Only you can prevent a forest fire!

smokey

Most of us grew up with Smokey’s motto and as we learn more about fire ecology we find we don’t always want to prevent a forest fire.

Fire is important for nutrient recycling, plant diversity and overall landscape health. 

When a fire burns through an area it essentially speeds up the decomposition process and recycles phosphorus, nitrogen and other elements back into the soil.  This creates a nutrient rich area that is now open to sunlight, where sun loving plants can now grow uninhibited. 

The most important thing about fires is that they need to be managed!  The Fire Managers at Grand Teton National Park do just that as they try to balance natural forest health while protecting people and property.

 Fire managers use a variety of plans to achieve their goals:

  • They closely monitor natural fires!  When lighting strikes and sparks a fire, crews take minimal action unless it threatens lives or property. 
  • They use a control burning method!  This can occur for several reasons which include restoring early vegetation environments, diversifying habitats, and to burn accumulated fuels to minimize the risk to developments.  They usually burn in the spring or fall when the weather conditions are more favorable. 
  • They also monitor regrowth areas both immediately after the fire and over the long term to learn more about fire ecology.

If you are interested in seeing the fire scars of Grand Teton National Park, take a hike near Jenny Lake, Taggart Lake or Colter Bay.  

Now does this mean you can leave your campfire unattended?  NO, of course not!  You still need to prevent unsupervised fires! Give yourself an extra hour to burn down your fire, and always be sure to keep enough water nearby to squelch any flair-ups.  Also be aware of Park regulations and report any unattended fires!

Do you want to know more about fire management?   Than check out the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/grte/parkmgmt/firemanagement.htm

Want to know more about the fires currently burning in Grand Teton National Park visit: www.tetonfires.com

From Melissa’s Corner
Image credit: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/environmental-destruction-agency-making-parks-coal-friendly.php

The Clearing of “The Devil’s Rope”

 
photo by Don Wells
photo by Don Wells

The history of Range Land in the American West could be defined simply as “before wire and after wire.”  Many historians believe one of the defining moments in the history of the West came when a small bunch of wild longhorn steers stopped and backed away from eight slender strands of twisted wire equipped with sharp barbs. This event happened in 1876 when John W. (Bet-a-Million) Gates erected an enclosure on the Plaza in San Antonio, Texas to demonstrate to gathered ranchers, that newly-invented “Devil’s Rope” could securely contain wild livestock. From that moment on, the West would never be the same again.  This defining event ended the era of open range and the use of free graze which had reigned supreme since the earliest settlers began to populate mid-America.

As early pioneers moved into the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, the need to use fencing as a range management tool was already well understood.  Even though smooth and barbed wire was available, it was expensive.  And besides that, fence postholes were nearly impossible to dig in this cobble/gravel soil left by our early glaciers.  Our earliest settlers turned to the abundant supply of Lodgepole Pine trees to construct our iconic “Buck and Rail” fences.  Later, with increased modernization, the “Devil’s Rope” would weave its way into Jackson Hole as well.

 photo by Don Wells
photo by Don Wells

John and Frank Craighead began studying Grizzly bear in Grant Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in the late 1950’s.  It became clear through their research that our animal population didn’t understand the concept Park boundaries.  Their studies reflected a significantly larger habitat study area defined as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  From that date forward this ecosystem, the greatest intact temperate zone ecosystem remaining in the world, has and will continue to host scientific studies of all facets of this ecosystem.

Of study interest are the migratory habits of many of our large mammals.  Each year Elk and Pronghorn migrate through this ecosystem.  Pronghorn constitute the second largest migratory heard in the Western Hemisphere – second only to Caribou. Current herd estimates are around 40,000 animals.  Elk seasonally migrate from the National Elk Refuge, North of Jackson, to the Yellowstone Plateau.  Our challenge is the existence of non-used fences that remain in this migratory habitat, dating back to our early pioneer days.  These unused fences block heard travel and often entrap newborn calves.

Each year Grand Teton Lodge Company along with Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, (www.jhwildlife.org)  volunteer to remove miles of both old buck and rail fence line and unused wire fencing.

photo by Don Wells
photo by Don Wells

Take advantage of Grand Teton Lodge Company’s Give and Getaway Program on September 22-23, 2009 and enjoy a private interpretive tour of the Menor’s Ferry Historic District along with the opportunity to participate in the removal of a mile of fence line to improve wildlife migration in Grand Teton National Park.  For more information on this program please call 800-628-9988.  Rates start at $120 per room at Jackson Lake Lodge.

From Don’s Corner

…Where the Pronghorn Play!

A common confusion for the guests of Grand Teton National Park is calling a pronghorn an “antelope.” 

 

Pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park
Pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park

 The pronghorn has had to live with this mistake for quite awhile, so I thought I’d help clear this matter up!

Fun Fact One:  Family

Antelope are a member of the Bovidae family, which also includes cows, bison and sheep.

Pronghorn are the last surviving membe rof the Antilocapridae family.

Fun Fact Two:  Territory

Antelope are found in Africa, Asia and occasionally the middle east.  Their habitat range from grasslands to marshes.

Pronghorn are found in western North America, from Canada to northern Mexico.

Fun Fact Three:  Horns or Antlers

Antelope have a traditional horn which consists of a bony core with a Keratin coating.  (That’s the same stuff our nails are made of!)  Their horns do not branch in any form and they have one set for life.

Pronghorn have keratin growing on a bony core that is pronged in the male and is also shed annually. 

A true classification for ther term “horns” in animals is they are always unbranched and never shed (like the Antelope).  They are also covered with skin like the horns of a giraffe!

Fun Fact Four:  Speed vs. Height

Antelope come in such a variety that some like the Gazelles are very fast, while others like the Nilgai are very slow.  They are also, primarily, decent to great jumpers.

Pronghorn are the second fastest land mammal, second only to the Cheetah!  They have a very high endurance for racing but are very poor jumpers!

Fun Fact Five:  Young

Antelope typically have just one baby at a time.

Pronghorn are known to most commonly have twins!
Bonus Fun Fact: Pronghorns outnumber people in the state of Wyoming!

From Melissa’s Corner!

Wildlife Crossing In Grand Teton National Park

“Pay Attention:  Wildlife On Road!” 

 This sign greets all visitors to Grand Teton National Park, but let me be the first to tell you it is absolutely true!  You never know when you will have something or a herd of “somethings” dash in front of your car… and let’s just say some of the animals in this park will take on a truck and win!

Let’s just take a quick look at a few of the animals I have had cross my path since arriving her in May!

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A relatively large elk…

Now this buckaroo, decided to mosey across the road right in front of our car.   We were lucky we saw it in time because he would have caused a lot of damage!

 

Bison sml

A Bison…

This guy really doesn’t seem to care who is on the road…but I recommend staying far away from him as they can run up to 30 mph without warning!  In this case, I guess he decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the road!

 

Moosesml
A Moose….

As we came around the bend in the road, she was right in sight.  Luckily she was just beginning the cross and quickly headed into the brush so other cars wouldn’t be surprised by her!

 

Bearsml
A Grizzly Bear….

This guy is definitely the king of our forest.  So when he crosses your path, you definitely want to stop!

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A Car Jam!

I’d say the most dangerous road hazard in Grand Teton National Park can be the other drivers, so pull to the side of the road if to stay clear of other Park visitors if you do see something of interest!  Most speedlimits within the park are 45 mph, that’s to help avoid an encounter with an animal.  We know there is a lot of open road, but the wildlife is abundant as well, and staying safe is everyone’s top priority!   Keep your eyes open because you never know when a bear, moose, elk or bison jam is going to sneak up on you!  

 

From Melissa’s Corner!

Wet N’ Wild ~ Kayaking on Jackson Lake

 

Kayaking is not a new sport to me; however that doesn’t mean I’m ready to barrel roll down the rapids! That being said, I’m perfectly happy to rent a kayak from the Colter Bay Marina and take in a paddle on Jackson Lake.  Last weekend, my boyfriend Sy and I did just that!

 

Melissa & Sy Kayaking Jackson Lake
Melissa & Sy Kayaking Jackson Lake

Having done this once before, Sy and I lathered up with sunscreen, donned our safe and stylish life vests, and pushed off into the calm waters of the Marina. We decided on a relaxing paddle around the closest bays, and are very happy we did!

The bays were filled with active water birds.  As we paddled along we watched bald eagles soar overhead, an osprey defend its territory, and saw a blue heron and spotted piper hunting for their lunches along the shore.  We’d like to share some of our photos from that day with all of you!

 

This Bald Eagle Decided that branch looked like a good landing spot.  I love this photo because it reminds me of a flagpole topper!  This guy had a very busy morning.  He soared high above us hunting for his next meal and was chased by the Osprey.  He definitely deserves a nice rest!

 

Our Bald Eagle Sighting
Our Bald Eagle Sighting

This Osprey kept his eyes open for that pesky Bald Eagle.  It was very cool watching him dive bomb the Eagle as he chased him from his territory!

 

The Guardian Osprey
The Guardian Osprey

Can you spot the spotted sandpiper?  I’ll give you a hint….he’s brown and white and is standing on a branch.   

 

The Shy Sandpiper
The Shy Sandpiper

That’s right, he’s right in the middle of the photo.  This Sandpiper was so interesting to watch as he chattered and bobbed his way along the shore! 

  

This Blue Heron was searching the shoreline for some lunch.  I almost paddled right by him until he started moving.   

A Blue Heron Struts Along
A Blue Heron Struts Along

 He was quite shy and flew away when I got closer to him. 

blue heron flying

So if you are in the Tetons this summer, Sy and I definitely recommend coming out to Jackson Lake for a paddle!  If the wildlife is not particularly active that day at least you the have gorgeous view to keep you company!

kayak 3sml

 

From Melissa’s Corner (of the lake)!

Colter’s Floatin’ the Snake River

Hi everyone!  It’s me Colter Moose and today I’m floatin’ the Snake River with the Grand Teton Lodge Company boatmen.  These guys get to cruise the river all day long as their job…and I thought I had it good!

Anyway, I’ve heard all about the dinner they put together on the banks of the Snake River, so I thought I’d try the “Supper Float Trip”.  You see our meal site is located just below the Snake River Overlook ~ the place Ansel Adams made famous for his photos of Grand Teton National Park.  It’s a pretty scenic place to have dinner….

Moosin Around 039

 

Speaking of dinner, the chef (shown above) cooks steaks and trout on an open grill.  I’m told there is something special about meals cooked outdoors.  Since I don’t really eat the same types of food as our guests do…I’ll have to take their word for it…but let me know what you think if you join us on this activity!

Moosin Around 004

During dinner I made a few friends.  This is Katie sitting at one of the picnic benches before dinner began. 

After dinner, we put on life jackets, listened to the boatmen talk about the trip and how best to prepare for our adventure…here’s a photo of Katie and Kelly as we boarded the rafts!

Moosin Around 007

 The big boats hold up to 20 people.  This is a photo of the rest of the people on our trip who were just about to depart for their 10 mile scenic journey down the Snake River.

Moosin Around 008

 The guides make each trip unique as they talk about the area, tell folk tales, provide historical information and help guests search for wildlife along the way!

08Jackson Lake Lodge

This here is Mike, a boatman who helps guide river trips ~ he also grew up here in Grand Teton National Park…so he has lots of stories to tell!

(I’m not that great at taking photos, so I asked a friend of mine who is a photographer,Dan Sullivan,if I could use a few of his.)

This photo was taken by a real photographer...Dan Sullivan

The scenery is so unique…And it just keeps getting better and better along the way!

Moosin Around 011

 On our trip we were lucky to see lots of wildlife.  I’m new to this park so I haven’t made many friends.  Everyone thought it was just because I was along that we saw so many animals along the river, but our guide assured them…this happens often ~ especially on the early morning and evening trips.  Above, can you see the bald eagle in the tree?  This was one of my photos…sorry it’s not clearer, but I hope you can make him out – he’s in the center of the photo.

Moosin Around 013

 …and here, now this is a challenge…but that rock-like ball sitting just in the water on the right side…that’s a beaver.  There were 5 of them on this trip that we came across – it was pretty cool to see them swimming in and out of their homes along the river banks.

We were also able to find a “real” moose on the river banks, had a heron fly right along side the raft, and encountered many ducks in the river as well

Once we ended the trip, everyone else got out and I was the last one in the boat.  Sort of looks like I’m one the one in charge here doesn’t it??  Hmmm….maybe I should entertain a career change. 

 Moosin Around 040

A Walking History of Colter Bay Village

 
A Colter Bay Cabin
A Colter Bay Cabin

An historic walk through Colter Bay Village with Grand Teton Lodge Company Historian Mary McKinney is a fascinating walk back through time.  Listen how the valley began to develop and dude ranches dotted the landscape.  Hear how John D. Rockefeller Jr’s vision and generosity assisted in preserving this wonderful landscape.  Compare the differences of how these early dude cabins were constructed and with what unusual materials.  Laugh at how our housekeeping cabins were once “Chic Sales”.      

Colter Bay Village actually represents an eclectic collection of cabins from various sites around Jackson Hole. The cabins at Colter Bay serve as a window into the past, giving guests the chance to experience a bit of history during their stay. Though the cabins have been modified to accommodate plumbing and electrical needs, they have been restored and maintained to reflect as close a representation of their original construction as is possible. Many of the cabins were constructed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but some date back to the late 1800’s. 

As tourism in Jackson Hole began to flourish in the early 1900’s, accommodations began to sprout up all over the valley. The result of this influx of tourists was the beginning of dude ranches in Jackson Hole.   A typical dude ranch was composed of a central building surrounded by many smaller guest cabins.   The largest of these resorts was the Teton Lodges at Moran, located at the site of the old town of Moran below Jackson Lake Dam. 

As one of the driving forces behind conserving Jackson Hole, John D. Rockefeller Jr. had bought thousands of acres of property with the intent of donating it as part of a national park. When Grand Teton National Park was expanded in 1950 with Rockefeller’s donation of 34,000 acres, it became apparent that guest accommodations in the park were inadequate. With funding from Rockefeller, the park service began to develop new visitor facilities and remove older resorts as they wanted to restore much of the park to its natural state. After the completion of the new Jackson Lake Lodge in 1955, the Colter Bay visitor site went into development. Cabins were transplanted to Colter Bay from the Teton Lodges at Moran, the old Jackson Lake Lodge resort, and the Square G Ranch (located near Jenny Lake) among others. In 1957 the cabins at Colter Bay Village were opened to the public. Over the years many of the other dude ranches and resorts closed or were donated to the park, and Colter Bay Village grew with the addition of the cabins from these various sites. 

Craftmanship of a Unique Cabin
Craftmanship of a Unique Cabin

Today there is no trace to be found of many resort sites that now makeup Colter Bay Village. All the cabins from the old Jackson Lake Lodge that were not transplanted were destroyed. After picking up much of the town of Moran and transporting it to Colter Bay, the remaining structures were demolished in 1957. Only the post office still survives, transported to present-day Moran near the park’s east entrance.

Mary McKinney
Mary McKinney

Ms. McKinney’s interpretive historic walk is complementary and is scheduled each Tuesday and Friday afternoon at 5pm.  Meet Mary for a wonderfully delightful afternoon at the Colter Bay Village Cabins Guest Lounge.
 

 

From Don’s Corner -Adapted from “A Brief History of Colter Bay Village” by Mary McKinney (GTLC Historian)