentrated feeding to prepare for hibernation. It is especially important that visitors keep campgrounds and developed areas clean and free of food and trash. Regulations require that all edibles, food containers, and cookware be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night. Place all trash in bear-proof containers. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter around your camp. Fire rings should be free of trash before vacating a campsite.

For more information about recreating in bear country, please visit click here.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Fatality at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Early on August 26, a park concession employee fell to her death from Grand View Point above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Her body was recovered just after 10 a.m. by park search and rescue crews in a helicopter.

Estefania Liset Mosquera Alcivar, 21, of Quito, Ecuador, was socializing with a small group of coworkers near the trail along the rim when she fell over the edge of the canyon at approximately 3:15 a.m. Her companions, who witnessed the fall, dialed 9-1-1 and park rangers and paramedics responded. Rescuers were able to locate her below the rim at first light and determine that the fall was not survivable.

The incident remains under investigation. As always, visitors are encouraged to use caution on the rim trails at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


Grand Teton National Park Foundation Completes $14 Million Jenny Lake Campaign in Celebration of NPS Centennial

Grand Teton National Park Foundation has not only completed but exceeded its $14 million Inspiring Journeys fundraising campaign to renew Grand Teton’s most iconic destination in honor of the National Park Service centennial. This $18 million public-private effort is transforming backcountry trails and frontcountry visitor facilities at Jenny Lake to ensure this incredible resource inspires visitors for the next 100 years in Grand Teton. The National Park Service contributed $4 million to the project.

Construction is underway at Jenny Lake and this NPS centennial summer marks the third year of construction. Backcountry trails leading to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point were heavily eroded and worn by the millions of hikers visiting the park’s famous destinations. The trails had become unsafe for visitors and unsustainable for the park to maintain. Grand Teton crews are improving more than five miles of trail as part of this project of which 3.5 miles have been reconstructed to date. Crews are using long-lasting methods and materials such as dry-stone masonry techniques to honor the timeless craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built the original path in the 1930s.

Work in the frontcountry began this past spring. After decades of use by visitors, the area at South Jenny Lake was full of social trails and generally caused confusion for visitors. Crews are working to create an intuitive trail system, sustainable lake overlooks, and engaging interpretive areas that will give a wide range of visitors the opportunity to truly enjoy Jenny Lake and expand their understanding of the area. Construction is projected to be complete by summer 2018.

This season alone, crews have moved over 900,000 pounds of material to build over 207 stone steps, 20 stone drains, 338 linear feet of single-tier wall, 704 square feet of multi-tier wall, and 550 cubic feet of causeway. An average of 25 workers per day have been completing dry-stone masonry work, each responsible for moving 36,000 pounds or 18 tons of rock since the beginning of the summer season. Here's what one section of trail looked like before the rehabilitation project began:

And here's what that same section of trail looks like now:

“We have been touched by the many people who care deeply about Grand Teton and want to be part of this project,” Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s President Leslie Mattson said. “Helping park staff eradicate challenges they’ve faced with trails and other facilities at Jenny Lake will give Grand Teton a fresh start to the National Park Service’s second century and visitors an incredible experience they will never forget.”

“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the margin of excellence they provide,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. “The Jenny Lake Renewal effort is transforming the visitor experience at Jenny Lake, and my sincerest thanks goes to the Foundation staff, board, and everyone involved in making this happen.”

To learn more about how this centennial project is benefitting Grand Teton National Park, please click here.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Katahdin Woods & Waters - Our Newest National Monument

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis today applauded the designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the first national monument to preserve the landscape and honor the history and culture of Maine’s North Woods. The Antiquities Act, which was used to make this designation, permanently protects 87,500 acres of lands donated to the National Park Service earlier this week by the Elliottsville Plantation, Inc., (EPI). This land donation includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and its tributaries, one of the most pristine watersheds in the Northeast.

This weekend, Secretary Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, Maine, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.

EPI is the nonprofit foundation established by Roxanne Quimby and run by her son Lucas St. Clair. Their gift of land is accompanied by an endowment of $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.

The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service and is now the 413th park unit in the National Park System – is located directly east of the 209,644-acre Baxter State Park, the location of Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin (5,267 feet), the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The boundaries of the new national monument also include 4,426 acres of private land owned by the Baskahegan Company, which requested inclusion should the company in the future decide to convey its lands to the United States or a conservation buyer, on a willing seller basis, for incorporation into the monument.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designation is the result of a years-long effort by Quimby and her son. Quimby purchased the lands with a portion of the wealth she created as a co-founder of Burt’s Bees in 1984, and developed the idea of gifting the lands to the American people as part of the National Park System. St. Clair, raised in Maine and dedicated to preserving the landscape and access for recreational activities, and a small EPI staff, have been operating the lands as a recreation area for several years.

The new national monument includes the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of Maine’s North Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski. These and other traditional activities will continue to be available in the new national monument.

The new monument is also a storied landscape. Since the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, the waterways, wildlife, flora and fauna, night skies, and other resources have attracted people to the area. For example, the Penobscot Indian Nation considers the Penobscot River watershed a cultural and spiritual centerpiece and since the early 19th century, logging has been a way of life. Artists, authors, scientists, conservationists and others – including Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau and John James Audubon – have also drawn knowledge and inspiration from the area’s resources.

National Park Service staff will hold a series of public listening sessions throughout the Katahdin region starting the week of September 12 to begin work on the management plan that will be developed during the first three years. Details of the listening sessions, including dates and locations, will be shared with local newspapers and posted to the monument’s website ( NPS’s planning will be done with full public involvement, with special emphasis on understanding the ideas and concerns of the local communities.

The approximately $100 million total gift to the American people from the EPI, was facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“This extraordinary gift sets the stage for a strong and vibrant second century for America’s national parks,” said Will Shafroth, President of the National Park Foundation. “Through their vision and generosity, Ms. Quimby and her family are carrying on the philanthropic tradition from which the national parks were born 100 years ago, and which helped create Grand Teton, Acadia and Virgin Islands National Parks.”


Berry Fire Shuts Down Southern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

The Berry Fire grew significantly on August 22, driven by high winds and low humidity and burning through a mix of mature forest and areas burned during the 1988 fires. The fire has now burned from Grand Teton National Park onto the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Due to high fire danger, there is no access to Flagg Ranch and the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

US Highway 89/191/287 in Grand Teton National Park is closed at Leeks Marina on the south, and at the South Gate of Yellowstone National Park on the north, effectively closing access to Flagg Ranch/Headwaters Lodge, Grassy Lake Road (from Ashton, ID), and the south entrance to Yellowstone. The road is closed due to fire danger along the road, and will re-open when fire danger is reduced and hazardous trees removed.

The Headwaters at Flagg Ranch, Sheffield Campground, and Lizard Creek Campground are now closed. Flagg Ranch Alternate Accommodations: 1-800-443-2331. In Grand Teton National Park, the following trailremained closed: Glade Creek trail, Owl-Berry Cutoff trail, Berry Creek trail from Glade Creek to Hechtman, and Owl Creek trail three miles west of Cutoff to Webb Canyon junction. For the most up-to-date trail closures, contact Backcountry Information at 307-739-3602.

Fire management goals for the Berry Fire include providing for public and firefighter safety; suppressing fire to protect structures and campgrounds; and monitoring fire growth as it burns in wilderness and contributes to long-term forest health.

Hazardous Conditions: Continued and rapid fire growth is expected the next few days due to gusty south/southwest winds, and low humidity. Road conditions will continue to be monitored and information updated. Drivers should be alert for smoke, use headlights, and reduce their speed.

So far the fire has burned 6,819 acres.

Travelers should also note that there are several fires burning inside Yellowstone right now, including the Maple Fire near the West Entrance, which has burned more than 27,000 acres to date.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Grand Teton Promotes Wildlife and Visitor Safety with String Lake Volunteer Team

A new volunteer program to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts in the String Lake area has proven successful for Grand Teton National Park, and additional volunteers are wanted. The String Lake Volunteer Team offers interpretation and education services regarding safe recreational experiences in the lakeshore area. The volunteers promote the "Bear Aware" campaign reminding visitors about the responsibilities related to recreating in bear country, as well as help with the increased issues related to the popularity of the area. The program was based on the successful wildlife brigade volunteer program that the park created in 2007.

String Lake, located north of Jenny Lake, is easily accessible, hosts a scenic lakeshore and provides water recreation, hiking and picnic opportunities. The area has received an increase of visitation in recent years. The visitation growth resulted in numerous food storage violations in 2015, including the relocation of two black bears to a zoo. There has been an escalation in water recreation activities, parking demand and resource impacts.

The park initiated the volunteer program in June. There are approximately 14 volunteers that patrol the picnic area, parking lots, trails and picnic sites. The team greets and orients visitors to the area, shares information about proper food storage practices, encourages ethical wildlife viewing and promotes recreational safety. Another value-added task is the monitoring and data gathering they conduct regarding parking behaviors, traffic patterns, resource impacts and signage.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, "This group of volunteers is outstanding and we greatly value the positive impact they have contributed to the visitor experience and resource protection at String Lake." To date, there have not been any significant human-wildlife interactions in the String Lake area this summer. He noted that additional volunteers are needed for the fall, and anyone interested in helping a minimum of five hours a week are encouraged to call the park at 307-739-3410.

The work of the volunteers is helping to determine some short-term actions that are being implemented that include identification of proper parking locations by painting and repainting curbs, and additional food-storage containers, informational signage, and temporary toilets facilities.

The park is planning a visitor-use study for the String and Leigh Lake areas that will begin next summer. This study will provide information about visitor access, use and experience, and resource impacts associated with increased visitation. Vela said, "This study will clearly define the existing conditions, and allow us to determine desired future conditions to meet our responsibility to protect the resources and provide a quality visitor experience." It is anticipated the study will include two summers of data collection.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Yellowstone River Closed In Response To Ongoing Fish Kill

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is implementing an immediate closure of all water-based recreation (fishing, wading, floating, tubing, boating, etc.) on the Yellowstone River and its tributaries from Yellowstone National Park’s northern boundary at Gardiner to the Highway 212 bridge in Laurel. This significant action on the part of the Department is in response to the ongoing and unprecedented fish kill on the Yellowstone. This action is necessary to protect the fishery and the economy it sustains. The closure will also help limit the spread of the parasite to adjacent rivers through boats, tubes, waders and other human contact and minimize further mortality in all fish species.

In the past week, FWP has documented over 2,000 dead Mountain Whitefish on some affected stretches of the Yellowstone. With that, FWP estimates the total impact to Mountain Whitefish in the Yellowstone to be in the tens of thousands. FWP has also recently received reports of the kill beginning to affect some Rainbow and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.

Test results from samples sent to the U.S. and Wildlife Service Fish Health Center in Bozeman show the catalyst for this fish kill to be Proliferative Kidney Disease – one of the most serious diseases to impact whitefish and trout. The disease, caused by a microscopic parasite, is known to occur in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. It has been documented previously in only two isolated locations in Montana over the past 20 years. Recent outbreaks have occurred in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In trout, research has shown this disease to have the potential to cause 20 to 100 percent mortality. The parasite does not pose a risk to humans.

The effect of the disease on Yellowstone’s fish populations is exacerbated by other stressors like near record low flows, consistent high temperatures, and the disturbance caused by recreational activities.

FWP Director Jeff Hagener says in coming to the decision, the Department had to weigh the totality of the circumstances and risk to the fishery.

“We recognize that this decision will have a significant impact on many people. However, we must act to protect this public resource for present and future generations,” said Hagener.

"A threat to the health of Montana's fish populations is a threat to Montana's entire outdoor economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it sustains," said Gov. Steve Bullock, noting that Montana's outdoor recreation economy is responsible for more than 64,000 Montana jobs and nearly $6 billion in yearly economic activity. "We must be guided by science. Our state cannot afford this infectious disease to spread to other streams and rivers and it's my responsibility to do everything we can to stop this threat in its tracks and protect Montana jobs and livelihoods."

FWP will continue to monitor the river and will lift the closure when stream conditions such as flow and temperature improve and fish mortality ceases.

In addition to the closure on the Yellowstone, FWP is asking for the public’s assistance in preventing the spread of this parasite by properly cleaning (CLEAN.DRAIN.DRY) all equipment prior to moving between waterbodies (i.e., boats, waders, trailers). FWP has also set up two Aquatic Invasive Species decontamination stations set up along I-90 near the affected area in an effort to help reduce the chance of this parasite moving to other rivers.


Grand Teton Wildfire Being Managed For Resource Benefits

Teton Interagency Firefighters are actively monitoring a lightning-ignited fire in Grand Teton National Park on the northwest side of Jackson Lake. The Berry Fire, detected on July 25, 2016, is burning in mixture of dead and down fuels and mature conifer forest. The fire is burning on Elk Ridge near Berry and Owl Creeks, approximately one mile west of the northwest shore of Jackson Lake and five miles south of the Grassy Lake Road. The fire, now 617 acres in size, is burning actively with short range spotting and uphill runs. Fire managers anticipate that lower than average fuel moisture combined with hotter and drier weather will continue to drive increased fire activity over the next few days.

The Berry Fire is being managed to accomplish objectives outlined in the Grand Teton Fire Management Plan, which allows naturally ignited fires to burn under specific management guidelines. Wildfire is a very natural and important part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Fire improves the overall landscape health by reducing fuel loading, releasing nutrients back into the soil and creating new habitat for plants and animals when allowed to perform its natural role. Fire has helped shape the environment that park visitors see today and influences the diversity of life found here.

Firefighters established a camp near the fire in order to monitor fire activity and implement management actions as it affects values at risk. A group of firefighters are placing structure protection around the historic Lower Berry Patrol Cabin. Plans are in place to initiate suppression actions if any direct threats to park infrastructure or visitor safety occur. A combination of helicopters and boats will be utilized to monitor this fire and provide food and supplies to firefighters. Presently there approximately 25 firefighters assigned to manage the fire, including both ground resources and support staff.

The following sections of trail are closed in Grand Teton National Park. The Berry Creek Trail from the junction with the Glade Creek Trail traveling generally west to where the trail intersects with Hechtman Creek;and the north/south connector trail between Owl Creek and Berry Creek located on the west edge of Elk Ridge. Travel through these sections of trail is prohibited for public health and safety reasons in support of managing the Berry Creek Fire.

Other trails in the fire area remain open. However, fire conditions can change rapidly and hikers entering the backcountry need to be aware of current conditions and closures in the area. Before entering these areas it is imperative that you be familiar with the trail network in the Owl and Berry Creek drainages and Webb Canyon in order to alter your itinerary should conditions change.

Smoke from the fire may be visible from the east shore of Jackson Lake and along US Highways 89/191/287. During the morning and evening hours, smoke may settle into low areas around park roadways. Drivers should use caution when driving in smoky areas, including turning on headlights and reducing their speed.

Updates will be posted to and


Highest Point East of Rockies Gets New Name

Last week the U.S. Geological Survey announced that Harney Peak in South Dakota will now officially be called Black Elk Peak on all federal maps. This unanimous decision was made on August 11th by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The mountain is not only the highest point in the state, but is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains.

The summit had been labeled Harney Peak on all federal maps since 1896. The feature is located in the Black Elk Wilderness of Black Hills National Forest in Pennington County in southwestern South Dakota.

The name Black Elk Peak was formally proposed to the BGN in October 2014. The BGN sought opinions from the U.S. Forest Service and the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names (SDBGN), which in turn sought opinions from the county government, numerous local, State, and Tribal organizations, and the general public.

In making the decision, the federal BGN acknowledged the recommendations by the SDBGN and a number of state legislators to retain the name Harney Peak. However, the BGN also recognized the wishes of native peoples and many non-native South Dakotans that a new geographic name should be given to this feature that is regarded as a sacred site by several Tribes.

U.S. General William S. Harney (1800-1889) fought against native peoples in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and in the Seminole Wars in Florida. Black Elk or Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) was a revered Oglala Lakota (Sioux) holy man.

One of the guiding principles for the BGN is to adopt for official federal use the names found in present-day local usage. However, an exception to this principle occurs when a name is shown to be highly offensive or derogatory to a particular racial or ethnic group, gender, or religious group.

"The Board’s understanding was that the name Harney Peak for a traditional sacred site was distressing to Tribal people. For that reason, there was a unanimous decision to change the name of the peak to Black Elk Peak," said Lou Yost, executive secretary of the BGN.

The new name is now considered official for use in federal maps and publications. State and local governments as well as commercial entities generally follow the federal use of geographic names as a matter of efficiency, although there is no law requiring this.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is the geographic names authority for the Nation. It is a coordinating body made up of representatives from federal departments, agencies, and organizations who receive no additional compensation for this specialized work. The BGN standardizes and approves geographic names so that geographic references can be used consistently in federal publications and communications.

President Benjamin Harrison established the BGN by Executive Order in 1890 to resolve conflicts in geographic names. In 1947 Congress re-established the BGN in its current form by public law.

The standardization of names not only serves to preserve a record of geographic names across the Nation, but it enables the use of uniform geographic names in many digital settings — for example, it makes navigation by GPS possible by facilitating standard location references.

My wife and I hiked to the top of Harney Peak Black Elk Peak a couple of years ago. It's a very nice hike.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Teton Rangers Respond to Several Incidents

Grand Teton National Park rangers have recently responded to several incidents involving rescue and medical assistance of visitors, including two major rescues this last week.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, "Grand Teton has some of the most skilled and experienced staff in the National Park Service. Recent major search and rescue incidents have kept park rangers very busy. As superintendent, I always consider the risk to our employees as we initiate operations to assist, rescue or save the lives of our visitors." Vela strongly encourages anyone that may attempt to experience the iconic peaks or any other outdoor experience in the park to be as prepared as possible.

Teton Interagency Dispatch received a report of two people stranded on Petzoldt Ridge at approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 9th. The incident was reported by another climbing party that heard calls for help from two 20-year old male climbers from Shreveport, Louisiana.

In an effort to summit the Grand Teton, they went off route and found themselves stranded on a ledge after one of the men took a 25-foot fall and lost much of their rock climbing gear in the process. They had a cell phone but service was unavailable. The climbers spent approximately four hours trying to find the correct route, before yelling for help as they saw other climbers on Exum Ridge.

The weather conditions and remaining daylight were optimal for park rangers to successfully extract the two men by helicopter short haul. The men were not injured. On Thursday, the men hiked back to retrieve their overnight camping gear from the moraine in Garnet Canyon. One of the rescued men said, "We severely underestimated the physical strength and endurance required for the climb."

On Wednesday, August 10th, park rangers rescued a climber from Mount Moran. A 30-year old man from Russia attempted to climb Mount Moran via the Falling Ice Glacier. He started his adventure early morning Tuesday, August 9th, and camped in the area of the glacier that evening. On Wednesday he tried to ascend between Drizzlepuss and CMC Route, but found it to be more difficult than anticipated. He downclimbed to the glacier and determined he could not find a safe way to descend further. He then contacted a friend to help, and his friend went to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache to alert Jenny Lake Rangers.

Rangers flew to the site and assisted the climber onto the Teton Interagency Helicopter and flew him to safety. He was not injured.

An interview with the climber indicated that he did not gather any credible information about climbing Mount Moran, was not properly equipped for such a climb, and did not stop at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station or obtain a backcountry permit to camp. Based on these actions or lack of actions, he was issued a citation for creating a hazardous condition.

Park rangers remind anyone planning to climb in the Teton Range to be prepared for the alpine environment with appropriate skills, abilities and equipment. Grand Teton National Park Chief Ranger Michael Nash said, "The altitude and difficulty of the terrain can be overlooked by many." He highly encourages anyone attempting to climb within the park to visit the Jenny Lake Ranger Station to have a conversation with park rangers concerning the planned route of travel, as well be physically conditioned for the altitude. Nash said, "As one of our rangers commented, 'the Teton Peaks demand respect from all of us'."

On Wednesday, August 10th, rangers also responded to a 57-year old female from Jackson that injured her shoulder. She was hiking along the Surprise Lake Trail near Amphitheater Lake when she stumbled and injured herself. Rangers responded by hiking to her location with a litter, prepared to carry her out. She was able to hike out on her own after medical treatment from rangers.

As expected, this year has been quite busy at the park. Park staff has responded to over 200 emergency medical incidents this calendar year, seven of which recently happened within one 24-hour period. These incidents range from sprained ankle or minor bee stings, to breathing difficulty, heart attack, stroke and serious injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The park operates and staffs three ambulances during the summer months, and works cooperatively with St. John's Medical Center.


Teton Fire Fighters Respond to Glade Creek Fire in Parkway

Teton Interagency initial attack fire fighters responded to the Glade Creek Fire Thursday evening after several reports of smoke in the area. The fire is located approximately three miles west of Flagg Ranch and approximately one mile north of the Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. As of late Thursday evening, the size of the fire was estimated to be about seven acres. Lightning from storms over the past three weeks is believed to be the cause of the fire, but the ignition source is being investigated.

Seven interagency firefighters staffed the fire throughout the night to initiate suppression tactics. Dry fuel conditions and anticipated hot and dry weather conditions, as well potential spread towards the Flagg Ranch and Headwaters Lodge area, have prompted fire managers to actively suppress the fire. The 20-person Teton Interagency Fire Crew will be reassigned from the Cliff Creek Fire to the Glade Creek Fire today.

The fire is burning in thick timber and dead logs, with creeping and torching fire activity. Smoke will likely be visible from the Grassy Lake Road.

The Grassy Lake Road remains open, and all campsites along the road are available for visitor use. Temporary trail closures, however, are in effect due to the fire. The Glade Creek Trail is closed from the trailhead to Owl Creek. The lower portions of Berry Creek, Owl Creek & the Owl-Berry Cutoff trails are all closed as well. All visitors should be alert and get updated fire information from a park visitor center or by visiting

The Berry Fire continues to burn near Forellen Peak, near the confluence of Berry Creek and Owl Creek in the park. The fire is approximately three miles west of the northwest shore of Jackson Lake and six miles south of the Grassy Lake Road. The fire is lightning caused and is approximately 70 acres in size at this time.

The Berry Fire will be managed to protect people and property, enhance the area's natural resources where appropriate, and safely and effectively utilize available firefighting resources. The fire is being monitored and management actions will be implemented as it affects values at risk.

Smoke may be visible from the east side of Jackson Lake, including US Highway 89/191/287. No closures are currently in effect, but backcountry visitors to the area should remain alert for changing fire conditions. For more information, please visit

The fire danger rating is very high for Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and Teton Interagency Dispatch Area. The potential for fire activity has increased due to drying vegetation combined with higher temperatures, low humidity, and brisk afternoon winds. Partial or stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect across the interagency area, as well as in Teton County.

The smallest spark has the potential to cause significant damage, always crush smokes dead out; never leave a campfire unattended; ensure that your vehicle has a properly installed spark arrestor that is operational; and, stop and park only in areas clear of vegetation.

To report a fire or smoke in Grand Teton National Park or Bridger-Teton National Forest, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Video: Yellowstone Employees Discuss Grizzly Charge

This is why you should always carry bear spray while hiking in grizzly country. In this recently published video, three Yellowstone park employees share their story about a surprise encounter they had with a grizzly while in the field:


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Brain-eating Pathogen Found in Grand Teton National Park

Initial findings from recent water monitoring at and near Huckleberry Hot Springs, Polecat Springs and Kelly Warm Spring within Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway indicate the presence of pathogens that may affect the health and safety of humans when in contact with these waters.

Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway Superintendent David Vela said, "Due to increased evidence of harmful pathogens we highly encourage individuals to avoid contact with these waters." Vela said, "It is our responsibility to protect these geothermal resources within the park and parkway, provide for a safe experience for our visitors, and communicate our scientific findings, especially as it relates to the health and safety of our visitors."

The National Park Service is working in partnership with U.S. Geological Survey and Center for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct water-quality assessments and pathogen sampling in geothermally influenced waters within the park and parkway.

Recent water testing indicates elevated levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and presence of Naegleria fowleri (N. fowleri) in the geothermal features, and nearby pools and streams, at Huckleberry Hot Springs, Polecat Springs and Kelly Warm Spring.

Escherichia coli is bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of people and animals. Some Escherichia coli bacteria are pathogenic, causing illness such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and respiratory illness.

Naegleria fowleri is a natural single-celled organism commonly found in warm freshwater. Infection with Naegleria fowleri is rare, and the infection risk is low. But, infection is likely fatal. This pathogen infects people when water containing the organism enters the body through the nose. The organism then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys brain tissue, causing swelling and ultimately death.

Public entry into geothermal features is prohibited within the parkway, including Huckleberry Hot Springs and Polecat Springs, and discouraged throughout the park, including Kelly Warm Spring. Access to nearby overflow or runoff pools or streams not solely of thermal origin are available for public use, but caution should be used. Alteration or disturbance of any water course from its natural state by damming, diverting or digging is not allowed.

Vela said, "These fragile geothermal areas are significant and popular features of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and need to be protected and managed with care and good science. Additional monitoring and testing of these areas will continue in the park and parkway."

Please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at for more information about Esherichia coli and Naegleria fowleri.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Bear Kills Dog in Shenandoah National Park

On Wednesday, August 3rd, a hiker in Shenandoah National Park reported an encounter with a mother bear and two cubs on the Snead Farm Fire Road near the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive). The hiker was accompanied by two dogs on retractable leashes. Confronted by the bear, the hiker fled the area, at which point the bear attacked the trailing dog who later died of its injuries. As a result, the Snead Farm Fire Road and Loop Trail will remain closed while park staff monitor the area. Hikers with dogs are asked to avoid the Dickey Ridge Area.

"Park Superintendent Jim Northup said "We are very sad to learn about this dog that died as a result of injuries from an encounter with a bear in the park. This is a very rare event, and we offer our condolences to the dog's family".

This isn't an isolated incident. According to a study conducted by Stephen Herrero and Hank Hristienko, both leading authorities on bear behavior, dogs were involved in more than half of all black bear attacks between 2010 and 2013. The study didn't mention grizzlies. Bears aren't the only issue for dogs in the backcountry. Moose have also injured hikers while out on the trail with their dogs. Here and here are two relatively recent incidents in Colorado alone.

I don't understand why Shenandoah National Park continues to allow dogs in the backcountry. I believe it is the only national park to do so. This incident highlights why pets do not belong in areas with abundant wildlife, particularly where there are predators. The Great Smoky Mountains has prohibited dogs in the backcountry since its establishment in the 1930s. The park website explains this policy with these reasons:
• Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.

• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.

• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively.

• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears. In addition, if your dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to you. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease and plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.

• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.
If you look at other park websites they also cite similar reasons. If these are legitimate factors in the Smokies, and nearly every other national park, why aren't they factors in Shenandoah National Park? Or in all of our national forests for that matter? U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell should implement a consistent policy that protects wildlife, visitors and pets across all backcountry areas managed by the agency.


Grizzly Bear Research Trapping Resumes in Grand Teton National Park - Public Reminded to Heed Warning Signs

Biologists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will be conducting grizzly bear research and trapping operations within Grand Teton National Park beginning Monday, August 8, through Thursday, September 15, 2016. This research is part of on-going efforts required under the Endangered Species Act to monitor the population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

When bear research and trapping activities are being conducted, the area around the site will be posted with bright warning signs to inform the public of the activities occurring. For bear and human safety, the public must respect these signs and stay out of the posted areas.

Trained professionals with the interagency team will bait, trap and handle grizzly bears in accordance with strict protocols. Once trapped, the bears are sedated to allow wildlife biologists to collar the bears and collect samples and data for scientific study.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973 to research and monitor bears across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in a collaborative effort between federal land managers and state wildlife agencies. Gathering of critical data on these protected bears is part of a long-term research effort to support the recovery of the area's grizzly bear population. The team includes representatives from the National Park Service, U. S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Entrance Fees Waived on NPS Birthday Weekend - Special Events Across the U.S. To Celebrate 100th Anniversary This Month

The National Park Service invites visitors of all ages to join in the celebration of its 100th birthday throughout the month of August. With special events across the country, and free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28, the NPS is encouraging everyone to #FindYourPark for the centennial.

"August –our birthday month –will be a nationwide celebration of national parks, and we're inviting everyone to the party," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "We like to think that we look pretty good for 100, and with so many events and activities to commemorate this milestone, we hope all Americans will join us to celebrate the breathtaking landscapes and inspiring history in our nation's parks and public lands. Whether it is in a distant state or in your own community, there are hundreds of ways and places to find your park."

On August 22, the three-part series of Park Exchange events will culminate in New York City, taking the innovation from Thomas Edison National Historical Park in a small New Jersey town, to the iconic big city skyline. A day of free family-friendly activities will explore the concept of innovation and 100 years of national parks, and a special evening program will illuminate Edison's innovative spirit and light the way as the NPS enters its second century of service.

A sampling of additional events is available on the National Park Service website, and hundreds more can be found at

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations."

Entrance Fees Waived for the NPS Birthday through the Weekend

Park entrance fees will be waived nationwide from August 25 through August 28 to encourage everyone to celebrate the NPS 100th birthday.Usually, 127 of the 412 national parks charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

To continue the national park adventure beyond these entrance fee free days, the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 sites, including all national parks, throughout the year. There are also a variety of free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members, fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Paradise in Spring

Three years ago Kathy and I made our first visit to Mt. Rainier National Park. During that trip we had the pleasure of hiking the Skyline Trail, which does a wide loop through the Paradise Valley. This instantly became one of the best hikes either of us has ever done. So, returning three years later, I really wanted to hike in this valley once again. Unfortunately, because this most recent visit was in mid-June, we didn’t have a lot of hope of doing much here, as this area of the park was still covered in several feet of snow. We assumed there would be no access to the trails. Well, we assumed wrong.

On our last full day in the park we drove up to Paradise to assess the situation ourselves. Although extremely crowded, we were able to find a parking spot. Once on the scene we could see several dozen people hiking along the trails in the area. So we decided to go for it ourselves, and simply travel up the Skyline Trail for as far as we could go.

The first section of trail up to the Alta Vista trail split was almost completely snow free. However, just beyond that, we began walking through heavy slush, and then snow. As you might expect travel became fairly slow once we hit the snow, but it was an absolute blast! At first our goal was to simply go to the Alta Vista overlook. However, once we reached that point we decided to continue further up the mountain.

As we climbed higher we noticed a halo around the sun. Sun halos are the result of high thin cirrus clouds floating in the upper atmosphere, which causes light to refract after passing through the tiny ice crystals within the clouds. Halos usually signal an incoming weather front. Sure enough, less than 15 hours later it was raining in the park.

We hiked about a mile up the mountain – stopping somewhere just below Glacier Vista. Throughout our hike we enjoyed some absolutely spectacular views of Mt. Rainier towards the north, and the Tatoosh Range towards the south. There were many people who hiked even further up the valley, including a few skiers.

As strange as it might seem, it was extremely hot that day, even though there was snow all around us.

If you wish to learn more about hiking the entire Skyline Loop Trail you can click here to check out my photos and read my trip report from three years ago.

Trail: Skyline Trail
RT Distance: ~2 Miles
Elevation Gain: ~750 feet
Max Elevation: ~6200 feet
TH Location: Paradise
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Carter Falls

After completing our hike to Comet Falls, perhaps the most impressive waterfall we’ve ever seen, we decided to do another waterfall hike later that afternoon. Our choice was Carter Falls and Madcap Falls, a hike that received a fairly high user rating on the Washington Trails Association website.

This short hike begins just below the Cougar Rock Campground. Hikers will follow the Wonderland Trail to reach both waterfalls. The 93-mile Wonderland Trail is an epic backpacking route that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier.

From the trailhead hikers will pass through glacial debris littered along the Nisqually River. Although it appears to be a short distance, it does take a little bit of time to walk through the maze of rocks and boulders. You’ll have to do a little bit of route finding at times, but it’s pretty straight forward. On clear days you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Mt. Rainier from the river basin.

After crossing the Nisqually you’ll notice that the Paradise River feeds into the Nisqually just downstream from the footbridge. Once on the other side the trail begins to follow along the north bank of the Paradise River to reach both waterfalls.

During the first six-tenths of a mile the trail travels over mostly flat terrain, but then begins to climb a moderate grade towards the falls. As the trail proceeds higher you’ll pass through an old-growth forest where some of the trees appear to be several hundred years old.

At just 1.25 miles you’ll reach Carter Falls. Unfortunately, due to the trees, you won’t have a clear view of the 53-foot high waterfall. The waterfall was named for Henry Carter, a guide who built the first trail to Paradise.

Roughly 100 yards upstream from Carter Falls is the 34-foot high Madcap Falls:

If you’ve already done most of the hikes in the park, and are looking for something new, this is certainly a decent hike to consider. However, if you’re relatively new to the park, there are many other hikes that offer far more scenic destinations than this one.

Trail: Wonderland Trail
RT Distance: 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Max Elevation: 3700 feet
TH Location: Cougar Rock
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Teton Interagency Firefighters Monitoring Berry Fire in Park

Teton Interagency Firefighters are monitoring a lightning-ignited fire in Grand Teton National Park on the northwest side of Jackson Lake. The fire is located near the confluence of Berry Creek and Owl Creek, approximately three miles west of the northwest shore of Jackson Lake and six miles south of the Grassy Lake Road.

The current size of the fire is approximately three acres. It is burning in mature stands of conifer and spruce fir forests with isolated torching and short-distance spotting near Forellen Peak. This area of the park is a fire- adapted ecosystem and recommended wilderness.

The Berry Fire will be managed to protect people and property, enhance the area's natural resources where appropriate, and safely and effectively utilize available firefighting resources. The fire will be monitored and management actions will be implemented as it affects values at risk.

Smoke is visible from the east side of Jackson Lake, including US Highway 89/191/287. No closures are currently in effect, but backcountry visitors to the area should remain alert for changing fire conditions. For more information, please visit

The fire danger rating is very high for Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and Teton Interagency Dispatch Area. The potential for fire activity has increased due to drying vegetation combined with higher temperatures, low humidity, and brisk afternoon winds.

The smallest spark has the potential to cause significant damage, always crush smokes dead out;never leave a campfire unattended; ensure that your vehicle has a properly installed spark arrestor that is operational;and, stop and park only in areas clear of vegetation.

To report a fire or smoke in Grand Teton National Park or Bridger-Teton National Forest, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630.


Rampart Ridge Loop

Kathy and I intended to hike the Rampart Ridge Loop during our first visit three years ago, but didn’t due to heavy rain on the last day of our trip. Given that the hike offers great views of Mt. Rainier, and the fact that it was already snow free, it was near the top of our list of hikes for our mid-June visit this year.

The loop hike begins across the street from the National Park Inn at Longmire. Once on the other side of the road you’ll gain access to the Trail of the Shadows, a short loop trail that visits an old homestead cabin. Even though the arrow points to the right, you’ll want to turn left to proceed directly towards the Rampart Ridge Trail. You’ll reach the Rampart Ridge Trail junction in less than two-tenths of a mile.

Just past the junction we passed the 25-foot stump of a large dead tree that had several saplings growing out of the top. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like this before:

From the junction the trail climbs moderately through a beautiful old-growth forest. For me, this was one of the most pleasant hikes one could take just about anywhere. Although this might be a bit of hyperbole, it seems that the trail is so well manicured that you could practically ride a road bike on it.

Rampart Ridge, also known as "The Ramparts," is the remnant of an ancient lava flow that originated from the summit of Mt. Rainier.

At just under 2 miles hikers will reach a side trail that leads to an overlook of the Nisqually River Valley. Look for a sign that reads “Viewpoint 200 feet”.

Just beyond the viewpoint the trail reaches its highest point, and at roughly 2.25 miles, will make a sharp bend towards the left. Peer through the trees at this bend and you’ll notice a rock outcropping not far off the trail. Although there are a few trees around, this vantage point still offers some outstanding views of Mt. Rainier. This is probably the best place for an extended break on this hike.

Roughly 50 yards beyond the rock outcropping, as the trail begins to make a sharp descent, you’ll enjoy some unobstructed views of Mt. Rainier. This will be your most scenic view on the hike. A short distance from here the trail heads back into the forest.

At 3.1 miles hikers will reach the Wonderland Trail, an epic 93-mile trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. To complete this loop you’ll have to take a right here. From the junction the Wonderland Trail begins to descend fairly rapidly towards the Nisqually River.

As you descend you’ll travel along a stretch of trail that passes through some ancient trees, many of which appear to be several hundred years old.

At roughly 4.9 miles you’ll cross over to the south side of the main park road, and shortly thereafter, will return to the parking area at Longmire.

Trail: Rampart Ridge Loop
RT Distance: 5.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1340 feet
Max Elevation: 4050 feet
TH Location: Longmire
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.