The popular String Lake area of Grand Teton National Park has experienced extremely high visitation levels in recent weeks and the trend is expected to continue. String Lake, located north of Jenny Lake, is easily accessible, hosts a scenic lakeshore and provides water recreation, hiking and picnic opportunities.
A String Lake volunteer group was created in 2016 to greet and assist visitors to the area, provide bear safety and food storage education, and facilitate traffic flow through the area. Their on-the-ground presence has improved the experience of visitors to the area and helped prevent human-bear conflicts, while also providing park managers a clearer picture of visitation dynamics in the area.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “We greatly appreciate the work and passion of our String Lake volunteers. They have greatly helped to identify visitor experience and resource protection issues, and create solutions for improvement.” He noted that additional volunteers are welcome and encourages anyone interested to contact the park for more info.
This summer the volunteers have identified that parked vehicles often obstruct traffic flow and block access for critical emergency services. The String Lake area has approximately 165 designated parking spots. However, the volunteers have recently recorded nearly two and a half times that many vehicles parked in the area at peak times. Many of these vehicles have been parked within the lane of travel, on curbs, on vegetation, and in other inappropriate locations.
Park managers have implemented a number of short-term measures to alleviate the congestion and are considering potential long-term solutions. Meanwhile, signs indicating that the parking lot is full are being set up and the volunteers are contacting motorists as they enter the area. Visitors are allowed to drop off passengers and possibly find a spot that has emptied. If they do not find a free spot, visitors should park in designated overflow parking spots with all tires off the pavement. Parking on curbs and other non-designated areas is not allowed and citations may be issued for noncompliance.
Facility improvements have also been implemented at String Lake. With the assistance of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, six new bear-resistant food storage lockers were installed in the fall of 2016, doubling the number of lockers. A new horse trail bypass was added to prevent visitor use conflicts along the busy shoreline. Other facility changes included improved signage and temporary restrooms located at the canoe launch and trailhead. New limits on commercial group use in the picnic area have also been implemented. Visitors are encouraged to consider other picnic areas in the park such as Sacred Heart and Jackson Lake Dam.
Visitors to String Lake can be proactive in preparing for a positive experience by coming early, before 9:00 a.m. or arriving later in the day, after 4:00 p.m. Recreationists and picnickers should be sure to use the food storage lockers whenever coolers, food, drinks, or other bear attractants are not in immediate use. Visitors driving open-bed pick-up trucks should be mindful not to leave bear attractants in open beds. In the spirit of Leave No Trace, all visitors are reminded to take personal items and trash with them upon leaving the area.
In addition, a team of social science researchers is studying visitor access, use and experience, and resource impacts associated with increased visitation. The two-year study will help park managers develop solutions that provide quality experiences while protecting the area’s resources.