Access to some of the popular areas of Grand Teton National is limited this year.
Both photographers and park visitors will likely be affected by some of the sequester cuts in this year’s park budget. Hopefully, most of them will be limited to only the 2013 calendar year. Much of the information below has been written about in the local papers, but it might be a surprise to uninformed visitors.
Schwabacher Landing: This is a very popular location in the park. The gate is locked at the highway with signs letting people know the road is closed to both vehicle and bike traffic. Additionally, the restroom at the lower parking lot is not in service. It is still legal to walk into the area. Parking is limited at the gate, but I’ve seen as many as a dozen vehicles clustered there, mostly in the early mornings. Besides the changes above, the area has traditionally been open to hunting during the fall Elk Reduction Program. This year, the area will be closed to hunting.
Spalding Bay Access to the boat launch and camping areas: Similar to the changes at Schwabacher Landing, the area is closed to vehicle and bike traffic—common to most of the closures in this list. There is more parking in this area.
Road to Two Ocean Lake: Again, you can walk into the area, but no vehicles or bikes. This was a popular access to trails around Two Ocean Lake, Emma Matilda Lake, and Grand View Point.
Campground on Grassy Lake Road: Closed altogether.
Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center: Open June 1 to September 22 this year with shortened hours of 10 am to 6 pm. The Preserve is located four miles south of Moose on the Moose-Wilson Road with trail access to Phelps Lake and beyond. Parking is not permitted along the roadside roughly 1 mile in either direction from the Lake Creek bridge. Signs announce the 2 mile closure when going south but there is no sign advising you when you pass the 2 mile marker—nor signs when coming in from the south entrance on the Moose-Wilson Road.
Trail to the Edge of the Lake on the Jenny Lake One Way Road: A small piece of asphalt is missing on the trail down to the edge of the lake from the parking area. As a result, the Park Service closed the trail altogether. I don’t have any news on when this might be fixed and reopened.
Changes along the Gros Ventre River for 2013: In exchange for the lost hunting zones along the Snake River, the Park Service will be allowing permitted hunting on the north side of the Gros Ventre River from the old (removed) cattle guard 1/2 mile east of the 89/191–Gros Ventre Road junction to a point 1/2 mile west of the Gros Ventre Campground. The areas affected include a few of the popular pull-outs along the Gros Ventre Road. These are often filled with tourists and photographers trying to get views and photos of the moose population in the area. This year, tourists, photographers and fishermen entering this zone might be well advised to wear hunter orange vests, jackets, and hats. In theory, much of the traditional moose rut should be over by the time bullets fly, but I’ve seen moose in the river bottom until late in the year. Bears usually follow gun shots and the smells of gut piles, so an area that hasn’t been known to have many bears may soon have grizzlies roaming the river bottom. Besides the orange wear, bear spray will be advised this year. Go to the GTNP web site for more details on the Elk Reduction Program (Elk Hunt).
A Few Additional Rules in GTNP
Dogs and Pets: Pets are required to be on a leash at all times. Leashed pets can be out of vehicles alongside any road or parking area a vehicle can legally travel. But, it is illegal to carry a small dog or cat on trails. Likewise, it is illegal to take a dog or pet into river bottoms. I’ve witnessed this several times along the Gros Ventre River, usually alongside a fisherman. Leashed pets are permitted in the campgrounds, but only within the boundaries of the campground. Leashed pets are permitted on boats, but are not allowed to be on the lake shores.
Animal Viewing Distances in GTNP: I wrote a blog post earlier outlining the new updates regarding viewing distances, but it seems appropriate to post it again in this post.
GTNP COMPENDIUM UPDATE: The compendium now states, “The following activities are prohibited: a) Willfully approaching, remaining, viewing, or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or within 25 yards of any other wildlife including nesting birds; or within any distance that disturbs, displaces or otherwise interferes with the free unimpeded movement of wildlife, or creates or contributes to a potentially hazardous condition or situation. b) Failure to remove one’s self to prescribed distances during inadvertent, accidental, casual or surprise encounters with wildlife. c) Failure to comply as directed by NPS staff (employees, volunteers, or agents) engaged in administering wildlife management operations or managing wildlife viewing opportunities.”
Other Access: I’ve asked Rangers about unmarked access on numerous occasions. Each time, they’ve told me anyone can go anywhere in the park unless there are signs telling you not to go there, and you can stay as long as you want. You can read all of the rules on the Park Service site if you are not sure. There are a few areas that can get a little dicey, however. The land south of the Gros Ventre River is owned by the National Elk Refuge and is closed to all access except permitted/licensed hunters during the Elk Reduction Program. With that stated, they turn a blind eye to fishermen along the south banks, but are not tolerant of photographers on the same bank. There are winter closures along much of the Snake River, but those are usually clearly marked. On a similar note, it is legal to drive on any road that is not marked either closed or restricted. However, there are lots of remnant old two track roads in the park. From my experience, I’d suggest not going down them unless it looks well traveled and maintained.
Light Painting in GTNP: I’ve asked and double checked on this one several times, too. In GTNP, the rangers are fine with using flashlights and strobes to light landscapes and structures. But, it is always illegal to knowingly shine lights on wildlife. I was at the Mormon Row Barns one year and had a Park Ranger come up to me while I was lighting them. This happened to be during the Elk Reduction Program (Elk Hunt) period. He approached very cautiously—not sure in the darkness if I had a tripod or rifle. I had a similar experience at Schwabacher Landing one year. There have been times I called the Park Dispatch number to advise them I’d be in a certain area between specific times in case someone called in. I don’t do it every time, but during the hunt, it seems well advised.