The historic Menor’s ferry boat is operating for the summer season, now that a high flow on the Snake River has subsided. Visitors can once again take a free ferry ride—with a qualified park ranger operating the helm—across the Snake River between Bill Menor’s store and Dornan’s. Located north of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park, the ferry is a central feature of the Menor/Noble historic district. The ferry provides park visitors with a unique opportunity to ride on an historic replica boat while learning firsthand about Jackson Hole’s settlement and transportation history.
Menor’s ferry consists of a platform deck which is set upon two pontoons for flotation. The ferry is tethered to a cable system that spans the river and operates by directing the pontoons toward the opposite riverbank, allowing the power of the current to push the craft across the river channel; the system uses river power, rather than motor power, to push the ferry across the water. This type of river travel existed in ancient times and was widely used throughout the U. S.
Bill Menor built the ferry in 1894, shortly after he arrived to homestead on the banks of the Snake River. Prior to ferry service, residents who lived primarily on the east bank of the river could only cross when the flow was low enough to ford, or when they traveled south to the small village of Wilson, Wyoming where they could cross over on a bridge. After the ferry began its operation, residents made regular trips to Menor’s homestead in order to cross the river to gather berries and firewood or to purchase wares from Menor’s general store.
Menor charged 25 cents for a horse and rider to cross the river and 50 cents for a team and wagon; pedestrians rode across for free. After the ferry was sold to Maud Noble in 1918, the price increased to one dollar for automobiles with local license plates, and higher fares for those from out-of-state. The original ferry became obsolete and ceased operation in 1927, when the State of Wyoming built a highway bridge across the river, just south of the Menor homestead.
The current ferry is a replica of Menor’s original craft. It was constructed by the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and officially dedicated on August 25, 2000, as part of the park’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Teton interagency fire managers announce that the fire danger rating will be elevated to Very High for both the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park as of Thursday,
July 31. Recent hot temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions have increased the potential for intense fire activity. Local residents and visitors alike should exercise an extra measure of caution and practice heightened fire safety at all times.
When determining fire danger ratings, fire officials use several indices, such as: the moisture content of grasses, shrubs and trees; projected weather conditions (including temperatures and possible wind events); the ability of fire to spread after ignition; and the availability of fire-fighting resources. A fire danger rating of Very High means that fires can start easily, spread quickly and burn intensely.
Unattended or abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended, and should prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use.
To report a fire or smoke in either area, call Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630. For more fire information, please contact Bridger-Teton National Forest at 307.739.5500, or visit the Web at www.tetonfires.com.
A paving project on the Signal Mountain Summit Road in Grand Teton National Park will be extended for an additional week, due to an unexpected equipment malfunction. Paving will be underway throughout this week from Monday, July 28 through Thursday, July 31, and continue through the following week from Monday, August 4 through Thursday, August 7. The road will be open to weekend travel on Friday, August 1, Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3.
The temporary travel closure on the Signal Mountain Summit Road may cause inconvenience to some visitors and local residents; to avoid this road during the scheduled construction, alternate travel plans should be made during Monday through Thursday for the next two weeks.
If there are any additional changes to the road work schedule, the public will be notified as soon as possible. For road updates, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grte or call the park’s recorded information line on road conditions at 307.739.3614.
Grand Teton National Park will join with the Jackson Hole Astronomy Club to celebrate National Astronomy Day on Sunday, August 3. Several family-oriented activities are planned, offering visitors and local residents the opportunity to learn about star gazing, meteor showers, sunspots, star clusters, galaxies and much more. The special event, titled “Astronomy under the Tetons,” will begin at
2 p.m. at the Colter Bay Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park and end with late-night star gazing session on the nearby shore of Jackson Lake.
To recognize National Astronomy Day, solar-filtered telescopes will be available to view sunspots from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. at the Colter Bay Visitor Center. Throughout the afternoon, exhibits and information tables will also be set up, providing fun and interesting information to children and adults alike. Beginning at 9 in the evening, Park Ranger Naturalist Bob Hoyle will present a PowerPoint program at the Colter Bay Amphitheater; this educational program focuses on American Indian use of the sky and its celestial bodies, and includes incredible images of stars and other astronomical objects. As a finale, high-powered telescopes will be set up at 10 p.m. along the shore of Colter Bay for participants to view stars, galaxies, nebulas and other cosmic phenomena. Anyone planning to attend the evening program and telescope observation session should dress warmly as evening temperatures at Colter Bay can be quite chilly even in July.
For those who would like to learn more about “Astronomy under the Tetons,” please call either the Colter Bay Visitor Center at 307.739.3594 or Jackson Hole Astronomy Club President Walt Farmer at 307.733.2173. Information is also available on Walt Farmer’s Web site at www.theastrocowboy.com/Astro/astro.htm.
Numerous animals—including wolves, elk, and moose—have been hit and killed by vehicles in Grand Teton National Park during the past month. Consequently, Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott strongly reminds motorists to slow down and be alert for wildlife that may be traveling across, or wandering near, park roads.
On Wednesday afternoon, July 23, a sub-adult male wolf was hit and killed by a car traveling on Highway 26/89/191 near the Glacier View Turnout. Luckily, the occupants of the vehicle were uninjured; however the young wolf died as a result of the collision, and the car was damaged enough to require it to be towed away. This marks the second time in the past month that a wolf was killed by a motor vehicle. On Monday, June 23, a radio-collared male wolf was killed by a car on Highway 26/287 about 1 3/4 miles east of Moran Junction. Besides these two incidents, one fox, one pronghorn antelope, one bison, two moose, four deer and four elk have also lost their lives in vehicle collisions since the 19th of June.
These recent incidents serve as a reminder that many animals are often wandering across, and roaming near, the park’s roadways. Therefore, motorists must be extra alert while driving and slow down for their own safety, as well as the welfare of park wildlife.
Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and to be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife on the roads. Driving slower than indicated speed limits—especially at night—can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.
Each year, over 100 animals are hit and killed on park roads. Since the beginning of 2008, a total of 35 animals have been killed in collisions with automobiles. These collisions resulted in the deaths of deer, elk, moose, bison, pronghorn, wolves and smaller creatures such as foxes, otters, and pine martens. With an extra measure of caution—and increased attention to the road—this statistic could be greatly reduced during the remainder of 2008.
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that a road improvement project will take place on the north park road from the Lizard Creek Campground in Grand Teton National Park to the Snake River Bridge at Flagg Ranch in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Project work will begin on or about Monday, July 28, and continue through the summer/fall season. This project is necessary to improve travel conditions and ensure safety for the millions of motorists who use this road each year.
The initial phase of the highway improvement project involves replacing the many culverts that assist with drainage under the roadway. Work will take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday of each week. While flaggers will direct vehicles through the work zone and keep traffic moving, motorists should expect delays of up to 30 minutes.
In addition to the road project, repairs will begin on the Snake River Bridge at Flagg Ranch as early as Friday, August 1. Work on the bridge will take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and delays of up to 30 minutes are possible. Flaggers will direct traffic; however, travel will be reduced to one lane. The bridge will reopen to two-way traffic for the winter season.
The north park road improvement project will continue during the 2009 summer season. Weather permitting, project work will begin in April and continue through mid-November. During that time, the road will be resurfaced and widened. During this second phase of the project, traffic will again be reduced to one lane.The north park road project is a continuation of work that began in 2003 with reconstruction of the highway from the South Gate of Yellowstone National Park to Flagg Ranch and a stretch of road from Lizard Creek Campground to Leeks Marina.
Superintendent Gibson Scott reminds everyone that roadwork is necessary for the park to maintain safe and high quality roads for the large volume of traffic passing over them each year.
Local residents and park visitors are advised to use caution, drive slowly and watch out for workers and equipment when traveling through the project zones. Every effort will be made to minimize the inconvenience of these projects to those people traveling through the work areas.
Roadwork schedules may change or be delayed due to weather conditions, equipment failure, or other unforeseen circumstances. For road updates, visit the park’s Web site at www.nps.gov/grte or call the park’s recorded road information line at 307.739.3614.
Grand Teton National Park rangers continue to investigate the death of longtime Exum Mountain Guides employee George Gardner, age 58, that occurred on Saturday, July 19. Fellow guides, who were with Gardner before the accident that took his life, have provided rangers with extensive information about the circumstances leading up to his untimely death.
Gardner and several other Exum guides had taken a group of clients, including youths from Wilderness Ventures, to the Lower Saddle on Saturday with the intention of climbing the Grand Teton the following day. After the group had eaten dinner and settled into their Lower Saddle camp for the evening, Gardner departed around 5 p.m. to free solo climb the Lower Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton, a climb rated 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System. According to his colleagues, Gardner planned to climb the route to Wall Street and then return back to Lower Saddle base camp. It is not unusual for professional guides—either in pairs or solo—to go out for additional climbing on their own, once their clients have settled in for the night.
Several guides were concerned when Gardner had not returned by dark; however, the guides noticed headlamps coming down from the Upper Saddle and they figured it was Gardner, perhaps assisting a mountaineering party in their late-hour descent. When the guides awoke at 3 a.m. to prepare for the day’s excursion, they discovered that Gardner was missing. Out of concern, they notified Exum Mountain Guides President Jack Turner, who contacted Teton Interagency Dispatch Center (TIDC) with news of the missing guide. After the call, park rangers immediately began coordinating a search and rescue response, and requested for an interagency contract helicopter to arrive at first light.
At the Lower Saddle, several Exum guides began a hasty search for Gardner, with three guides climbing the Lower Exum Ridge route and two guides ascending the classic route to the Upper Exum Ridge via Wall Street. One of the guides ascending towards Wall Street spotted Gardner’s body around 6 a.m. from an area near the Eye of the Needle. After alerting the party that was ascending the Lower Exum Ridge, two of the guides from the Lower Exum Ridge party climbed to Gardner’s location and confirmed that he was deceased. Park rangers and TIDC were notified of the fatality, prompting a switch to a recovery and investigation operation. At approximately 6:30 a.m., park rangers were flown by helicopter with the intention of landing at the Lower Saddle. They were diverted to a landing spot on Teepee Glacier due to moderate and high wind conditions; a local storm system with lightning temporarily shut down air operations. After the storm passed, the helicopter delivered additional rangers involved with the recovery and investigation effort to the Lower Saddle. Gardner’s body was flown from the accident site on the mountain via short haul and delivered to his family and a contingent of fellow climbing guides at the park’s Lupine Meadows rescue cache at 12:30 p.m. Gardner’s body was then transferred to the Teton County Coroner’s office in Jackson, Wyoming.
Park rangers are further investigating the accident, though they acknowledge that the exact cause may never be known for certain. Rangers speculate that Gardner may have fallen from one of the upper pitches of the Lower Exum Ridge route. They also note that there was a substantial (and atypical) wind gust—of about 60 mph—at approximately 6 p.m. the day of the accident that may have been a factor in Gardner’s fall. Whatever the cause of this accident, park rangers and Exum guides both agree that Gardner was climbing well within the realm of his capabilities, and doing what he was comfortable with and what he loved.
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott expressed heartfelt condolences on behalf of all park staff. “Park employees, local residents and the climbing community are stunned by this tragedy,” she said. “George was not only a respected guide, but also a wonderful mentor to other climbers. Our hearts go out to his family.”
A resident of Ridgeway, Colorado, Gardner had been an Exum guide for 17 years and a climbing guide for 28 years. His vast mountaineering experience included expeditions on the southwest face of Kanchenjunga and the west face of Hyani Potosi in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real; ski ascents in the Alps and in Colorado; and extensive climbing in North America and the Himalayas. He was the program director for Sterling College’s “Semester in the Himalayas” as well as an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott is saddened to announce that climbing guide George Gardner, age 58, from Ridgeway, CO, died Saturday evening, July 19, from traumatic injuries suffered in a fall while solo climbing a route on the Grand Teton. Gardner was not guiding any clients at the time of the fall.
Park rangers are investigating the accident and will issue more information as it becomes available.
Grand Teton National Park is conducting a chip seal project on a portion of Highway 89/287, from Jackson Lake Lodge to Moran Junction. The project will take two days: Wednesday, July 16 and Thursday, July 17. Motorists should expect delays of no more than 15 minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on each of those days, while the chip seal project is being completed.
Flaggers will direct traffic through the work zone. Motorists are asked to be cautious while traveling through the area and to drive slowly in order to avoid windshield damage.
Chip sealing is a critical part of road maintenance, and the project will improve the long-term durability of this heavily-used park road.
Roadwork schedules may change or be delayed due to weather conditions, equipment failure, or other unforeseen circumstances. For road updates, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grte or call the park’s recorded information line on road conditions at (307) 739-3614.
Grand Teton National Park rangers responded to two separate incidents of theft on Friday, July 11. In each case, valuable personal items were stolen from unattended vehicles. Rangers are currently conducting investigations into both incidents.
The first theft occurred early Friday morning; however, it was not reported to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center until 2:30 p.m. An individual had parked her car and walked a short distance down a dirt road, leaving her vehicle temporarily unlocked. While she was away from her car, a laptop computer was stolen from the unlocked vehicle. A witness in the area at the time of the incident recalled seeing a male, who was acting suspiciously, driving either a red Chevy pickup or Suburban.
Later that same day, at about 5:30 p.m., park rangers took another report of a theft in a nearby location. This time, a wallet—visible on the center console—was stolen from a locked vehicle at a turnout along Highway 89, north of Moose, Wyoming. The perpetrator broke a window to get the wallet, which contained cash, credit cards and personal information. A separate witness recalled seeing a red Chevy Suburban in the area at that time, possibly the same vehicle described at the earlier crime scene.
After the owner of the wallet called to report that his credit cards were stolen, park rangers subsequently learned that his card had been used at an establishment outside of the park. Rangers worked cooperatively with the Teton County Sheriff’s Office to interview clerks working at the establishment, and it was determined that the card had been used to withdraw funds from an ATM machine.
Teton County sheriffs also responded to multiple similar incidents on Friday. Investigating officials believe that these incidents may be related.
While crimes of this type are rare in Grand Teton National Park, park visitors and area residents are reminded to avoid becoming a victim by locking vehicle doors and securing valuables at all times. People should never leave valuable items—such as purses, wallets, cameras or computers—in plain sight inside unattended vehicles. People should either carry these items with them or lock them in the trunk of the vehicle, out of sight.
Visitors and residents should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to park rangers at any visitor center or ranger station.
July 10 , 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott salutes the Grand Teton National Park Foundation for their invaluable help in establishing and supporting the Youth Conservation Program (YCP) at Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to generous donations made by several donors through the Foundation, the park has been able to offer this youth employment opportunity for the past three years. This year’s program includes 17 YCP crew members—with enrollees from as far away as Florida and California. The 2008 crew represents an increase of five members over last year’s crew, three of whom returned after participating in the 2007 program.
YCP crews work with National Park Service (NPS) staff to improve trails and structures throughout the park. Their efforts include the rehabilitation of trails and backcountry areas through projects like brushing, hazard tree removal, and construction of water bars and drainage swales. Participants also pull exotic weeds, clear vegetation, build fences, construct stone masonry, install bear-proof containers, repair historic structures, and repair and launch the ferry boat at Menor’s Ferry Historic District. NPS teams work with the YCP teens to provide a unique educational experience that includes park history, as well as training in safety, fire, and rescue operations. Crew members work primarily for the NPS Trails Branch, but they also collaborate with other park divisions in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the variety of resource protection and management issues that the NPS regularly encounters. Through their diverse tasks and exposure to park operations, YCP members are able to see firsthand the value of land stewardship and develop personal conservation ethics. This year, a previous YCP member obtained a seasonal position at Grand Teton, while two others are in the process of securing seasonal federal employment elsewhere.
The YCP is a summer employment program for high school students, ages 16 to 19. YCP enrollees develop an understanding of NPS conservation ethics as they assist with projects to complete critically-needed maintenance and rehabilitation on park trails and other resources. Participants work alongside NPS crew leaders and become familiar with NPS stewardship goals, while learning essential trail maintenance skills. YCP participants also serve as park ambassadors, as they complete project work on some of the most visible, and most impacted, park trails—trails like Jenny, String, Taggart and Bradley lakes, and the trails near Colter Bay. The YCP program runs for ten weeks, from mid-June through mid-August.
As an extension of their mission to support new and innovative projects that add value to the park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation provides funding for salaries for YCP participants, as well as some of their work gear and transportation to and from Jackson.
For more information about YCP and how to contribute to future YCP activities, or other Foundation programs, please call Leslie Mattson at 307.732.0629, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that park biologists euthanized a female black bear on Monday, July 7, out of concern for public safety. The bear’s increasingly bold behavior toward park visitors, and her repeated attempts to get human food, forced park officials to make the difficult decision to remove her from the population in order to reduce future threats to visitors and their safety.
The nine-year-old bear was easily identifiable because she wore a yellow eartag in her left ear. Bear #22044 was originally tagged in 2004 during a research project involving both grizzly and black bears. She had no history of nuisance behavior until 2007, when natural foods were in scant supply throughout the park.
During the past two years, the 175-pound female black bear gradually became human food-conditioned and unafraid of people. For several weeks during 2007, and especially during the last two weeks, she frequented the Colter Bay area, as well as Elk Island in the middle of Jackson Lake, roaming in search of food and getting multiple food rewards. Throughout August and early September of 2007, she actively sought and obtained human foods, and was consequently hazed several times. There were no additional incidents involving this bear until June 28 of this year, when she grabbed food from people cooking on Elk Island. After that situation, almost daily incidents occurred involving this bear and her attempts to acquire human foods. On July 1, she tore into bags of trash left at campsites in the Colter Bay campground.
Although quite habituated to people, bear #22044 had never acted aggressively toward humans until last week, when she flattened and damaged two tents in the Colter Bay campground. In each case, people were not in the tents at the time of the incident; however, food had been left unattended inside one of the tents. She also put her paws onto another tent as if she was going to crush it. Her recent behavior—combined with the potential for her to become a risk to human safety—contributed to the decision to permanently remove her from the population. This bear was not a good candidate for relocation because of her well-established habit of seeking out human food sources within developed areas.
Once again, park officials strongly remind visitors that proper disposal of garbage and storage of food items is extremely important. Thoughtless actions of people can literally lead to a life or death situation for bears that easily become corrupted by the availability of human food and garbage. Once a bear acquires human food, it often loses its fear of people and may become dangerous. Human carelessness doesn’t just endanger people; it can also result in a bear’s death.
Bears are active in areas of high visitor use, as well as in the backcountry. For the health and safety of all bears, as well as that of park visitors, please adhere to the following rules: Never leave food or backpacks unattended, even for a minute; use available storage facilities when camping, or secure food in your car; dispose of garbage in bear-proof garbage cans, provided at all campgrounds; when camping in the park’s backcountry, use the approved, portable bear-proof food canisters; never run from a bear, and do not drop your backpack if a bear charges you.
Detailed information about how to behave in bear country is available at park visitor centers and ranger stations. Please take the time to educate yourself about bear safety before enjoying the park. Through information and proper actions, you may help save the life of a bear.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott is pleased to announce that three artists—Scott L. Christensen, William G. Smith and Kathy Wipfler—will donate original pieces of art to the Teton Collection, the park’s permanent art collection. The three painters will present their newly created artwork to Superintendent Scott during a brief ceremony to be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 9, in the art gallery of the new Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at Moose, Wyoming.
These fine art paintings represent the most recent additions to the park’s Teton Collection—a collaborative project between the Grand Teton Association (formerly Grand Teton Natural History Association) and the National Park Service. The art collection was created about 50 years ago, when world-renowned painter Conrad Schwiering—then a board member of the Association—initiated a program to pay homage to the beauty of the Teton landscape through fine art. In the tradition established by Schwiering and the early Association board, the Grand Teton Association art committee purchases paintings, or commissions new ones, to enhance the park’s art collection. The Association usually adds one new painting every year; the paintings by Wipfler, Smith, and Christensen represent the last three years’ contributions.
The Teton Collection serves as a testament to the crucial role that art has played in preserving Grand Teton National Park and other public lands, and reflects the historic significance of artwork throughout the greater Jackson Hole area. The eclectic collection features artwork by John Clymer, Olaus Murie, Joanne Hennes, Leland Curtis, Conrad Schwiering, Jim Wilcox, Betty Thomas, and Harrison Crandall. All of these artists found creative inspiration from the Teton landscape, and each has skillfully captured the spectacular scenery and wild inhabitants of this region. The Association is in the process of creating an informational brochure to hand out at the gallery that will provide an overview of all the artists and their paintings.
Scott L. Christensen, of Christensen Studio, Inc., in Victor, Idaho, has exhibited his work in many prestigious museums and shows throughout the country, including the National Academy of Western Art, Prix de West Invitational at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming; the Denver Art Museum; the Kimball Museum; the Salmagundi Club in New York; the Autry Museum; and the Salon d’Arts at the Colorado History Museum. Christensen has been a recipient of many honors throughout his career, including Arts for the Parks competition in 1991; Northwest Rendezvous Juror’s Award of Merit in 1993 and 1994; Most Distinguished Alumni of Chadron State College 1997; and the Prix de West Award for his painting “Wind River Ice” in 2000.
William G. Smith has worked steadily as a freelance illustrator and commissioned artist for the past thirty years, completing scores of portrait, landscape and wildlife commissions. He has given art his full-time effort since 2004. He has won many awards in shows and contests, including the Arts for the Parks Mini 100 in 2004, the Collector’s Choice Award in the Arts for the Parks Top 100 in 2005, and first place in the Wyoming Conservation Stamp contest for the 2009 Conservation Stamp.
Kathy Wipfler’s paintings appear in the Kriendler Gallery, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, and in the collections of Senator and Mrs. Alan Simpson, Governor and Mrs. Mike Sullivan, and Governor and Mrs. Jim Geringer. Her work also appears in 22 other Western states’ Governors’ collections as well as those of three Canadian premiers. Last year, one of her paintings was selected as a permanent part of the Whitney Collection at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. Wipfler’s work has been featured at the Maynard Dixon Show, Mt. Carmel, Utah; Western Visions Show, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming; Northwest Rendezvous Show, Helena, Montana; Plein Air Painters of America, Catalina Island, and Tahoe; and the Coors Western Art Show, Denver, Colorado.
Formerly displayed on the walls of the old Moose Visitor Center, the Teton Collection is now showcased in the gallery at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Since relocating to the gallery, the collection has become even more visible to the public, and this new space provides a fitting home for this precious artwork.
The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter months.
Grand Teton National Park rangers and an interagency contract helicopter evacuated an injured climber from the Middle Teton on Friday, July 4, at 5:45 p.m. 24-year-old Tom Wilkinson, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, tumbled approximately 150 feet and suffered a severe ankle injury while descending a snowfield on the Middle Teton. He was wearing crampons and a helmet at the time of the fall; he was also carrying an ice axe.
Wilkinson and his climbing partner, Christopher Leath, also 24 years old, of Wilson, Wyoming, were descending the South Couloir route—a rarely climbed couloir, between the Southwest and Ellingwood couloirs—when Wilkinson fell. He tumbled over several rockbands, injured his ankle when he impacted a rock, and came to a stop above a cliff (elevation 11,300 ft.). Leath placed an emergency cell phone call, which was transferred to park rangers at 12:30 p.m. Rangers began coordinating a rescue operation and requested the assistance of an interagency contract helicopter. Because the two climbers were unable to describe their exact position on the mountain, an initial reconnaissance flight was required to locate them. During this flight, rangers and the pilot determined that winds were too strong to allow for the insertion of rescue personnel to the climbers’ location. Instead, six rangers and a helitack crew member were flown to a landing zone in the Garnet Canyon Meadows, and they approached the party on foot.
Two rangers reached the climbers at 3:45 p.m., and another helicopter flight was launched to determine if weather conditions had stabilized enough so that the pilot could perform a short-haul evacuation of Wilkinson. When there is no suitable spot to land a helicopter, the short-haul method is used to place rescue personnel, who are suspended below the helicopter by a 100-150-foot rope, into a location near the patient; the injured person is then secured into either an evacuation suit or a rescue litter to be airlifted for a short flight to another landing spot where the ship can safely touch down. In this case, rangers provided medical care to Wilkinson, placed him in an evacuation suit, and flew him, along with an attending ranger, below the helicopter to Lupine Meadows. A waiting park ambulance transported Wilkinson to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for further medical care.
Climbers are reminded that dangerous and variable snow conditions persist above 9,000 feet. Backcountry users are advised to stop in or call a visitor center or ranger station on the day of travel to obtain the most current trail, route and snow conditions. Climbers should also note that most climbing accidents involve slips on snow, and most occur on the descent at the end of a long day.
Grand Teton National Park will host a lecture series entitled “Celebrate the Vernon Collection” for three consecutive nights—Monday, July 7, Tuesday, July 8, and Wednesday, July 9—in the Colter Bay Visitor Center auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Three guest speakers, Dr. Douglas Evelyn, Mr. George Horse Capture, and Dr. Herman J. Viola will share their in-depth knowledge of American Indian interests and museum curation, as well as specific information about the David T. Vernon Collection on exhibit in the Indian Arts Museum at Colter Bay. Collectively, these speakers have many years of experience at the world-renowned Smithsonian and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
This lecture series is a reunion of sorts: all three men participated in a presentation 30 years ago at the Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum. The return of these museum experts to this area is a testament to the value and significance of the Vernon Collection. The collection contains an impressive variety of American Indian artifacts collected by David T. Vernon over his lifetime. The collection was purchased by the Jackson Hole Preserve, Incorporated—a Rockefeller Family foundation dedicated to conservation of cultural and natural resources. Laurance S. Rockefeller loaned the Vernon collection to the National Park Service and requested that the impressive artifacts be exhibited in Grand Teton National Park. The Indian Arts Museum was built to house the collection and it opened to the public in June 1972 with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Vernon serving as key dignitaries at the dedication. A few years later, Mr. Rockefeller donated the entire collection to the National Park Service with the stipulation that it continue to be displayed in Grand Teton.
Dr. Douglas Evelyn will present his lecture, “National Mall and the Smithsonian,” on Monday, July 7. Dr. Evelyn, a historian of Washington, D.C. by avocation and an independent museum consultant by occupation, specializes in museum planning and management following a 36-year career at the Smithsonian Institution. He helped establish the National Museum of the American Indian, serving as its deputy director for 14 years. He also served as deputy director at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, from 1979 to 1991, and at the National Portrait Gallery, where he began his Smithsonian career in 1969. Dr. Evelyn has been active in the American museum scene for over four decades, including serving as staff, treasurer and board member for the American Association of Museums; as president and board member of the American Association of State and Local History; and on the United States board of the International Council of Museums. He is now a trustee of the New York State Historical Association and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
George Horse Capture, a Gros Ventre Indian tribal member, will present a talk entitled “In Search of the Gros Ventre Indian People” on Tuesday July 8. Mr. Horse Capture served as deputy assistant director for cultural resources of the National Museum of the American Indian from March 1994 until his retirement in 2006. He was curator at the Plains Indian Museum, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, in Cody, Wyoming for 11 years, and he has taught Native American Studies at Montana State University in Bozeman. His many awards include the Lila Wallace-Readers’ Digest Community Folklife Program Grant—a $15,000 award to conduct the “Ft. Belknap Tribes Traditional Design Recovery Project.” He has published several book reviews, as well as other publications, including the article “From Reservation to the Smithsonian via Alcatraz,” in American Culture and Research Journal. He has served as a consultant to many Indian tribes, participated in a range of community activities, appeared in several films and television programs, and even produced several films himself, including I’d Rather Be Powwowing, a 16mm film that won the Old West Trail’s William F. Cody Motion Picture Award for best film portraying the West in 1983.
Dr. Herman J. Viola’s lecture, slated for Wednesday, July 9, is called “The View from the Riverbank: American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Dr. Viola is a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. A specialist on the history of the American West, he served as director of the museum’s National Anthropological Archives in addition to organizing two major exhibitions for the Smithsonian: “Magnificent Voyagers” and “Seeds of Change.” Prior to joining the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1972, he was an archivist at the National Archives of the United States, where he launched and was the first editor of Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives. His publications include Exploring the West, After Columbus, Warrior Artists, and The North American Indians. He is also the author of the middle school social studies textbook, Why We Remember. His most recent book, Little Bighorn Remembered: the Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand, was selected by both the Book of the Month Club and the Quality Paperback Club, and was a primary selection of the History Club.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that a temporary travel closure will be in place on the Signal Mountain Summit Road beginning Monday, July 14 in order to facilitate a repaving project. The temporary closure is scheduled to be in effect from Monday through Thursday for three consecutive weeks; however, the road will be open to travel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each week.
The Signal Mountain Summit Road has deteriorated and needs to be repaved in order to ensure safe travel for the many visitors who drive it each summer. To minimize the travel closure, and allow for limited visitor access during the repaving project, road work will only take place from Monday through Thursday of each week. During the three-week construction period, the road will open to vehicle travel at 7 a.m. on Friday mornings and close again to traffic at 10 p.m. on Sunday nights.
Park staff will also be paving the Pacific Creek Road. This project will involve only minor delays of approximately five minutes—travel closures are not required for completion of this roadwork. Work on the Pacific Creek Road will be underway from June 30 through July 10. The construction area includes a section of road between the Teton Wilderness Road junction and the Pacific Creek housing area.
Road crews will complete both projects in the shortest time possible, barring inclement weather or equipment malfunction. If road work schedules change, the public will be notified as soon as possible.
The temporary closure of the Signal Mountain Summit Road may cause some inconvenience to visitors and local residents; alternate travel plans should be made to avoid this road during the scheduled construction days of Monday through Thursday.