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Recreation

Better Weather For Wyoming Ski Areas Coming In December

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The outlook for snow in Wyoming through the rest of November is not good, especially for the state’s ski areas preparing to open their lift lines for the season, according to a Wyoming meteorologist.

But that will change once December rolls around, according to Don Day, founder of Cheyenne’s DayWeather.

“While the ski areas are probably sweating bullets right now, I am bullish things will turn around in December,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And it will happen in early December.”

One of the state’s ski areas, Grand Targhee in Alta, opened for the season Wednesday with a snow base of 30 inches and 69% of the resort open for skiing.

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort planned to continue its long-standing tradition of opening for the season on Thanksgiving Day, although the terrain available for skiing would be limited, according to the ski area’s website.

“Mother Nature has been off to a slow start on the lower mountain, but with increased snowmaking capacity and a dedicated staff working around the clock, we are thrilled to open our lifts this Thursday,” Mary Kate Buckley, the area’s president, said.

Four of the state’s other ski areas — Snow King Resort in Jackson, Hogadon near Casper, Snowy Range near Centennial and Sleeping Giant near Cody — planned to open between Dec. 3 and Dec. 11, according to the website Ski Central.

Day said by the time the areas open in December, decent snow should start falling in the state’s mountains.

“About the first weekend in December, it will get much colder and the mountain snows will kick in,” he said.

Day attributed the sudden switch in weather conditions to La Nina, a weather event that occurs when temperatures on the surface of the Pacific Ocean fall to levels that are lower than normal, affecting weather globally.

“It’s very typical in a La Nina to have alternating months that can go warm and dry and then the next month it can go the opposite,” he said.

The only ski area that has not announced an opening date is White Pine near Pinedale.

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Outdoor Recreation Bolstered Wyoming’s Economy In 2020, Despite Pandemic

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Even though total income dropped, outdoor recreation still contributed 3.4% to Wyoming’s gross domestic product as park visitation numbers increased and more people took part in some outdoor activities, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

According to the bureau, the total value added by outdoor recreation to the state’s gross domestic product dropped from $1.69 billion in 2019 to $1.25 billion in 2020, with the total contribution dropping from 4.2% to 3.4% of the total. 

Employment in the sector saw a decrease from 21,344 to 14,187 but the percentage of total wages declined only 0.1%.

“Many outdoor activities saw significant growth, including snowmobiling and (off-road vehicle) riding, which saw an increase in permit sales of over 18% and 16% respectively from 2019 to 2020.”  said Chris Floyd, Manager of the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation.  “Although the overall outdoor recreation economic impact numbers declined, most of the losses in the sector were due to limits on a few activities, such as snow skiing and outdoor events, which experienced heavy impacts due to closures and other restrictions during the pandemic.”

There were also increases in the economic impact of boating and fishing by 79%, bicycling by 13%, climbing/hiking/tent camping by 6%, motorcycling and ATV riding by 5% and RV camping by 2.5%.

Wyoming state park visitation in 2020 increased by 41% over 2019 and other managers of other public lands reported similar increases in use. The growth helped increase economic activity statewide as other economic sectors saw declines during the pandemic, according to the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.

Wyoming was ranked fourth nationally in value added in both percentage of GDP and percentage of total wages in 2020, trailing only Hawaii, Vermont and Montana.

Many Wyoming businesses reported strong sales of outdoor recreation equipment and vehicles, which would have been even higher had supply chains been able to keep up with the demand, officials said.

The economic impact from snow activities, particularly at ski resorts, saw a decline of 37% or $40 million, which wiped out many gains in other recreational activities.  Equestrian activities and hunting and shooting sports also declined by 28% and 21% respectively.

“Our gross sales were up over 40% in 2020 compared to 2019 and it is continuing through (2021) where we have surpassed 2020 gross sales year to date,” said Mark Black, owner of Cycle City Wyoming, a powersports business in Evanston. “Our issue now is the supply chain, where the manufacturers are limiting not only quantities but models as well, and sometimes shipping incomplete units that are waiting on chips for instrument clusters. The demand has been pretty consistent and I don’t see it dramatically decreasing for the near future.” 

Wyoming State Parks expects next year’s BEA report to show that outdoor recreation activities played a strong role in the state’s economic rebound, particularly since most closures and travel restrictions were eased or lifted.  

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Lander Residents Divided Over ‘Giant Ladder’ For Climbing Debate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The proposed addition of what has been described as a “giant ladder” to help visitors climb a steep cliff in Sinks Canyon near Lander has many of the city’s residents divided.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, is one of the people fighting against the proposed “via ferrata,” a cable and rung system that allows users to climb steep rock faces, while resident and author Sam Lightner, Jr. is one of its most vocal supporter.

Case told Cowboy State Daily that nearly 200 signs protesting the proposed via ferrata — which means “iron path” — have popped up all over town in recent weeks.

“Everybody is opposed to the development of Sinks Canyon,” Case told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “They love Sinks Canyon. They just don’t want to see it overdeveloped.”

Sinks Canyon State Park is a somewhat small but heavily used park in Fremont County that sees several hundred thousand visitations annually. Though operated by Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department owns the majority of the park’s 585 acres.

Case noted that much of the issue isn’t with the via ferrata itself, but the proposed location, a north-facing cliff near the mouth of the canyon that is home to peregrine falcon nests.

Peregrine falcons saw a major decline in their population during the 20th century across the United States and species was listed as endangered in 1970.

However, the population began to bounce back in the 1980s and 1990s due to various conservation efforts. According to WyoFile, some opponents of the via ferrata cite the negative impact on the birds as one of the reasons to fight it.

Case said that other animals regularly pass through that canyon area as well, so the via ferrata and a proposed visitor center would have a negative impact on them.

“Ignoring the importance of this narrow section [of the canyon] to the movement of animals, State Parks intends to plug  the critical part with a new visitor center building and associated facilities,” Case wrote in an “alternative master plan” about the via ferrata. “At the same time, activity  related to improved access for the via ferrata will disturb the constricted paths on the other side of the  river, the only place animals are able to move without close human contact.”

WyoFile reported that Wyoming State Parks initiated a master plan process in 2019. Prior to that, park improvements were guided by a plan from 1975.

When the plan was released in October 2020 following more than a year of meetings, surveys, small group interviews and more, it laid out a vision of a park with better parking and more trails, a larger visitors center, more educational opportunities and augmented recreation opportunities. 

Among the proposals was the via ferrata. The idea for its construction was proposed by a group of Lander residents as a way to draw visitors and boost the town’s tourist economy.

According to a column Lightner wrote for Cowboy State Daily in April, an independent study conducted on a via ferrata built in Ouray, Colorado, concluded Lander could expect $1 million in added revenue due to increased visitation by people taking advantage of the climbing system.

Lightner sent Cowboy State Daily a new proposal for the via ferrata on Monday which suggested that it be built on the Gunky Buttress area, a sandstone wall across from the Sawmill campground on the north side of canyon’s main entry road.

The via ferrata proponents proposed that $2,000 of the donated funds for the iron path be donated to Sinks Canyon for an interpretive site at the petroglyphs at the far north end of the buttress, which would “help make the area a focus of attention in the park and enhance interest in the legacy the local tribes have in the park.”

They also suggested that a trail that continues up to a high point in the canyon would be “excellent” for an interpretive site.

“One of the things we like about the via ferrata on the northwest facing wall is that from its highpoint…you can see many of the peaks of the central Wind River Range. A trail above the Gunky Buttress location could reach a similar view point (roughly the same elevation),” the proponents wrote. “Though it would not afford great views of the central Winds, it would reveal the peaks of the southern Winds and much of the canyon could be seen. An interpretive site explaining the view and perhaps the geology and geography could be built here with a trail that links back down into the canyon and parking.”

In return for this compromise, the group asked the Sinks Canyon Wild and Friends of Sinks Canyon (two groups opposing the via ferrata) to endorse the project and asked that Sinks Canyon Wild contribute another $2,000 to the interpretive sites.

“The Sinks Canyon Via Ferrata will likely make a few Yellowstone bound tourists stop to try out what we in Fremont County already know –  Lander is a wonderful place with lots of recreation,” Lightner wrote in his April column. “Perhaps they will take in the family-friendly via ferrata, then have dinner in town, stay in a hotel, have breakfast, shop, etc. They may even find out that we are a growing center for mountain biking, or that partaking of the via ferrata is a good first step in learning to climb, which they can do in Lander. This will be done using a natural resource we have and in a way that does not harm the wildlife.”

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Laramie Peak Named One Of The Nation’s Best Hikes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The walk to the top of Laramie Peak in northern Albany County has been named as one of the top hikes in the nation by a popular travel magazine.

Last month, “Travel and Leisure” magazine named Laramie Peak as one of its top nine hikes in the United States and Canada, hailing its rugged terrain and the opportunity the trek provides to see wildlife.

“The highest and most prominent peak in the rugged state of Wyoming, Laramie is one of this list’s more rigorous hikes,” the magazine wrote. “It’s a 9.9 mile out-and-back with copious chances for wildlife sightings, including black bears, deer, and mountain lions.

“Like the La Perouse Bay trail (in Hawaii), Laramie’s base is a bit out of the way; it must be accessed by vehicle along a rough-and-tumble gravel road,” the article continued. “Its true off-the-beaten path location, however, means seclusion and mountain zen in spades. The majority of the hike is tree-covered, so fall visitors are pretty much guaranteed a colorful journey.”

The next 10 days will be a great time to see the fall colors on such hikes, according to Wyoming weatherman Don Day.

Other hikes included on the publication’s list include the aforementioned La Perouse Bay in Hawaii, Springwater on the Willamette in Portland, Oregon, and Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hikers seem to agree with the praise for the Laramie Peak trail, as it is highly rated on the website AllTrails, which documents information about hiking trails around the world. Currently, Laramie Peak has a 4.3 rating out of 5 stars on the website.

“The first (two-thirds) of the hike is moderate, as the trail has a more gradual incline in its switchbacks, is relatively free of tripping obstructions, and goes surprisingly quick. The last (one-third) of the incline is noticeably steeper and the trail is much rockier. The views at the top are amazing, and show two different landscapes. As noted, there’s a fee to utilize the path,” user Chris Nelson said.

“Excellent trail with many places to pause and see great views. The peak is a bit of a mess with abandoned equipment. The views are awesome,” user Tambra Loyd wrote.

“Incredible hike! The dirt roads to get to the trailhead aren’t too bad, a little bumpy, but any pickup or SUV can easily make it. The climb up is moderate for experienced climbers and probably hard if you’ve never climbed a mountain with over 2,500ft of elevation gain. Saw no other people on trail on a Monday morning. I did see a black bear cub at the summit so be aware of bears in area,” user Zac Rhodes wrote.

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Wyoming Offers Gorgeous Fall Colors All Over State

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The famous Aspen Alley is a narrow road off WYO 71 from Battle Mountain Pass. This photo was taken during the height of the fall colors of the Aspen Trees. Photo credit: Randy Wagner of Cheyenne.
The famous Aspen Alley is a narrow road off WYO 71 from Battle Mountain Pass. This photo was taken during the height of the fall colors of the Aspen Trees. Photo credit: Randy Wagner of Cheyenne.
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

From Cody to Cheyenne and all corners of the state, there’s basically no way you can miss the fall foliage colors in Wyoming over the next 10 days.

Wyoming weatherman Don Day told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the weekend of Sept. 25 was going to be one of the best times to see the peak of the fall colors, especially at higher elevations such as the Snowy Range Pass between Albany and Carbon counties.

“It’s hard to find a place where it’s gonna suck,” Day said.

While Wyoming may have fewer trees than most other states in the nation, the ones the state does have can produce some gorgeous colors by the time the end of September rolls around.

Day suggested some of the state’s more well known routes, such as the Snowy Range Pass and Beartooth Pass in Cody, as great options for longer drives to see tons of color.

However, he added a trip anywhere in the state will give viewers the opportunity to see the gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows of fall as the leaves prepare to hit the ground.

Aspen Alley in Carbon County is one great option, Day said.

“I know some people who will do a day trip by starting in Fort Collins, Colorado, go to Walden, Colorado, then head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado,” Day said. “Then, they will go from Steamboat to Baggs and then over to Encampment. If you’re into a really long drive, you can go from Encampment to Saratoga over Snowy Range Pass back to Cheyenne.”

One lesser-known spot Day recommended was Battle Mountain Pass between Baggs and Encampment, although he also said Ten Sleep Canyon will also be a great spot to see the fall foliage.

“I saw a picture of Aspen Mountain that’s not far from Rock Springs and it was just gorgeous,” he said. “There’s areas where you’re not going to see the colors over long stretches, but more like pockets.”

Other great spots for leaf-peeping in Wyoming this weekend include Bear River State Park near Evanston, Hot Springs State Park near Thermopolis, the Loop Road near Lander and the Star Valley Scenic Byway.

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Yellowstone, Grand Teton Officially Have Busiest First Quarter Ever

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The claims that both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are seeing more visitors than ever before this summer have been confirmed by a state report.

A report on the economic indicators for the first quarter of 2021 issued by the Wyoming Departmetn of Administration and Information shows tourism numbers have skyrocketed in the state this year compared to 2020.

Both parks saw more than a 20% increase in visitations through March of 2021, with Yellowstone seeing 107,846 visitors in the first quarter (up 20.7% compared to last year) and Grand Teton seeing 194,447 visitors (up 22.8% compared to last year).

“Visitation figures for both national parks were the highest recorded for the first quarter in history,” the report said, noting that this was attributed to people wanting to spend time outdoors during the pandemic, while coronavirus cases also trended downward.

Lodging sales in Teton County were up 27.9% compared to last year and up 16.4% for the state as a whole.

According to a National Park Service report, more than 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park last year and spent more than $444 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 6,110 jobs in the area near Yellowstone, which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million.

Overall, about 7.1 million people visited all the national parks in Wyoming in 2020, spending an estimated $859 million in “gateway” regions, communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported a total of 11,300 jobs, generating $333 million in labor income $604 million in “value added” — the difference between the production cost of an item and its sale price — and $1 billion in economic output in the Wyoming economy.

The majority of these jobs were divided among restaurants, lodging and “secondary effect” businesses.

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Colorado Parks Staff Catch Man Dumping Human Waste, Make Him Clean It Up

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

We shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t dump (pun intended) human or any other type of waste in streams, lakes or other public bodies of water. It’s gross.

But a man in Colorado was busted doing exactly this on Monday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff.

“This man was caught dumping bags of human waste from his camp latrine in a high mountain stream,” said a tweet from Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeast office. “Charges were filed for littering public lands after wildlife officer Joe Nicholson supervised him cleaning up the waste.”

The post included two photos, one showing the man in question (although from behind) while he was cleaning up trash in a stream, which is a part of Clear Creek not far outside of Denver.

A follow-up post from the department said that Nicholson wanted to remind people who were camping or recreating in the Clear Creek area and other wildlife spots, to not use natural landscapes or water as a toilet or personal dump.

The man cited received a court summons and a judge will decide the fine for dumping waste in the stream.

According to the National Park Service, people recreating outdoors should use park toilet facilities when possible. Otherwise, they should deposit solid human waste in holes dug six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. The holes should be covered and disguised when finished.

People should pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.

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Gordon Dedicating $6M For Wyoming Parks, Historic Sites

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Up to $6.5 million of Wyoming’s remaining CARES Act funds will be used to fund expansions at Wyoming’s state parks and historic sites, Gov. Mark Gordon has announced.

This money will be used to add camping facilities to allow more visitors to spend more time outside, boosting the state’s tourism industry and addressing park overcrowding caused by the pandemic, Gordon said.

“Expanding outdoor recreation opportunities will benefit the state, and will provide an immediate return on investment,” Gordon said. “The public appreciated the fact that our parks remained open last year, providing a healthy option to relieve the stress of the pandemic. Strengthening our state park system is important to Wyoming’s long-term economic health as well.”

The funds will be used to increase overnight camping capacity at the state’s parks by 18% to meet the significant increase in demand Wyoming state parks have seen since 2020. A portion of the funds will also be used to expand day-use areas and add picnic shelters and parking space.

Wyoming state parks saw a 36% increase in visitation in 2020, which translated to more than 1.4 million additional visitors. Visitors exceeded capacity limits at most sites. 

“As Wyoming continues to be a top outdoor destination for tourists, we are seeing campsites, lodging and other amenities nearly booked for the summer, especially throughout state parks,” said Diane Shober, executive director for the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “This is a great opportunity to meet summer travel demand while continuing to offer visitors and residents alike a memorable outdoor adventure.”

Wyoming state parks produce an annual economic impact of approximately $1.5 billion, according to the preliminary draft of an economic impact study from the University of Wyoming. 

The increase in visitation seen last year is expected to continue in 2021 based on this season’s campsite reservations.

State Parks Director Darin Westby emphasized that the additional campsites and added day-use facilities will be added quickly to the parks to provide additional opportunities to visitors this summer. These facilities may initially be temporary, but will continue to be improved upon as additional funds become available. 

“We have an amazing team and they are excited and working very hard to offer these additional campsites, developed to get people outdoors and recreating to help achieve the agency’s mission of impacting communities and enhancing lives” Westby said.   

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Yellowstone, Grand Teton Tourism Supports 11K Jobs, Creates $800M In Spending

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

More than 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park last year and spent more than $444 million in communities near the park, according to a new National Park Service report.

That spending supported 6,110 jobs in the area near Yellowstone, which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million, according to the report.

The spending analysis was conducted by economists with the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Overall, about 7.1 million people visited national parks in Wyoming and spent an estimated $859 million in “gateway” regions, communities within 60 miles of a national park.

While this is the lowest amount of spending Wyoming has seen since 2014, national parks were closed for nearly two months in 2020, from mid-March to mid-May, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This spending supported a total of 11,300 jobs, generating $333 million in labor income $604 million in “value added” — the difference between the production cost of an item and its sale price — and $1 billion in economic output in the Wyoming economy. The majority of these jobs were divided among restaurants, lodging and “secondary effect” businesses.

The lodging sector had the highest amount of spending, with $310 million. Restaurants followed, making $151 million last year.

The lowest amount of tourism spending went to camping, just under $33 million.

Nationally, the report showed that $14.5 billion was spent by more than 237 million park visitors across the U.S. This spending supported 234,000 jobs nationally, and 194,400 of those jobs were found in gateway communities. The nation’s cumulative economic benefit was $28.6 billion.

In 2019, Wyoming saw $924 million in visitor spending. However, last year’s economic output was comparable to years prior, down by just $1 million compared to 2017 through 2019.

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Yellowstone Visits Up By 50% On Memorial Day From 2019

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Continuing towards what officials are predicting will be a record year for visitor numbers, Yellowstone National Park saw a 50% increase in visitors over Memorial Day weekend this year compared to 2019.

From May 28 to May 31, the park saw 43,416 vehicles come through. Visitation on all four days individually increased over the same time period in 2019, but the best day was May 28, with an 80% increase compared to two years before.

The most vehicles went through the north, south and west gates.

In 2019, the park saw 28,890 vehicles over Memorial Day weekend.

Figures from 2019 are the most recent available, as not all of the park’s gates were open during Memorial Day weekend of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Visits to Yellowstone since it reopened to the public last summer have regularly been exceeding averages, with the park reporting multiple times last year that it had some of its best months on record.

According to Rick Hoeninghausen with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which operates the lodging and restaurant properties in Yellowstone, Americans are going to be flocking to the park this summer.

“Domestic demand has increased because of circumstances and from where I sit, demand for trips to Yellowstone is as high as ever,” he previously told Cowboy State Daily. “I think it’s safe to say, (American travelers have) offset any international demand that’s not there now.”

Justin Walters of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce said lodging properties in the area are already booked for the entire summer. And he added that a shortage of rental cars has visitors driving all the way to Salt Lake City to meet their transportation needs.

Last year was a record-breaker for the entire state in terms of visitation, with parking lots overflowing and campsites booked solid as people sought respite from strict lockdowns in other states.

Gary Schoene, public information office manager for Wyoming State Parks, said park officials don’t know if this year will be quite as busy, but officials are expecting plenty of visitors.

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Yellowstone Could Have Record Year Despite Loss of 1 Million International Tourists

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

As restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus begin to relax, changes are being seen across the country.

People can travel. Choirs can sing. Tour buses can take full loads of visitors to places like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

But experts in the state’s hospitality industry are noticing a difference in who is traveling this year — they are all Americans.

Hospitality ventures in Wyoming such as hotels and restaurants have always expected a portion of their summer business to come from international tourists.

But not this year.

“You know, two years ago, before the whole COVID thing started happening, we were seeing right at 1 million internationals — Asian communities specifically — coming to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton area,” says Justin Walters at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.

Tourists from Asian countries make up a large portion of the international presence in the communities surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. A report compiled by the National Park Service in 2016 showed that international visitors that year were from 25 countries and comprised 17% of total visitation to the park, estimated at 4.25 million.

European visitors accounted for 49% of the international traffic, 34% came from China and 10% came from Canada.

So the absence of those international visitors is felt, especially by small businesses who have come to rely on tour buses filled with foreign travelers.

China Town Buffet in Cody is one of the businesses that are magnets for the Asian tour buses, with the majority of those buses carrying Chinese citizens. In a post-COVID world, those buses are not in the picture this year, according to Shu Fang, a spokeswoman for the restaurant.

“Every day, I would have buses, sometimes I have three buses, sometimes four buses a day,” she said. Usually, Shu said, buses start arriving in May and go through September.

But not this year.

That doesn’t mean that China Town is deserted, by any means, she added.

“I mean like, we still operate the business,” she said. “We have tourists from our country, traveling, but we just don’t have Chinese buses. And so we’re really making less money.”

However, according to Rick Hoeninghausen with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which operates the lodging and restaurant properties in Yellowstone, Americans this summer are more than making up for the lack of international visitors.

“Domestic demand has increased because of circumstances and from where I sit, demand for trips to Yellowstone is as high as ever,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say, (American travelers have) offset any international demand that’s not there now.”

And Walters pointed out the lack of international tourists is in some ways a blessing, given the labor shortage affecting Jackson and other tourism communities.

“We just went through a big email chain of how stressed the community already is worker-wise,” he said. “I mean, no one’s willing to work, we do not have housing for the workers, and restaurants, hotels, all these businesses are very, very much overrun with tourism already. I’m not saying we don’t want it, but the thing is, there’s got to be that balance.” 

Walters said lodging properties in the area are already booked for the entire summer. And he added that a shortage of rental cars has visitors driving all the way to Salt Lake City to meet their transportation needs.

“Even our outlier communities are getting pressure – campgrounds within 80 miles of us are full that really never had filled before,” he explains. 

In a community expecting close to 5 million visitors — without Asian and other international tourists — Walters said this tourist season could put a strain on the hospitality industry.

“I would be scared to death to see what would happen if you add another million on top of what’s already coming,” he said. 

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Grand Teton Saw Busiest April on Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park saw its busiest April in recorded history this year, with 87,739 recreation visits last month.

This is a 48% increase over figures from April 2019, the most recent available because of the park’s closure last April due to the coronavirus.

The list below shows April recreation visits over the last several years:
2021—87,739
2020—Closed
2019—59,105
2018—60,541
2017—58,403

Park staff are working to provide quality visitor experiences in the face of what officials predict will be a busy summer season.

Despite last year’s closure through the spring, the park hosted 3,289,639 visits in 2020, the fourth highest number of recreation visits for one year in the park’s history, according to the National Park Service. The park was closed from March 24 to May 18 due to health and safety concerns.

Compared to 2019, total recreation visits for the year declined by only 3.4%.

Visitors to the park are highly encouraged to plan ahead and recreate responsibly in order to make the most of their visit and to help ensure this iconic landscape may be enjoyed by future generations.

Park employees will also collect data and conduct visitation studies to better understand changing visitation trends in the park.

Consistent with CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks inside park facilities or outdoors. A person is considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after receiving the final dose of the vaccine.

Those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

Visitors to Grand Teton are encouraged to “do your part” and recreate responsibly. Visitors are also encouraged to know they will have a place to stay overnight upon arrival. Reservations are required for all park campgrounds and can be booked on Recreation.gov.

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Barrasso Introduces Bill Allowing People to Share Videos of Public Lands On Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso introduced a bill this week that would allow people to share videos recorded on public lands on social media, something they’re not technically allowed to do at this point.

The legislation, the Federal Interior Land Media Act, is intended to modernize film permitting on public lands in order to keep pace with changing technology and social media, Barrasso said. It also eliminates burdensome and unnecessary regulations.

“Wyoming is home to some of the most beautiful national parks and public lands in the country. Americans should be able to fully enjoy them and share their experiences,” said Barrasso, who introduced the legislation Thursday. “The FILM Act will streamline the permitting process for filming on public lands. It gives outdoorsmen and women the ability to share their adventures without having to deal with burdensome red tape. The FILM Act allows Americans across the nation to experience all that Wyoming has to offer.” 

Commercial film and photographic activities on federal public lands now requires specific permits and fees and technically, by sharing photos on social media, the people who record videos on public land without obtaining a permit can be subject to punishment.

Barrasso’s bill would exempt certain video, digital and audio recording activities from fees and permitting, put uniform rules for such activities in place across all federal lands and streamline permit processing, when permits are considered necessary.

It would specifies that fees are not be required for commercial or non-commercial content creation, regardless of the distribution platform, as long as the filming takes place at a location where the public is allowed, complies with rules and laws, is conducted in a manner that doesn’t disturb wildlife or other visitors and involves groups of fewer than 10.

Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, praised Barrasso’s work in introducing the act.

“We live in an age when people from all walks of life can share their adventure stories in a virtual environment,” she said. “The FILM Act will guarantee that the people who visit Wyoming’s parks and public lands can record and share their stories online and through social media without asking the government for permission. I feel like this is a really good bill and will bring us forward to the 21st century.”

Grand Teton, National Park Service Restoring Mormon Row, Pink House

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation are joining forces to preserve and stabilize a historic property on Mormon Row inside of the park.

The John Moulton property, including the “Pink House,” will be closed to the public from now until mid-summer due to preservation activities.

The project will include structural foundation work to stabilize the Pink House and its iconic stucco, serving to improve the visitor experience through preservation of this important historic landscape.

Preservation and conservation professionals completed analyses of the building’s condition recently and concluded that preservation efforts should begin soon.

Specialists with the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center will be responsible for the temporary removal, documentation and storage of the building’s stucco skirt and brick chimney. A contractor will move the building off its existing foundation, pour a new foundation and then reattach the structure.

Additional preservation on the homestead, including a full stucco preservation project, roof replacement and rebuilding of the chimney, will occur over the next several years.

The Pink House is a 1.5-story historic home constructed in 1938. It retains a high level of historic integrity with original doors, windows, cabinetry, wallpaper, flooring and woodwork.

The house is surrounded by a historic barn, bunkhouse, several other outbuildings and cultural landscape elements including irrigation ditches, corrals and fencing.

Work at the Pink House marks the beginning of a multi-year public-private partnership project between the National Park Service and Grand Teton National Park Foundation to preserve the entire Mormon Row Historic District.

The multimillion dollar effort will address preservation needs and improve the ways visitors learn about the legacy of the district.

In 2018, the foundation was instrumental in efforts by the National Park Service acquiring a 1-acre parcel, the last privately held land along Mormon Row. The structures on the property are being used for park seasonal employee housing.

Improved visitor services, such as a pedestrian connection between properties on Mormon Row, walkway, toilet and additional parking, was constructed in 2016.

The Mormon Row Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It offers visitors an opportunity to connect with the history of the park and understand the difficulty and isolation associated with historic settlement in Jackson Hole, as well as experience the scenic beauty of the Tetons.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, established homesteads east of Blacktail Butte beginning in the 1890s. The community of Grovont was created, today known as Mormon Row. The homesteaders clustered their farms to share labor and build community, a stark contrast with isolation typical of many western homesteads.

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Grand Teton Opening Facilities For Summer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park is beginning to open its seasonally-operated facilities for the summer season.

The park is working to protect employee and visitor health while meeting the National Park Service mission of providing for visitors and protecting park resources, officials said. Most visitor facilities and services will be open with restrictions to limit the number of people in the areas and provide for social distancing.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center will open for the season on Saturday and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Teton Park Road and Moose-Wilson Road will also open to vehicles on Saturday.

The Colter Bay Visitor Center will open May 7 and will also operate 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Grand Teton is implementing preventive measures and mitigation actions to reduce the spread of infectious disease. The park is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic and will adjust operations as needed.

Park visitor centers will be open with limited capacity visitor services. The park is also working in collaboration with concession operators to safely provide visitor services for the 2021 season.

Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and prepare for upcoming summer trips to the park. They are also encouraged to do their part and recreate responsibly.

How to recreate responsibly in Grand Teton:

  • Plan ahead and know you will have a place to stay overnight. Reservations are required for all campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park. Camping in the park is only allowed in designated sites within designated campgrounds. Camping is not permitted along roadsides, at overlooks, pullouts, trailheads or other parking areas.
  • Park visitors will be responsible to take preventive actions as they enjoy the park. To protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and facilities, face masks are required in all National Park Service buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on National Park Service-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as hiking trails, overlooks, and parking areas.
  • Black and grizzly bears are active in Grand Teton, including in developed areas. Be alert, make noise when hiking, hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray and know how to use it. Federal regulations require that you stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife. View wildlife through a telephoto lens, spotting scope, or a pair of binoculars. Give wildlife room, use your zoom. Food storage is required. All food, garbage, pet food, coolers, food containers (empty or full) and cookware (clean or dirty) must be stored in a hard-sided vehicle with the windows rolled up or in a bear-resistant food locker when not in immediate use.
  • Dispose of trash properly. Follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out what you bring in, including all trash, masks, and left-over food. Recycling is available throughout the park.
  • Dogs are not permitted on trails, pathways or inside visitor centers. In addition, dogs are prohibited from swimming in any park waters. Dog owners are required to use a leash no longer than six feet in length and are required to clean up after their dogs. A good rule of thumb is that a pet may go anywhere a car may go including roads, road shoulders, campgrounds, picnic areas and parking lots.
  • Help prevent wildfires. Campfires are limited to designated and installed fire rings and/or grills. All campfires should always be attended to. Visitors could be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire. All campfires must be completely extinguished before leaving a site. Campers and day users should have a shovel on hand and a water bucket ready for use. Soak, stir, feel, repeat. Make sure your campfire is “dead out” and cold to the touch before departing.
  • Slow down and be vigilant while driving in the park, especially at dawn, dusk and at night when visibility is reduced. Wildlife is often active near park roadways and can cross the roads unexpectedly. Give wildlife a brake. Obey posted speed limits and maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles.

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Conde Nast Traveler Names Curt Gowdy “Best State Park In Wyoming”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A travel magazine has declared Curt Gowdy State Park as Wyoming’s best.

Conde Nast Traveler, a luxury lifestyle and travel magazine, recently published its list of the best state parks in all 50 states, and Curt Gowdy State Park in southeastern Wyoming was named as the state’s best offering.

“Visitors looking for a more relaxed adventure can float onto one of the park’s three reservoirs or hang out in one of its twelve developed campgrounds,” the magazine said. “Perfectly positioned between Cheyenne and Fort Laramie, Curt Gowdy was recently labeled as ‘epic’ by the International Mountain Biking Association, with over 35 miles of well-marked trails that both bikers and hikers are free to explore.”

The park covers nearly 4,000 acres in Laramie and Albany counties.

Curt Gowdy State Park was established in 1971, but was originally called Granite State Park. It was renamed after sportscaster and Wyoming native Curt Gowdy, who was born in Green River and began his career in Cheyenne.

The park sees tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Wyoming has a total of 12 state parks, including Curt Gowdy.

Other parks on the Conde Nast list included Colorado’s State Forest State Park (which is a totally not weird name), Nebraska’s Smith Falls State Park, South Dakota’s Custer State Park and Montana’s Makoshika State Park.

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2020 Was Grand Teton National Park’s Fourth-Best Year In History

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park had one of its best years for visitation in recorded history last year, despite the fact the coronavirus pandemic forced its closure for nearly two months.

The park hosted 3,289,639 visits last year, the fourth highest number of recreation visits for one year in the park’s history, according to the National Park Service. The park was closed from March 24 to May 18 due to health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.

Compared to 2019, total recreation visits decreased by only 3.4%, despite the pandemic. 

“National parks and public lands were extremely important to everyone this past year, providing fresh air, open space and respite from the pandemic. We anticipate that we will see continued high interest in visiting Grand Teton National Park,” park superintendent Chip Jenkins said.

The top five years for recreation visits in Grand Teton National Park are:

  • 2018                  3,491,151
  • 2019                  3,405,614
  • 2017                  3,317,000
  • 2020                  3,289,639
  • 2016                  3,270,076

Always ranked among the top 10 national parks for recreation visits, Grand Teton National Park was the fifth highest for visitation in 2020, moving up from eighth in 2019. In 2020, the National Park Service recorded 237 million recreation visits at all of its parks, down more than 90 million visits (27.6%) from 2019.

Yellowstone National Park had an estimated 3,806,306 recreation visits and moved from sixth place in 2019 to second place in 2020 – a place it has not held since 1947.

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New Public Roadway In Sublette Range Will Allow Access to 33K Acres of Land

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new public road being installed this summer will allow people access to more than 32,900 acres of public land in the Sublette Mountain range in western Wyoming.

The agreement, targeted to take effect in the summer, will create a permanent public roadway and a parking area linked to the Groo Canyon trail from Highway 30 north of Cokeville near the Wyoming-Idaho border.

Once finalized, the new entry point will allow access across private ranchland to lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management known as the Raymond Mountain Wilderness Study Area and additional state and federal lands beyond that.

“Creating and improving public access is key to who we are as an organization and our mission,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “There is currently limited access to the west side of the Sublette Range. This action will change that.”

Historically, elk management has been particularly difficult in the Sublette Range because of limited public access. The new agreement will allow improved hunter access and opportunity, thus allowing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to better attain population management objectives for elk, deer, moose, mountain lions and black bears.

“As the Wyoming Game and Fish Department evaluates and pursues access projects, we look for opportunities that will have a substantial positive impact for our constituents and we feel the Raymond Mountain Public Access Area will provide that,” said Sean Bibbey, Game and Fish lands branch chief. “The department looks forward to developing this area for use by the public in the coming year and we want to thank RMEF and the other partners on this project for their hard work and support to make this opportunity happen.”

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Yellowstone Snowmobile Guides Say Season Is Busiest Ever

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park is a popular tourist destination for people around the globe, especially in summer. But in winter, the scenery – and the sounds – are quite different.

Gary and Dede Fales have run a hunting guide business for over 25 years, and part of their operation is renting out – and guiding – snowmobile tours during the winter months; they are the only licensed snowmobile guides in Cody. 

The Fales have two guides that work for them and can take up to 13 snowmobiles into the park each day – either to Old Faithful and West Yellowstone for an overnight stay, or for a day trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and occasionally up to Chico Hot Springs in Montana. Dede said this year is the busiest ever.

“People are learning about us more, they know they can go in the east entrance, it’s a beautiful way to go in,” she said. “The south entrance and the west entrance, for the most part, there are winter wonderlands over there, and so they have a big winter season for skiing – especially the south entrance. But snowmobiling is really big in West Yellowstone, and they fill up very quickly, they’re sort of hubs for skiing and snowmobiling. So we have people calling, saying … ‘I’m at West Yellowstone, how long does it take to get there to go on a snowmobile trip?’”

Because of the pandemic, outdoor recreation has gained popularity – and both Gary and Dede say that’s been a boost for them this winter.

“They can’t go to Europe very easy, or Mexico, so everybody’s vacationing in the United States,” said Gary. “And there’s a lot of people out here looking around, plus there’s a lot of people wanting to buy property out here, so this is a good experience for them while they’re out looking for land.”

“There are a lot of people in Cody who have come to get away from the city, where they’re locked down,” Dede added. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who are in Cody for a month, renting a house, children aren’t in school so they’re learning remotely, and they’re able to work remotely, and they’re looking for things to do outside.”

And Dede pointed out that this year, the winter season has been extended two weeks beyond the closing date that the east entrance has observed for the last 13 years.

Back in 2008, the National Park Service determined that Sylvan Pass, which must be crossed in order to access the park from the east entrance, was too dangerous at certain points in the season due to the possibility of avalanches. 

But mitigation efforts have been successful and beginning this year, the Park Service is allowing the east entrance to open one week earlier and close one week later — meaning it is open the same number of days as the other entrances. And that’s a big deal for the Fales’ business.

“So we open the 15th instead of the 22nd of December now, and we get to stay open through the 15th of March, which is huge,” Dede said. That’s really nice. And so many people want to go in the Park in March, and they haven’t been able to from the east entrance. So now they’re able to.”

Dede pointed out that you don’t have to go with a guide, you could just rent a snowmobile from them, but she said that those opportunities are much more limited.

Because park regulations limit snowmobiles in the park to those with the “Best Available Technology” – meaning they must have low emissions, low noise and less impact on the environment – access to Yellowstone in winter is much more restricted than it used to be.

“They have a very short list of the snowmobiles that you’re able to take in the park, and most people don’t own those because they’re just touring machines,” Dede noted. “So now you have to go in with an outfitter, or rent a snowmobile from us that’s allowed in the park.”

For several years, snowmobile access to Yellowstone was limited to guided tours only – but since 2017, permits have become available for unguided snowmobile access, although Park Service regulations state that only one group of up to five snowmobiles can enter the park from each of its four winter entrances per day.

However, Dede said that restriction is actually a bonus for them.

“It has helped our business, because it’s just another group that doesn’t want to go with a guide, that want to go on their own, that’s coming to us to rent snowmobiles,” she said. “You know, it’s nice, because all of these people that want to be in the park, don’t want a guide, can now go on their own.”

Winter in Yellowstone really is a magical experience, and the Fales say that’s what draws people year after year.

“To be on a snowmobile and drive right over the pass and into the park and along the river, right by the animals is a unique experience,” Dede said.

“Yellowstone is a pristine place,” Gary added. “It’s got all the history, and the beautiful country and lakes, and – you know, you get up there in the morning just as the sun’s hitting the top of those mountains and it’s really nice.”

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Devils Tower Sees Record Visitation Numbers This Year Despite Pandemic

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Devils Tower National Monument has seen record monthly visitation numbers this year despite being closed for nearly two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Devils Tower hosted 9,005 recreation visits in November, up 110% from November 2019. This was the busiest November on record and the third month in row of record visitation at the Tower.

Through November, the park recorded 420,330 recreation visits for 2020, down just 7% from the same period in 2019 despite the fact the country’s first national monument was closed from March 25 through May 21 due to health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.

Beginning in August, park visitation increased rapidly, with September, October and November seeing record visitor numbers.

Early winter visitation has continued to follow the upward trend, even though the season is typically very quiet, monument officials said.

The list below shows month to month recreation visits for the period between August through November compared to the same time in 2019.

August
2019 – 100,207
2020 – 113,593

September – record visitation
2019 –62,469
2020 – 68,726

October – record visitation
2019 –17,290
2020 – 29,908

November – record visitation
2019 – 4,294
2020 – 9,005

Visitors are encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for face coverings, physical distancing, and hand washing while visiting Devils Tower.

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Free New Year’s Day Hikes To Be Held Across Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Those looking to get a head start on their New Year’s resolutions can start off 2021 on the right foot with the annual First Day Hike at state parks on New Year’s Day.

However, there will be a few changes implemented this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Participants will be asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines and pre- and post-hike refreshments will not be made available as in the past due to coronavirus concerns.

However, members of the public are encouraged to bring their own snacks and hot beverages.

This year, 11 New Year’s Day guided hikes and walks will be offered at state park and historic site venues, held in conjunction with similar hikes held in all 50 states as a part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.

This is the 10th consecutive year Wyoming is offering free First Day Hikes.

Park staff and volunteers will lead this year’s hikes, which will range in distance from 1/2 to 3.5 miles.

Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website.

In Wyoming, hikes will be offered at the following locations and times:

Bear River State Park – Approx. 1-2-mile hike in the park on easy terrain, meet at Bear River State Park Visitor Center, 10 a.m., 307-789-6547

Boysen State Park – Two-mile hike through moderate to difficult terrain, meet at park headquarters, 10 a.m., 307-876-2796

Buffalo Bill State Park – Four-mile hike on easy terrain, meet at Hayden Arch Bridge (1.5 miles out of town on Old Yellowstone Hwy.), 9 a.m., 307-587-9227

Curt Gowdy State Park – Two-mile hike on easy to moderate terrain, meet at Curt Gowdy Visitor Center, 11 a.m., 307-632-7946

Fort Bridger State Historic Site – One-mile hike on easy terrain, meet at Post Trader’s Store, 1 p.m., 307-782-3842

Pioneer Museum – The hike distance will be an easy one-mile hike around the fairgrounds; meet at WY Pioneer Memorial Museum lobby at 10 am, afterwards join the group for hot chocolate and coffee to warm up in the Museum lobby, 307-358-9288

Guernsey State Park – 3.5-mile hike, start and end at the Castle, 10 a.m., 307-836-2334

Hot Springs State Park – Easy ½-mile or more difficult one-mile hikes, meet at the Chamber Office, 11 a.m., 307-864-2176

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site – One-mile hike over easy terrain, meet in main parking lot, 10 a.m., 307-469-2234

Sinks Canyon State Park – One-mile hike on easy to moderate terrain, meet at Nature Trail parking lot, 1 p.m., 307-332-6333

South Pass City State Historic Site – Two-mile hike, meet at Dance Hall, 1 p.m., 307-332-3684

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Grand Teton National Park Sees Highest October Visitation On Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Continuing the trend from late summer, Grand Teton National Park again saw record-breaking visitation numbers, this time through the month of October.

The park hosted an estimated 351,173 recreational visits over October, an 88% increased compared to October 2019. Statistics show that this October saw the highest number of recreation visits on record for the month.

The list below shows the October trend for recreation visits over the last several years:

  • 2020—351,173
  • 2019—186,487
  • 2018—207,534
  • 2017—187,499
  • 2016—186,185
  • 2015—190,681

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park are reminded to plan ahead and recreate responsibly.

The park highly encourages visitors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state authorities, by maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing a face covering when in buildings and high-visitation areas outside. 

The park saw an estimated 603,789 recreation visits in September, a 17% increase compared to September 2019. 

In general, hiking use in the park increased approximately 54%, camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 24% and backcountry camping increased 79% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. 

In August, the park hosted an estimated 710,198 visits, the second-highest number of recreation visits on record, just behind August 2017.

Yellowstone National Park has also seen record-breaking numbers over the last few months, setting all-time visitation records in September and October, as well.

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Yellowstone Sets Another Milestone With Busiest October In Recorded History

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Continuing a trend seen throughout the fall, Yellowstone National Park smashed another visitation record, reporting its busiest October in recorded history.

The park hosted 360,034 recreation visits in October, up 110% from October 2019. October’s visitation numbers also exceeded the previous record of 252,013 set in 2015 by 43%

The park hosted 837,499 recreation visits in September, a 21% increase from September 2019.

August was the second-busiest on record for the area — with visitor numbers coming in at 881,543, second only to 2017, the year of the total solar eclipse.

The park has hosted 3,743,907 visits so far this year, down 6% from the same period last year. However, the park was closed due to health and safety reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic beginning March 24 until mid-May, when its two Wyoming entrances opened.

All five of the entrances were opened on June 1, and the park has been completely open since then.

Here are the park’s year-to-date visitation numbers through October for the last several years:

  • 2020 – 3,743,907
  • 2019 – 3,979,153
  • 2018 – 4,078,771
  • 2017 – 4,084,762
  • 2016 – 4,212,782
  • 2015 – 4,066,191

All roads in Yellowstone, with one exception, are closed to automobile traffic from early November to late April.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, is open year-round, weather-permitting.

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Grand Teton Sees Increase In Visits In August, Despite Pandemic

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Grand Teton National Park has seen an increase in visits in the last month, with its August numbers posting a 1.2% increase compared to the same period last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, the park hosted an estimated 710,198 visits, the second-highest number of recreation visits on record, just behind August 2017, the park announced this week.

The visits over the last five years have fluctuated:

  • August 2010: 710,198
  • August 2019: 702,022
  • August 2018: 692,074
  • August 2017: 716,690
  • August 2016: 633,657
  • August 2015: 651,245

Over the summer, the Grand Teton hiking trails in the park have increased daily traffic and all campgrounds in the park have filled earlier each day compared to previous summers, according to officials.

In general, hiking in the park increased approximately 26% and camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 13 compared to August 2019. However, backcountry camping was down 10% this year.

Although August saw a slight increase in visits compared to last year, July saw a 3% decrease compared to the year prior, only hosting 755,762 visits this year.

The trend is similar to one seen in Yellowstone National Park, where the number of visitors in July grew by 2% over 2019 figures to total 955,645.

However, Yellowstone’s year-to-date attendance through the end of July was down by 27.5% from the same period in 2019.

Yellowstone’s August visitation figures will not be available until later this month.

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Winds Cause Major Tree Carnage At Bridger-Teton National Forest

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A major windstorm at the Bridger-Teton National Forest this week has downed hundreds of trees throughout the area, causing many trails to be closed for a time.

Wind gusts were measured at more than 60 mph during the windstorm on Monday, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service. All of the forest roads on the Pinedale Ranger District have been cleared, but there are still hundreds of trees down across trails.

The Big Sandy Lodge southeast of Pinedale is currently closed because of the damage. It is 4 miles from the Big Sandy Trailhead north on the Continental Divide Trail. It took hikers seven hours to cover the 4-mile stretch due to downed trees. the Forest Service reported.

At the Pole Creek Trailhead near Fremont Lake, hundreds of trees have been blown down, covering the trail’s first 2.5 miles. At the Miller Park turnoff, there downed trees created a massive blockage that is impassable.

About 100 downed trees have been counted in the 10-mile Highline Trail south from the Green River Lakes to Three Forks Park.

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Sublette County Search And Rescue Sees Death, Multiple Lost Over Labor Day Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Sublette County volunteer search and rescue team Tip Top had a busy holiday weekend responding to a number of calls, according to a Facebook post this week by one of the all-volunteer force’s members.

The action began Saturday with a call from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office asking for assistance with a climbing fatality on Pingora Peak. A woman climber fell approximately 400 feet off of the South Buttress.

The precursor to the Labor Day storm was bringing strong winds to the area, so members of Tip Top’s short haul team had to carefully work their way into the Cirque of Towers to drop off two members to assess and assist the fallen climber and her partner.

Although Tip Top members performed CPR for more than half an hour, the climber had succumbed to her injuries from the fall and was pronounced dead at the scene. Due to strong winds in the area, the decision was ultimately made to wait until the early hour of Sunday to retrieve the woman’s body.

On Sunday, the team successfully loaded the climber into a transport and rendezvoused with Fremont County officials.

Late Saturday night, Tip Top volunteers received reports of two separate cases of altitude sickness in the mountains of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Both of the people were ill and unable to walk out of the forest due to exhaustion and dehydration.

Late Sunday evening, another person reported experiencing altitude sickness and was unable to walk from the Dad’s Lake area due to extreme illness and dehydration. Tip Top team members were flown in Monday to assess the man’s condition and he was ultimately flown to the Pinedale Medical Clinic.

On Tuesday, two emergency calls came in from separate parties who needed to be rescued from the aftermath of the wind and snowstorm on Monday.

“The aftermath of the storm would present many challenges for the SAR team and plans changed hourly as more information was gathered of the damage the wind had created in the tree-covered access trails,” the post said.

One hiker’s tent was shredded by the wind, leaving him exposed to snow, ice and low temperatures. The other call was from a father and daughter on horses near Crescent Lake who became concerned for their safety during the night with the intense winds.

At this time, trails became impassable due to trees being knocked down. So a 10-person team was assembled early Tuesday to access the wilderness boundary near Wolf Lake.

The hiker with the shredded tent was found alive midday Tuesday, although extremely cold.

The father/daughter team later turned their emergency message back to “OK,” but a helicopter later saw a man with a string of horses on Scab Creek Trail. The trail was blocked by a number of downed trees around him.

His daughter made her way down the trail and was ultimately reunited with her father, and the entire party got out of the mountains.

The helicopter was also used by the Fremont County sheriff to rescue nine individuals stranded due to snow and low temperatures. After three trips, all nine were recovered.

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Man Dies In Boating Accident At Glacier National Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Montana man died in a boating accident at Glacier National Park over the weekend.

According to the National Park Service, Ronald Newton, 62, died after falling into the water when his pontoon boat flipped Saturday.

A Park Service news release said Glacier rangers responded to a report of a medical emergency near Glacier Run on the North Fork of the Flathead River.

After traveling about 2 miles upriver to Fool Hen Rapids, rangers found air ambulance staff working to revive Newton, a resident of Columbia Falls, Montana.

According to witnesses, Newton was part of a group floating the river Saturday. When two pontoon boats tied together became stuck on a rock, Newton tried to free them from his own boat. When his pontoon boat flipped, he was submerged in the water.

A friend recovered Newton from the water and several bystanders initiated CPR on a nearby gravel bar. Reports indicate he wasn’t wearing a personal flotation device or helmet at the time of the accident.

Bystanders and medics performed CPR for more than one hour, but Newton died at the scene.

His cause of death is still undetermined.

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Boaters Keep Capsizing, Getting Pinned At Snake River In Grand Teton

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After eight boating mishaps on the Snake River required rescue operations by Grand Teton National Park staff in one month, staff members are reminding boaters to know their skill levels and put on a personal flotation device before getting out on the water.

Not only have there been eight incidents requiring park assistance, but “several” more that resulted in capsized or pinned vessels that were resolved with the assistance of partners or private boaters and without park personnel, according to a National Park Service news release.

Several boats have been sunk by or become tangled up in midstream log jams because their operators were boating outside their skill level, the release said. These instances can prove dangerous or even fatal.

One accident saw both occupants of a boat fall into the water after the boat hit a log jam. They were swept under the log jam, resurfaced and were swept under a second time. National Park Service officials said the two survived only because they were wearing life jackets.

While no deaths or serious injuries have resulted from the accidents, the Park Service news release noted there have been a number of close calls over the last month. Almost all of the incidents have occurred in the Deadmans Bar to Moose Landing section in the Bar BC area of the river.

This is the most accident-prone section of river in the park, due to the fact that it drops more steeply in this area and the current increases.

Boaters are reminded to tell someone where they are going and when they plan to return. If an accident or injury occurs, this information could prove vital if a rescue is necessary.

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Popular Trail At Grand Teton To Temporarily Close (But For Good Reason)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park will close a section of one of its most popular trails intermittently over the next couple of weeks for an improvement project.

There will be occasional 30-minute closures on a section of the Teton Crest Trail near the summit of Hurricane Pass between now through Aug. 24 and Sept. 3-8.

Backpackers planning on hiking the trail during these dates should expect delays in both directions.

Over time, heavy water flow from melting snow has caused severe erosion and has exposed bedrock along areas of the trail. The trail damage now poses safety hazards to hikers and has forced the creation of several social trails.  

The project will create a new trail bench in its historic location and help restore the integrity of the trail. 

While the Tetons are largely comprised of granite, the damaged area is mainly limestone, which is softer and erodes faster. By removing portions of the eroded trail, a new solid surface will be created from the existing bedrock.

During construction, loose materials such as rocks and gravel may be moved downhill and cause a safety hazard to hikers below. For safety purposes, the trail will have intermittent closures during construction activities. 

Closures will allow uninterrupted work to be performed and provide time to clear the trail of any newly created hazards.   

The trail is a 45-mile long trek through the high country of the Teton Range. Sections of the trail were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps dating back to 1934, and although it’s constantly used, much of the trail has remained largely untouched since then.

Hurricane Pass is one of the highest points along the Teton Crest Trail at 10,338 ft. in elevation.

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Enzi, Barrasso Praise Expanded Fishing, Hunting Opportunities

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi have both praised a recent announcement that hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.3 million acres of land at 157 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries will be expanded, including in some areas of Wyoming.

“This announcement to expand hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands is good news for sportsmen and for our state,” Enzi said in a news release regarding the change in U.S. Interior Department rules. “Wyoming is home to one-of-a-kind beauty and natural treasures. It’s important to ensure that our public lands and recreational areas are accessible to the public for multiple use so those unique areas can be enjoyed by more people.”

The changes in Wyoming include:

  • Bamforth National Wildlife Refuge: Open upland game and big game hunting for the first time.
  • Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: Open light goose hunting and sport fishing on acres already open to other hunting.
  • Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Open upland game and big game hunting for the first time on acres already open to other hunting.
  • Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge: Open mourning dove hunting on acres already open to other hunting.

“Today’s final rule is welcome news to hunters and fishermen in Wyoming and across the country,” Barrasso said. “In Wyoming, hunting and fishing are a huge part of our way of life. I’m pleased we will now have expanded recreation access at a time where socially distant outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are more important than ever.”

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Bridger-Teton National Forest In Western Wyoming Implements Fire Restrictions

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming has implemented new fire restrictions beginning Thursday.

According to a news release, stage one fire restrictions are being implemented on all National Forest System lands within the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The restrictions allow fires only in designated and installed fire rings or grills at designated campgrounds or picnic areas.

The moisture content of various fuel types, current and expected weather conditions and available fire-fighting resources, as well as the occurrence of human-caused fires, are factors in the determination to implement fire restrictions on public lands, the release said.  

Under the restrictions, fires are allowed in the Teton and Gros Ventre Wilderness areas, but not the Bridger Wilderness. Smoking is also restricted to certain locations.

The restrictions include:

  • Lighting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, barbecue or grill is allowed only at designated recreation sites such as established campgrounds or picnic areas. Use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, or use of a fully-enclosed sheepherder type stove with a spark arrester screen is permitted.
  • Smoking is allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, building (unless otherwise prohibited), developed recreation site, or while in an area at least 3 ft. in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials (i.e. parking lots, developed campsites, or locations surrounded by water).

Campfires in Grand Teton National Park are limited to designated and installed fire rings and/or grills. Campfires aren’t allowed on the National Elk Refuge.

Teton Interagency Fire managers are reminding the public that unattended or abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires. The fire danger for the area is high, and forecasts call for warm and dry conditions to persist for the remainder of August and beyond.

All campfires and warming fires should be attended to. So far, Teton Interagency Fire personnel have extinguished 168 unattended or abandoned campfires this summer.

During times of elevated fire danger, building campfires is discouraged. Visitors could be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

All campfires must be completely extinguished before leaving a site. Campers and day users should have a shovel on hand and a water bucket ready for use. A campfire should be “dead out” and cold to the touch before departing.

Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization and/or by imprisonment for more than six months.

The public is encouraged to report illegal campfires, as well as smoke reports, to the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch at 307-739-3630.  

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Climber Falls Into Grand Teton Ice Crevasse Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Evanston man was rescued over the weekend by Grand Teton National Park staff after he fell into an ice crevasse.

The Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a “fall into crevasse” notification from a satellite communication device around 10:30 p.m. Friday.

The message included some GPS coordinates that indicated the incident occurred near Teton Glacier. Despite additional attempts to establish two-way communication with the reporting party, no more information was provided.

Two park rangers began hiking to the glacier around 12:30 a.m. and located the injured party and his hiking party around 4 a.m. They also found another climbing party of two that was in the area and assisting with the injured climber.

Evanston resident Tyler Willis, 34, and his climbing partner had successfully summited Mount Owen earlier in the day. They were descending via the Koven Route and were crossing the Teton Glacier when Willis fell about 30 feet into a narrow ice crevasse.

Two other climbers in the area used their satellite communication device to call for help and then set anchors and used a rope raising system to extricate Willis from the crevasse.

Willis had been in the crevasse for more than an hour before the other party of two came on scene to assist. His condition had significantly deteriorated due to hypothermia and he was unresponsive.

After extricating Willis, the three climbers replaced his wet clothing with dry clothing.

When rangers arrived on scene, they provided medical care and began a re-warming treatment, including adding additional insulating layers to warm Willis.

Willis’ condition slowly improved over the next few hours.

 At approximately 8 a.m. Saturday, Willis was transported to Lupine Meadows via short haul rescue by the Teton Interagency Helicopter and he was then taken by Air Idaho Rescue to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The three other climbers were transported to Lupine Meadows by helicopter.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or individuals, often with gear, are suspended below a helicopter on a 150 to 250-foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.

Teton Glacier is the largest of eleven glaciers in Grand Teton National Park. It is located below the north face of the Grand Teton and is approximately 50 acres in size.

Glaciers are dynamic and always moving. Anyone climbing near glaciers should always be very cautious and expect glacial features including crevasses.

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Wyoming State Parks On Track For Record Year For Visits

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

From the numbers seen by the Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails staff so far this year, the state’s largest parks are on track to set a visitation record, according to Deputy Director Nick Neylon.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday, Neylon discussed the state’s reservation system for campsites in the parks and said a surprising number of state residents are taking advantage of the beautiful Wyoming recreation areas this summer.

While the July numbers weren’t available yet, Neylon said that early feedback shows the state’s largest parks with water (Glendo, Curt Gowdy, Boysen, Keyhole, Guernsey and Buffalo Bill) saw a 150% increase in attendance.

“I think we’re on pace to have a record year,” he said. “It’s been very hectic, very taxing on our staff. But people still want to recreate outdoors. It’s good for their physical, emotional and mental well-being.”

Many of those visitors came from within Wyoming, due largely to the fact that for a time earlier this year, out-of-state visitors were barred from purchasing day passes or reserving campsites, precautions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Since tourists couldn’t come into Wyoming, state residents decided to take advantage of the temporary downtime, Neylon said.

He also credited the state’s camping reservation system for the uptick in visitors, noting that although the reservation system was criticized by many Wyomingites at first, he’s heard much praise about it now.

“I’ve had people tell me they haven’t camped at Curt Gowdy for years because they could never get the spot they wanted,” he said. “There are still some people who don’t like the reservation system on principle, but overall, it’s been a huge success.”

Neylon added that beginning sometime in October, the parks staff will meet and discuss the positives and negatives of the reservation system, figuring out what can be improved or what should be removed.

One improvement the staff plans to make in the system soon is to add the ability to purchase day use passes on the WyoParks website. Currently, only annual passes can be purchased.

The reservation fee will also be changed soon. Until now, the fee has been $7.75 per person, which is pocketed by the reservation company, but soon the fee will be $8 for out-of-state campers and $4 for in-state visitors, Neylon said.

“I think people have come to like the reservation system more because now they can take comfort in knowing they will have a spot when they get to the site, they won’t have to spend time driving around, hunting for one,” Neylon said. “The important point is that the system, statewide, worked as we hoped it would.”

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Wyoming Officials Dedicate Malcolm Wallop Park In Sheridan

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily. Photo: Courtesy, Rob Wallace

Rob Wallace spent many years working with the late U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop.

As Wallace would say, he had a front-row view of Wallop’s career as a national figure, working with the late senator during his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, from 1977 to 1995. Wallop was an influential figure, both in Wyoming and the rest of the nation.

But it was his home in Sheridan County where Wallop was truly happiest, so it made sense for the city of Sheridan to rename a park in his honor.

Last week, the city held a dedication ceremony for the park, with Wallace, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson speaking at the event.

Wallace was the keynote speaker and focused on highlights of Wallop’s career, particularly the Wallop-Breaux Act, the Strategic Defense Initiative and other moments from Wallop’s political tenure.

“If you look at Malcolm’s career, he wasn’t the type of guy to go out and naturally promote himself, even after he left office,” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily. “But he had so many consequential initiatives he was responsible for. We wanted to go back to Sheridan County and remind them what a figure he was.”

Wallop died in 2011 at the age of 78.

Wallace said that while working on Wallop’s staff, he was awed by the late senator’s ability to empower people.

“The former president of the Boston Celtics, a chief justice on the Wyoming Supreme Court, a kid who ended up on the cover of Time magazine are just a few of the people that Malcolm helped empower,” Wallace said. “There’s a Thomas Edison quote, ‘Vision without execution is just hallucination.’ Malcolm was the type of execute his ideas.”

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Hiker Dies On Trail At Glacier National Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man died while hiking a trail in Glacier National Park earlier this week, according to the National Park Service.

In a release, the Park Service said that around 4:45 p.m. on Monday, GNP employees received a report about a man who collapsed and was unresponsive on the Siyeh Pass trail, around one mile from the trailhead at Siyeh Bend.

Employees responded from Going-to-the-Sun Road on foot. Other hikers, including the man’s stepson, were performing CPR when staff arrived. Rangers used a defibrillator to attempt to resuscitate the man, but were unsuccessful.

The 43-year-old man from Waupun, Wisconsin was hiking with his family. The Glacier County Coroner indicated the death appeared to be due to natural causes.

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Officials Investigating Possible Arson At Glacier National Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Staff at Glacier National Park and Flathead Crimestoppers are investigating multiple suspected arson fires that started in the North Fork area of the park last week.

The North Fork Landowners Association is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for the fires, according to a news release from the National Park Service.

Early in the morning of July 23, a resident woke rangers at the Polebridge Ranger Station with the report of a nearby fire. Later, the Numa Ridge fire lookout reported smoke near Ford Creek.

Rangers and NPS fire crews eventually found a total of eight fires along the Inside North Fork Road between Logging Creek and Kintla Lake. Most of the fires had begun in dry logs or brush, but one fire destroyed the historic Ford Creek patrol cabin.

The cabin was built as a “snowshoe” cabin in 1928 and was used for decades during winter backcountry patrols. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historical Place for having architectural and historic significance, exemplifying the rustic architecture of early park backcountry structures and the history of Glacier National Park’s development and administration.

The cabin site is around eight miles north of Polebridge.

All the fires were extinguished shortly after being discovered.

On the evening of July 22, suspicious fires were reported at the Glacier Gateway Elementary and the Summit Mountain Lodge at Marias Pass. Investigators are working to see if those fires may be related to the ones on July 23.

Anyone witnessing suspicious activity on the night of July 22 or early morning of July 23 in the Polebridge or North Fork area is encouraged to call Flathead Crimestoppers at 406-752-8477. All calls remain anonymous. Glacier National Park also has a tip line established, 406-888-7077, if someone would like to talk with a park ranger. 

Wyoming Game And Fish Stocks 6,000 Catfish In 19 Ponds Statewide

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently stocked 19 community fishing ponds across the state with 6,000 channel catfish, so anglers should prepare to head for the water.

The fish are considered jumbo-sized and are around 13 to 14 inches in length, according to a news release from the department. The catfish came from the Wyoming’s Women Center in Lusk from their in-house aquaculture program.

This is the first time Game and Fish has worked with the Women’s Center’s aquaculture facility to raise and provide fish for the state.

“Game and Fish doesn’t have a cool and warm water fish hatchery  — our fish culture facilities are primarily supplied by colder water sources which make them great for raising trout,” Guy Campbell, Game and Fish fish culture supervisor, said in the release. “With the Women’s Center, there was a unique opportunity for them to raise a warm water fish to benefit anglers.”

Typically cool and warm water fish, like catfish, are acquired by fish trades with other states and then stocked in Wyoming.

“These jumbo catfish will create an instant summer fishery,” Campbell said.

The jumbo catfish were stocked at:

  • Sloans Lake in Cheyenne, which received 1,500 fish;
  • Minnehaha in Cheyenne, which received 750 fish;
  • Rock Lake in Wheatland, which received 750 fish;
  • Festo Lake in Wheatland, which received 500 fish;
  • Gillette Fishing Lake in Gillette, which received 250 fish;
  • Panther Pond in Wright, which received 200 fish;
  • Sundance Fairgrounds Pond in Sundance, which received 200 fish;
  • Mavrakis Pond in Sheridan, which received 175 fish;
  • Ranchester City Pond in Ranchester, which received 175 fish;
  • Basin Water Plant in Basin, which received 380 fish;
  • South Worland, which received 400 fish;
  • Big Bends 5 and 6 in Riverton, which received a total of 300 fish;
  • Yesness in Casper, which received 250 fish;
  • Fairgrounds Ponds 1 and 2 in Rock Springs, which received a total of 80 fish;
  • Rock Springs Pond, which received 30 fish;
  • Diamondville Pond in Diamondville, which received 30 fish;
  • Lyman City Pond, which received 30 fish.

Fishing licenses are available online, from Game and Fish regional offices and community license selling agents. Kids under 14 fish for free, although non-resident youth under 14 must fish with a licensed adult. 

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Dirt Bikers Cause Significant Damage In Grand Teton National Park

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Group Causes Significant Damage to Historic Hay Field

National Park Service investigators are looking for information related to activities that caused significant resource damage along historic Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park recently.Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area around 8 p.m. on July 18 and can provide any information regarding this activity, please call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or email nps_isb@nps.gov. Information can be provided anonymously. https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/news/group-causes-significant-damage-to-historic-hay-field.htm

Grand Teton National Park இடுகையிட்ட தேதி: புதன், 22 ஜூலை, 2020

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

National Park Service investigators are looking for information regarding a motocross event that caused significant resource damage to the Mormon Row area of Grand Teton National Park last week.

According to a news release, the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call around 8:45 p.m. on July 18 about a group of people riding dirt bikes in an open field and operating a drone along Mormon Row.

According to the reporting party and a video captured via cell phone, approximately 50 people were in the area attending the organized dirt bike event.

The group prepared its own riding course, but began to break down the course and load the motorcycles just as the reporting party called the park. The group’s actions were recorded by the person who reported the incident.

Park rangers immediately responded to the scene, but the group had already left the area, leaving behind approximately 1,000 feet of track with a width of 2 to 10 feet.

The event was not authorized and caused significant damage to an area officials have been trying to restore as a sagebrush steppe habitat.

The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to a sagebrush steppe habitat. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.

The various agencies had invested several years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding the native species. The area damaged by the motorcycle riders had been reseeded just last year.

The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on the sagebrush steppe.

Operating a motor vehicle off roadways is a crime and those convicted can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment. Additionally, the System Unit Resource Protection Act provides that any person or instrumentality that destroys, causes the loss of or injures, of any National Park Service resource is liable for response costs and damages.  

Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area around 8 p.m. on July 18 and can provide any information regarding this activity is asked to call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or email the agency. Information can be provided anonymously.

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Wyoming Sees Increase Of Colorado Tick Fever Cases

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Colorado tick fever cases are on the rise in Wyoming, the state Department of Health alerted residents this week.

Five cases of Colorado tick fever have been identified in Wyoming so far this year, four in Sublette County and one in Park County. The WDH usually sees an average of two cases annually, sometimes going a year without seeing any cases.

Courtney Tillman, an infectious disease epidemiologist with WDH, said Colorado tick fever spreads to people through bites of infected Rocky Mountain wood ticks.

The best way to prevent Colorado tick fever is to avoid tick bites. Recommended actions include:

  • Use insect repellent, such as DEET, when outdoors
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors
  • Treat outdoor clothing, such as hiking clothing, with permethrin
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass
  • Do tick checks after spending time outdoors
  • Apply pesticides outdoors to reduce ticks in yards
  • Clear brush, tall grass, and leaf litter from yards to reduce the number of ticks
  • Prevent tick bites for pets by using prevention products recommended by veterinarians and performing tick checks after spending time outdoors

“If you find a tick embedded on yourself or your pet, do not jerk or twist the tick to remove it,” Tillman said in the news release. “Instead, use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the surface as possible and steadily pull the tick upward. You’ll also want to clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.”

Tillman also advises disposing of ticks by putting them in alcohol, placing them in sealed containers, wrapping them in tape or flushing them down the toilet.

Symptoms develop one to 14 days after the bite and may include fever, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue.

Some people may experience a “biphasic” fever in which they have fever for a few days, feel better for several days and then have another period of fever. While symptoms can last for several weeks, most people do not experience severe illness. There is no specific treatment for Colorado tick fever.

Tillman encouraged anyone concerned they may have Colorado tick fever to contact a healthcare provider. Many of the symptoms are shared by other illnesses, including COVID-19, so discussing potential exposure to ticks with medical professionals is recommended.

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Three Hikers Rescued In Grand Teton National Park Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park rangers were busy over the weekend attending to three separate injured hikers on Saturday.

According to a news release, the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call regarding an injured hiker above the 3-mile junction on the Surprise/Amphitheater trail around 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.

Jeremy Fraser, 31, of New York City was hiking when he had a misstep and injured his lower leg and was unable to move on his own. A backcountry ranger in the area responded, attended to the injury and determined Fraser would have to be transported to the Lupine Meadows parking area by trail wheel litter.

Additional rangers arrived on the scene around 3:30 p.m. with medical gear and equipment. Fraser was secured in a wheel litter and transported to the trail head. His hiking partner transported him to St. John’s Health in Jackson.

A few hours later on Saturday, dispatch received another emergency call around 7:30 p.m. regarding an injured hiker who fell around 500 feet down steep snow on the east slops of the Paintbrush Divide.

Samantha Edgcombe and Mackenzie Finton, both 19 and from Grand Blanc, Michigan, were hiking from Cascade Canyon to Paintbrush Canyon over the divide when they each slipped on snow and slid, crashing into large rocks.

Another hiker in the area called for help and used a GPS location to track their location. Initially, it was believed only one of the women was injured, but both were. Each hiker was short-hauled to Lupine Meadows and then transported via park ambulance to St. John’s Health in Jackson.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual, often with gear, is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. This method is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.

The park reminded backcountry hikers and climbers to be prepared for their respective recreational activity, including knowledge about the current conditions, required skills and experience and wayfinding skills to safety navigate the route.

Hiking areas such as the Teton Crest Trail, Alaska Basin, Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop, or any other loop involving higher elevation mountain passes still involve a large amount of snow travel. Appropriate footwear and an ice axe are mandatory. 

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New Bike Route Stretches From Yellowstone To Minneapolis

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new bike route mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association will lead cyclists on an adventure through Yellowstone National Park all the way to Minneapolis — nearly 1,300 miles.

The Pikes, Peaks and Prairie Route was created so cyclists could have the opportunity to see iconic American parks such as Yellowstone, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and the Black Hills, the ACA said.

The network of biking trails is broken into three routes, beginning from West Yellowstone, Montana, through Yellowstone and on into Gillette, from Gillette to Midland, South Dakota, and from there on to Minneapolis.

The route only runs for 2.3 miles in Montana, and then the cyclists will ride through Yellowstone, leading to the Sylvan Pass, going nearly 60 miles downhill along the North Fork of the Shoshone River into Cody.

The route will run through a majority of northern Wyoming, allowing the rider to see small towns, wildlife and much more during their time on the road, the ACA said.

In total, the ride is around 1,288 miles from West Yellowstone to Minneapolis. The highest elevation is 9,665 ft. at Powder River Pass between Buffalo and Ten Sleep.

The Needles Highway and Sage Creek Road in South Dakota are offered as alternate routes, although riders should be aware that the Needles Highway in Custer State Park, near Rapid City, is a strenuous ride and the road is narrow. The Needles Highway is usually open from April to October.

The western half of the route can be ridden from May through October, but the portion east of the Black Hills has a wider time window, from March through November. The route in Yellowstone is closed in the winter.

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Enzi Proposes Raising National Park Fees

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Entrance fees for the country’s national parks must be raised to pay for the backlog of maintenance projects at those parks, according to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.

Enzi has unveiled his proposed amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act, which aims to address the maintenance backlog at parks at a cost of about $12 billion.

Simply appropriating money to complete the maintenance projects would amount to a “one-time fix that is neither responsible nor permanent,” he said during his comments in support of his amendment.

He added that his amendment would address the backlog responsibly and permanently without adding to the nation’s debt.

“Without some changes, this legislation will force our country to borrow more money, burying us deeper in debt, and only provide funding for five years,” Enzi said earlier this week. “Fixing this bill will help ensure we no longer have to put our parks’ current obligations on the backs of future generations.”

Enzi’s amendment would increase fees for foreign visitors entering the United States. According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly 40% of people who travel to the country from abroad are visiting one national park, amounting to more than 14 million people.

The amendment would also raise entrance fees for U.S. citizens by $5 and the cost for annual passes by $20, to a total of $100.

Enzi emphasized that bringing a vehicle into a park would still be cheaper than taking a family of four to a movie or visiting an amusement park for a day.

“No one likes to pay more for things, especially during times like these, but to maintain these national treasures for future generations, we either borrow money and put it on the national credit card or we take some modest steps to address the issues responsibly.”

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Out-Of-State Visitors Flock To Wyoming Parks

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By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

As the warm weather returns to Wyoming, so does its annual influx of tourists. 

And although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the nation’s way of life, Wyoming’s tourist season is well underway.

A brief stroll through Lander City Park and the main campground in Sinks Canyon State Park reveals crowds of of vans, pop-up campers, RVs, and SUVs, many of them sporting license plates from such far-flung states as California, Tennessee, Washington, Texas, and Iowa, as well as from neighboring states such as Colorado and Utah. 

Ann and James Yearout of Chickamauga, Georgia, were drawn to Wyoming by its natural beauty.

“We’ve been to Wyoming many times,” said Ann. “Cody is my favorite place, but we also love Jackson, and of course, Yellowstone.” 

The couple said their plans were not greatly impacted by the coronavirus. Their daughter, Julia, was interning at Sinks Canyon with Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources division through the Student Conservation Association, and a Wyoming trip was on the books for the spring.

“We had to wait to see if everything would open back up, of course, but we weren’t too worried about it,” said Ann, who works at an infectious disease clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

“We tend toward more remote activities and areas when we come out here, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for social distancing in the backcountry,” she continued. “We come out here to go on remote hikes—we want to get away from crowds.”

The couple said although they had never been to Sinks Canyon before, they were happy to have stopped on their way to Cody. 

“I have friends that ask me why I’d want to come out here, and when I get out here, I always wonder how they could ask that,” said Ann. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so peaceful and absolutely beautiful.”

According to Augie Castorena, who volunteers as a host at the main Sinks Canyon campground, visitors this season have been diverse and plentiful.

“In mid-May, everybody was out here,” he said. “Like opening the floodgates. There have been lots of out-of-state plates, lots from New York.” 

Castorena explained that the campground has reopened in stages.

Originally, it was completely closed. It then reopened for in-state campers with reservations, and finally out-of-state campers were allowed back in to camp. 

The State Parks and Cultural Resources division has instituted measures designed to help control any possible spread of the virus, such as extra cleaning and reservations for campsites, but Castorena emphasized that much of the responsibility rests with the visitors themselves.

“We ask visitors to please practice safe distancing,” he said. “We’re not trying to be rude, we just want to keep you safe. It seems like a lot of visitors forget to be mindful when they’re out here.”

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Mt. Rushmore To Hold Lottery For Independence Day Celebration With Trump

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Applications for a lottery for people hoping to attend the first fireworks show at Mount Rushmore in a decade — complete with an appearance by President Donald Trump — are now being accepted. But only for a limited time.

The lottery application process is open between now and 9:59 p.m. Monday. Only 7,500 tickets are available.

The celebration will be held from around 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on July 3 and will include a massive fireworks display and other entertainment.

The National Park Service shut down the fireworks celebration following the 2009 Independence Day.

On Dec. 13, 2018, South Dakota Gov.-elect Kristi Noem raised the idea of the fireworks celebration while meeting with Trump in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

In May 2019, Noem and the Department of Interior announced the fireworks celebration would be back. Trump tweeted his excitement about the return of the event and this May, he announced he would be attending the celebration.

“This year, after more than a year of diligent efforts, we’re finally bringing fireworks back to Mount Rushmore,” Noem said in a news release. “There’s truly no better place to celebrate America’s birthday. We’re excited that President Trump is coming to enjoy the show with us. He and the Department of Interior have been great partners in bringing this celebration back to our great state and the entire nation.”

There will be two zones available for viewing: zone one, which is in the amphitheater area or on the Grand View Terrace and zone two, along HIghway 244 within the Memorial.

For the first zone, visitors may be subject to a health screening. For the second, visitors will need to provide their own seating and viewing may be limited in some areas.

Tickets will be assigned at random. Applicants will be notified on June 12 with the results. Each ticket includes up to six participants.

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Wyoming Parks Again Open To Non-Resident Campers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As of Monday, camping in Wyoming parks is again open to out-of-state residents.

This announcement from the state parks system comes more than a month after Gov. Mark Gordon stated that overnight camping would be allowed in state parks by May 15, but only for Wyoming residents.

Gordon said in late April that the state has been cautious about reopening its parks for overnight camping because of the number of visitors who came from outside the state in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and stayed at the parks.

“The number of people who came to Wyoming to use our campgrounds in February was the same as it would have been any other June,” he said in April. “The cars and campers that were in those campgrounds came from North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Montana. There has been a tremendous amount of out-of-state pressure on these campgrounds.”

Wyoming parks have been open to outdoor recreation, but not overnight camping, since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March. Because the state has seen a relatively low number of cases, camping was allowed for Wyoming residents in May.

With other states beginning to open their own parks for camping, state officials decided to open Wyoming parks for overnight stays.

“Our team is excited to be able to increase our economic impact to the State and local economies by bringing in our consumers from around the country.” Darin Westby, agency director of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources said in a news release. “Our criteria for opening camping to non-residents  has always been when surrounding states opened their camping, and their respective COVID-19 cases began leveling. Now is the time.”

Regardless of residency, anyone interested in camping at a state park must go through the reservation system to secure a site at all locations except Hawk Springs State Recreation Area, some sites on the west side of Boysen State Park and Connor Battlefield State Historic Site. These campgrounds are still open on a first-come, first-serve basis.

While visitors do not have to reserve a campsite before traveling to a state park. However, once they find a campsite after reaching the park, they will have to use the reservation system to use that site.

Headquarters buildings at the various state parks have reopened, allowing for the sale of annual day-use and overnight camping permits. Visitors are asked to adhere to social distancing recommendations whether meeting in offices, recreating outside or working at fish cleaning stations.

Cabins and yurts are available for three-day reservations, Friday through Sunday. This will ensure all of the structures have been cleaned and disinfected prior to the next reservation.

Gordon’s original announcement limiting overnight stays to residents received mixed responses from residents, according to comments on the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page.

A few praised Gordon’s move to only allow only Wyoming residents to camp at the state parks, while others questioned how people could be properly monitored.

“How about opening up…COMPLETELY!!!” one commenter wrote. “Let Freedom Ring!!!”

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Devils Tower National Monument To Reopen Friday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Devils Tower National Monument will reopen in a limited capacity on Friday, Gov. Gov. Mark Gordon announced late Monday night.

The monument’s website confirmed this, noting that park roads, trails, rock climbing and the picnic area would reopen Friday. However, the visitor center and campground will remain closed for the time being.

The monument has been closed for about two months.

On March 25, the Park Service said the closure was due to a request of local public health officers from Crook County, WY.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority,” the Park Service said. “The National Park Service (NPS) is working with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The announcement of the opening came on the same day that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks reopened to the public.

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Wyo Local Officials Ask Congress to Fully Fund Land & Water Conservation Fund

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

On Wednesday, four Wyoming elected officials joined more than 100 of their counterparts across the West in sending a letter to Congress to urge full funding for public lands in an upcoming stimulus package.

Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon and City Councilman Jim Standford, Albany County Commissioner Pete Gosar and Cheyenne City Councilman Pete Layborn signed the letter.

The letter asks for full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in upcoming legislation designed to provide an economic stimulus to restart the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter explains that outdoor recreation is a critical driver of local economies in the West and says investing in the fund will help with long-term recovery for gateway communities and states that rely on visitors to public lands.

The letter was drafted by the Mountain Pact, an organization of mountain communities in the West.

 “Our national, state and local parks, trails and public lands are a critical economic driver for communities big and small, urban and rural, across the nation. Across the west, the travel and tourism industries have been taking a hit in the current crisis. Investing now in full funding for LWCF will help with a strong long-term recovery for gateway communities and states that rely on visitors to public lands,” Telluride, Colorado mayor DeLanie Young said in a news release.

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Sleeping Giant Ski Area to Close After Season Ends

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Sleeping Giant
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The mountains of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho, along with southern Montana and central Colorado, are meccas for people of all ages who love the thrill of sliding down the hillsides at high speeds.

Skiing can be expensive, however, and one non-profit organization is struggling with providing affordable access for families while keeping the books in the black.

Otto Goldbach is a member of the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the board responsible for the Sleeping Giant ski area near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

The board announced recently that Sleeping Giant would close for good after this spring’s ski season, but Goldbach and other board members are hoping that they can find a way to extend the hill’s life by a few years through more volunteer hours and fundraising.

Goldbach pointed out that the ski hill is more than just a winter recreation area.

“It’s a community center that happens to have some ski lifts on it,” he said.

The hill, which was first opened in 1930 as the Red Star Ski Area, had closed in 2004, but a community effort brought it to life again in 2009. 

“Some really generous donors came in and put in the new infrastructure, remodeled the lodge, put in a new lift,” Goldbach said.

Sleeping Giant is a relatively small ski hill – with just 900 vertical feet and 184 skiable acres, it lacks the “excitement” that draws more experienced skiers to Montana’s nearby Red Lodge, just an hour north of Cody, or just a bit farther away to Jackson or Big Sky, also in Montana. 

But the family-friendly lift ticket prices ($16 for children 6 to 12 and $42 for adults) and programs such as free skiing for fifth graders make it a draw for local residents.

While the foundation has a broad base of support in nearby Cody, it hasn’t been able to raise enough funds to balance the budget and the facility is running at a $200,000-per-year deficit. 

Goldbach said the board has tried to think out of the box for ways to keep Sleeping Giant open, including constructing a zip line that has low overhead with a higher rate of return.

However, that tactic hasn’t been enough.

“They tried to get the revenue off of the zip line to pay for the ski area,” Goldbach said, “but it hasn’t been performing like it was hoped.”

Sleeping Giant isn’t the only ski area that’s facing hard times. The snow sports industry nationwide is facing downturns tied to changes in the weather patterns. 

According to a report released in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, there’s been a 41 percent drop in snowfall amounts across the American West since the early 1980s. 

But Goldbach said the hurdles they face at Sleeping Giant are more than just fewer snow days.

“It’s a tough industry,” he lamented. “You’ve got bad years, you’ve got competition from other ski areas and other sports that are going on.”

Five Fun Ways to Enjoy Wyoming’s Winter

in News/Recreation/Tourism
2794

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Weathering Wyoming winters can wear down even the most resilient Wyomingites, but hidden within the snow and wind is a veritable “wonderland” of recreation, a Wyoming Office of Tourism spokesperson said.

“I think winter in Wyoming is great, because it’s so accessible,” said Piper Singer, an Office of Tourism public relations and media manager. “There’s not just one spot for winter recreation and getting to those activities is usually a short drive from wherever you’re staying.”

Listed below, the Office of Tourism suggested some winter activities to help residents and visitors break a bad case of cabin fever.

Winter rodeo

February is a lame duck for economic development in northeastern Wyoming.

But in 2019, Sheridan Travel and Tourism Executive Director Shawn Parker decided to shake up the city in the most Wyoming way ever — a ski rodeo.

“I worked with the WYO Rodeo Board and the city engineer to put together something crazy for the slowest spending day of the year,” Parker said. “The result was Sheridan Winter Rodeo.”

The main attraction — skiijoring — combines horseback riding and skiing in a mad dash for the finish line.

“Skiijoring is a sport where a horse and rider tow a skier or snowboarder along a snow-covered course with jumps and obstacles, competing for fastest time,” Parker explained. 

The event was a success last year, drawing thousands, and this year, he said the organizers are stepping it up a notch.

“We’re adding Nordic skiing and fat biking the weekend before the rodeo,” Parker said. “And we’re extending the rodeo a full day to give all the (skiijoring) teams an opportunity to compete.”

Scheduled for Feb. 15-23, the event is quickly growing in popularity, but he said visitor lodging is still readily available.

“Not a lot else is going on, so people will probably be able to easily find a room,” Parker said. “But, the rodeo is becoming such a big hit that people will want to think about booking ahead to get the best accommodations.” 

Hot springs

When the weather outside is frightful, visit the hot springs in Thermopolis, Singer said.

“It’s in a central location with great options for lodging and dining,” she said. “With the Hot Springs State Park, not only can you soak in the natural hot springs, but you’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from great opportunities for watching wildlife.”

Home to bison among other native wildlife species, the park boasts a free bath house, allowing visitors to bask in nature’s hot tub with water temperatures averaging about 104 degrees.

“It’s a charming town, and it definitely has that Western feel so many people come to experience,” Singer said. “Plus, for many, it’s on the way to Yellowstone National Park. It really is one of Wyoming’s hidden gems.”

While the park’s public restrooms, drinking systems and outdoor pool are closed during the winter, the bath house is open year round.

National parks

The Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are as synonymous to Wyoming as the Statue of Liberty is to New York, but some people miss out on the opportunities these destinations offer during the winter, Singer said.

“Both parks are open throughout the year, but for Yellowstone, you’ll need snow coach transportation to get there,” she explained. “There are several companies located at either entrance people can book rides with.” 

Exploring the parks in the off-season grants visitors an opportunity to see nature’s splendor through a different lens, Singer added.

“In many cases, it’s even easier to see the wildlife in the winter,” Singer said. “There’s several guides and outfitters that offer winter tours.” 

Lodging is available in Yellowstone, but Grand Teton National Park is accessible via a day pass only.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and a whole different world up there in the winter,” Singer said. 

Skiing, sledding, snowshoeing 

For just the price of a cold, wet backside, sliding down a snowy hill is perhaps the most affordable and memorable winter activity in the history of mankind, closely followed by snowball fights and snow sculptures.

But at some point, the neighborhood sledding hill just isn’t enough, and that’s where Wyoming shines brightest, Singer said.

“Jackson is internationally known as a world-renowned ski destination, but we have high-quality skiing in nearly every corner of the state,” she said.

In the southeast, Snowy Range Ski Area offers numerous downhill and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails about 30 minutes  from Laramie. Eleven miles from Casper in central Wyoming, Hogadon Basin Ski Area features 28 machine-groomed trails, two lifts and minimal lift lines. On the Western side of the state, Pinedale is home to one of Wyoming’s oldest ski destinations: White Pine Ski Area. And, to the North near Cody, Sleeping Giant Ski Area and Antelope Butte Ski Area provide Rocky Mountain skiing opportunities without the hassle and long wait-times common to ski resorts south of the Wyoming border. 

With snow flying during as many as nine months a year, Singer said the state boasts numerous state parks and public lands for residents and visitors to discover their own trails via cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Snowmobiling

For those with a need for speed, snowmobiling combines the petrol-fueled antics of off-road motor sports with the ability to visit awe-inspiring landscapes previously inaccessible without spending days or weeks slogging through the snow.

Mike Gray, the Laramie Area Visitor Center operations manager, said interest in Wyoming’s snowmobile trails has significantly grown during the last decade.

“Albany County sells the most snowmobile permits of any county throughout the state,” Gray said, explaining permit sales is the primary method for tracking the sport’s popularity. “We’ve definitely seen an upward trend in recent years, too. I think it’s because the Snowy Range is the perfect backdrop for spending a day on the sled.”

Albany County is home to 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and about 120 of un-groomed trails, he added.

Farther north and east, Singer said snowmobilers can follow trails for hundreds of miles along the Continental Divide. 

“The Black Hills area near Sundance is another nice area to ride,” she added. “They have a 295-mile trail that loops through South Dakota, which is a great way to see some of the state’s greatest offerings like Devil’s Tower.”

Whether on horseback, snowmobile, skis or snowshoes, Wyoming is a frozen theme park for outdoor enthusiasts.

“All of these activities come together to create a unique winter wonderland that is sure to have people coming back year after year,” Singer said.

How a 42-Foot, 2,000-Pound Submarine Periscope Ended Up at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Tourism
2741

By Seneca Flowers
Cowboy State Daily

On some busy summer days, more than 100 people may walk through the Grand Conservatory in the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. They wait in line to peer through the 42-foot submarine periscope that stands in the building’s second floor classroom that gives them a view stretching many miles around the city.

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens volunteers boast theirs is the only botanic gardens in the nation to have a periscope. But the journey that ended with the periscope finding its new home in Cheyenne took a lot of planning, fast thinking and even more luck. 

Retired Navy Chief Jim Marshall said the idea to put a periscope in Cheyenne first surfaced during Cheyenne Frontier Days of 2005. 

Navy submariners who were part of the crew of the USS Cheyenne and the USS Wyoming visited Cheyenne during the rodeo to participate in community service. But the weather prevented them from working outdoors. 

“It rained and rained the whole week,” Marshall said. 

During the down time, one of the submariners suggested the group obtain a submarine periscope for Cheyenne residents and tourists to look through.

Later, Marshall said he attended Kiwanis meeting in 2007 where Cheyenne Botanic Gardens officials gave a presentation revealing the group had its sights on getting a periscope for the Paul Smith Children’s village.

However, Marshall spoke with those involved and soon realized they may have not considered the logistics of moving a 42-foot periscope weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

So Marshall decided to contact the group he was holed up with during that rainy Cheyenne Frontier Days week in 2005 and have them help get a periscope. However, he couldn’t find the original group members.

Marshall kept searching for anyone who could assist. He ended up contacting the past commanding officer of the USS Wyoming, who added his talents to the search for a periscope until one was found at a U.S. Navy facility in New England. 

The periscope was previously used in three submarines: the USS Corpus Christi SSN-705, the USS Alexandria SSN-757, USS Minnesota-St. Paul SSN-708. Marshall learned it could be moved to Cheyenne if officials at the New Hampshire facility could be persuaded to give it up.

Marshall eventually convinced them to hand over the periscope, but they had a condition — he had to arrange the transportation. This led him on a new quest to find an organization capable of carrying it across the country. The C-130s transport airplanes at the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were too small. They were unable to carry the 50-foot long box. 

“A friend of mine in Virginia at the Fleet Reserve Association said, ‘Let me see what I can do to help,’” Marshall recalled. 

His friend contacted some higher-ups and reached the right people, finding a way to to transport the periscope via a larger C-130 housed at the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Air National Guard brought the periscope to Cheyenne on Father’s Day in 2007. 

Dorothy Owens, who volunteers in the classroom with the periscope, said she remembered the day the periscope arrived. 

“It was a nice summer day,” she recalled. 

The plane arrived and a handful of volunteers, including Marshall and Owens, greeted it. The pilot looked at Owens and asked her what the group planned to do with the periscope in Cheyenne. 

“We’re going to build a building around it,” she replied.

The construction took time. In fact, people weren’t exactly sure what the building surrounding the periscope would look like. The boxed periscope waited in a stockyard surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds until the former Botanic Gardens Director Shane Smith could settle on a location. 

Smith originally wanted to house the periscope in the Children’s Garden.

However, plans for the building that would house the periscope grew with every new idea for features and education. The price tag also grew. The estimated cost for the periscope’s housing unit soared to $40,000, and funding was nowhere to be found.  

When the conservatory construction became closer to reality, Smith decided to move the periscope to the second floor to expand the view available through it, according to Marshall. 

Things began to fall into place from there, literally. It took two attempts to install the periscope in its housing unit on a windy Flag Day in 2017.

The periscope was officially opened to the public August, 2017. Operated by a unique hydraulic lift system to accommodate both children and adults, Owens said those who take a look through the 7.5-inch diameter periscope are usually impressed with the view.

“‘Amazing’ is the word I get most,” Owens said. “People are just enchanted. They cannot believe what they can see, how far they can see or how clear it is. People really are enchanted with it, both tourists and locals.”

Owens said she encountered several children and adults who did not know what a submarine was, so, as a former librarian, she has taken on a mission to educate the visitors.

“I feel like it’s my duty to let people appreciate this (the periscope). Owens said. “I just do this because it’s fun.” 

She added she and the community wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it weren’t for Marshall’s creative solutions. 

Marshall wanted Cheyenne visitors to experience a unique opportunity than many across the country wouldn’t otherwise. Through the periscope’s journey to Cheyenne, it found its place as an attraction far beyond its original intended use. 

“It’s one of a kind,” Marshall said. 

Wyoming-based group hosts hunts with terminally ill children

in News/Recreation/Community
2606

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

For some terminally ill children, hunting can be a break from the grueling regimen of treatments and a chance to experience normalcy, Muley Fanatic Foundation Co-founder Josh Coursey said.

But for 20-year-old Noah Walters, it could be more — a reason to continue fighting 10 years after doctors predicted he would die, said his mother Denise.

“A few years ago, Noah was dealing with some real depression,” she explained. “If he did not have hunting, I don’t know if he would still be with us.”

Of the 3 million people in Mississippi, Denise said Noah is the only person diagnosed with Morquio Syndrome Type A, a progressive disease that prevents the body from breaking down sugar chains called glycosaminoglycans and can cause abnormal bone and spine growth, resulting in diminished stature and reduced mobility.

Despite his ailments, which include heart and respiratory conditions, Noah harvested his first pronghorn this year in Wyoming with the help of the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

“He may be a little person, but he’s a firecracker,” Denise said. “He does not allow his disease to control him.”

Noah was one of 17 people, mostly children, the Wyoming-based foundation took on hunts through the “Putting the U in hunt” program in 2019, Coursey said. “We know how important this is for children with terminal illnesses,” Coursey said. “We see it as an opportunity for us to do good.” 

‘Furthering the sport’

Founded in 2011, Muley Fanatic is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation primarily in Wyoming, though chapters have recently popped up in Colorado, Utah and Virginia.

“We’ve been facilitating these youth hunts from the outset,” Coursey said. “As a conservation group, part of our mission includes furthering the sport of hunting, and we recognize this as an opportunity to do that good work for these kids who are at a disadvantage.”

The idea for the program came from a friendship between the foundation’s founders and a local family whose child was terminally ill. 

“We knew as a nonprofit we could petition the game commission to have these (hunting) tags allocated to allow for these opportunities in areas conducive to the individual hunter and their needs,” Coursey explained.

Under Section 13 of the Wyoming Game and Fish hunting regulations, the game commission can issue a limited number of licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn and turkeys to nonprofits for the use of terminally ill people between the ages of 12 and 20.

“It allows the youth hunter to be in the area five days prior to the area being opened to the public,” Coursey said. 

To be eligible, applicants must submit their paperwork with a statement from a licensed physician stating the license recipient is clinically diagnosed with a life-threatening or serious illness. The application must be submitted by Jan. 31 of the requested year — a full nine months ahead of the opening of hunting season in some cases.

“It’s a long process,” Coursey said, “but that gives us time to get everything together and the families time to ensure the kids have the green light from their doctors.”

Meeting unique needs

Muley Fanatic provides the young hunters, who come from all over the nation, with an all-expense paid experience for both them and their caretakers.

“They have enough to worry about as is, so we take care of everything while they’re here,” Coursey said. “We buy the tags, provide the meals, pay for the travel and any hotel expenses they might have.”

The average hunt costs about $1,800, he explained.

“We do that through fundraising throughout the year and have donations earmarked just for this program,” Coursey said. “But we couldn’t do it without our volunteers. We have a lot of great resources in Wyoming in our wildlife and wide-open spaces, but our greatest resource of all is our people.”

For hunters with disabilities, the standard array of hunting gear doesn’t always meet their needs. In some cases, the foundation has worked with other organizations such as Holy Pursuits Dream Foundation, based in West Virginia, to supply specialty equipment for the hunters.

“We’ve had five children now that have been able to hunt with a specifically designed firing mechanism using a breathing tube,” Coursey said. “It takes a little practice out on the range to get used to, but we’ve seen some good success with the mechanisms.”

While hunters can request what type of animal they would like to pursue, he said mobility remains a factor.

“We’ve had children that have no motor function from the shoulders down,” Coursey said. “The mule deer hunts require more mobility than the antelope and elk hunts, which takes some of the access away.”

Muley Fanatic volunteer and Red Desert Outfitters owner Jason Faigl said patience is key when looking for an animal the participants could have an opportunity to harvest.

“A lot of the challenge is being able to get the hunter to the area and set up to shoot,” Faigl explained. “We do everything we can to make sure they are comfortable and make sure we’re not affecting their illness in any way.”

Word of mouth

Starting with only a couple hunts in the first year, “Putting the U in hunt” was slow to gain momentum, but participation more than tripled in 2019.

“We typically have about four to five hunters a year,” Coursey said. “This year, we had 17.”

Healthcare data is protected by federal law, so the foundation relies on word of mouth and social media to attract participants.

Having logged about 25 hunts since 2011, Noah and his family are well-acquainted with hunting organizations who help the terminally ill, but it was only recently his family learned about the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

“I’d seen the Muley Fanatic Facebook page, but I hadn’t really reached out until another organization told us about the program,” Denise recalled.

Without word of mouth, Noah might have never discovered his ability to hunt. 

“It was always something he was interested in as a kid, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it,” Denise said, explaining the doctors predicted shortly after birth Noah’s life expectancy would be about 10 years. “The pastor at our church heard him talking about it one day and decided to look into it.”

With the pastor’s help, Noah discovered a group in Wisconsin that was willing to take him bear hunting.

“He’s been hooked on it ever since,” Denise said. “Not every hunt is successful, but Noah says that’s why it’s called hunting. If we were successful every time, he says it’d be called shooting.”

Having hunted all over the country, Noah was excited about the prospect of nabbing a pronghorn.

“We’d seen several antelope that morning, but they were far off or too quick,” Denise recalled about the Muley Fanatic-sponsored hunt. “It takes a long time to set up the shot. Sometimes he sits in his dad’s lap, sometimes he sits in mine. It’s a mom, dad and Noah team effort, but we get the job done.”

The team successfully harvested an antelope during their visit, an experience Denise said Noah cherishes.

“The people are absolutely wonderful, and the state is gorgeous,” she said. “Are we going to visit again? Absolutely.”

For more information about the Muley Fanatic Foundation go to www.muleyfanatic.org or call (307) 875-3133.

Yellowstone opens for winter visitors

in News/Recreation
Yellowstone in winter
2580

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park is open for over-snow travel for the season, allowing travel by those who may want to see the park in the solitude of winter instead of the busy summer season.

All entrances to the park opened for the winter season Dec. 14, meaning staff has been busy with grooming trails, stocking gift shops and opening restaurants at the Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Rick Hoeninghausen, director of marketing and sales for Xanterra, Yellowstone’s concessionaire, said people who visit the park in the winter are often looking for a different experience than they can get in the summer.

“We’re at 4 million-plus visits in the course of a year,” he said. “Winter time, it’s closer to 100,000, plus or minus. So that gives you an idea of the difference between winter and summer. And I think that’s the appeal for some people.”

Visitors often have much of the park to themselves in the winter, Hoeninghausen said.

“There’s a chance for a little more of an experience if you’re out on a trail on skis or snowshoes and it’s quiet,” he said. “There’s a lot less people here.”

Much of the attraction stems from the appearance of the park itself in the winter, Hoeninghausen said.

“It’s gorgeous in the winter,” he said. “You’ve got that clear, blue Wyoming sky, there’s no moisture, the snow is just sparkling. Geyser basins are like nothing else. In the winter time, they’re special. They’re magical places.”

Despite its isolation, a winter break in Yellowstone should not be considered a hardship, Hoeninghausen said.

“There’s a perception in the world that it’s too rugged, it could be too severe for folks,” he said. “We have these snowcoaches that are very comfortable and heated and warm with big windows and big tires. And then (visitors) realize ‘I’m traveling in basically a mini-bus and I’m staying in a nice hotel, eating in a nice restaurant. Everything else is the same, it’s just colder outside.”

Accommodations are especially luxurious at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, where a major renovation was completed this year that put bathrooms in every room, replacing the communal bathrooms that were part of the hotel until recently.

Powell man part of team to row across Atlantic

in Recreation/Community
FightOrDieTeam
The members of Carl Christensen’s “Fight OAR Die” team, from left to right: John Fannin of San Antonio, Texas, Luke Holton of Juneau, Alaska, Christensen of Powell and Evan Stratton of Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)
2443

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fight OAR Die.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s the slogan for a group of military veterans who next week will begin a weeks-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean… in a rowboat.

Powell resident Carl Christensen is part of a four-man team of former military servicemen who will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands next month in their “Woobie” to raise awareness and support for the mental and physical health of U.S. veterans. 

The team will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. It’s a symbol of the hardships faced by veterans, and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.

Christensen is a 2001 Cody High School graduate who attended the Naval Academy, then served as a submarine officer and an instructor until his service was over in 2014. He said he watched last year’s team, which boasted members from both Powell and Cody, and was inspired to join the movement to support fellow veterans in their struggles with both mental and physical health post-service. 

But the task he’s facing is no small feat, either.

“Last year’s team did it in 54 days. 40 days is the average, the world record is 33 days,” he said. “We do have 60 days’ worth of food on board.”

Fight OAR Die map
This is a map of the path to be followed by Powell resident Carl Christensen and the other three members of his “Fight OAR Die” challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Christensen’s team represents more than just the Navy, however. Two Marines will be in his boat – one from San Antonio, Texas, and one from Denver, Colorado – and an Army veteran from Juneau, Alaska will round out the crew. It’s the first time for each of them. 

“The goal is to put four new veterans on the team each year,” he said. “We’re showing other veterans that they can row their own ocean, overcome their challenges.” 

He said the Fight OAR Die team has one mission – they want veterans to stop taking their own lives, and start living them instead.

Training is a must for a physical feat such as this. Christensen said he’s been staying in shape as a member of the Park County Search and Rescue volunteer crew. In addition, his wife, who is a personal trainer, purchased a rowing machine to help him train specifically for this journey.

In August, Christensen said the team did a month of training on an actual rowboat in Mobile, Alabama. There, the city’s mayor presented team members with a key to the city for their efforts in raising awareness of post-traumatic stress and post-combat hardship, as well as raising funds for treatment and research.

Part of the team’s mission is to raise support for other organizations that assist veterans, according to Christensen. The Sturm Center at the University of Denver and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Aurora, Colorado, are both working on ways to help veterans adapt and heal after their combat missions. 

“We are actually research subjects,” Christensen said. “They’ll follow us for a year.” 

In fact, he says the Sturm Center is now offering students the opportunity to follow a new specialized path – professional military psychologist – specifically to help veterans. 

Christensen pointed out that people who want to support their team’s mission financially can donate to the Sturm Center and the Marcus Institute to further their efforts.

Of the upcoming challenge, Christensen said it’s important to him to continue to serve his brothers and sisters in arms. With 60,000 veterans dying by suicide over the last decade, he said he is proud to be a part of a group that is working to raise awareness – and funds – to help support those who can perhaps end that trend.

“We’re trying to turn the tide,” he said.

In hunting, who is at the top of the food chain?

in Recreation/Column/wildlife/Bill Sniffin
hunting
2376

By Bill Sniffin

One of the largest armed forces in the history of the world is taking to the field right now.  We are talking about the 36 million hunters who stalking the mighty deer and elk in the USA.

Here in the Cowboy State, hunting is a fall tradition.  It is viewed as an entitlement. But the biggest difference between now and 50 years ago is that often the human hunter is not at the top of the food chain out there in the wild. More on this later.

The first time I heard the phrase about the “fun ending when you pulled the trigger,” was from my old friend, former game warden Bill Crump, when he recalled all his Wyoming hunting trips. He, of course, was talking about enjoying the fall scenery. Once you pull the trigger and kill your prey, it is time for some serious work.

Not sure what all those thousands of wives and girlfriends get in return, but they seem eager to send their hubbies and boyfriends off armed to the teeth and loaded down with food in rustic old campers. Or super-fancy brand new RVs with flush toilets, plus quad runners, huge pickup trucks, and even portable satellite television receivers.

Oh yeah, and cards.  Lots of playing cards. And quantities of liquid refreshment.

Cigars used to be a big part of the equation but surprisingly a lot of the groups I talked to recently just do not smoke. Not even a celebratory cigar?

There are a lot of very serious hunters in Wyoming.  But even some of them have decided that that hunting trip is still going to happen, the rifle may not even be removed from the scabbard. 

Sometimes these old veterans are just tired.  Maybe their wives finally confided to them that they are tired of cooking elk, deer, antelope and even moose.

Other times these hunters are more interested in taking their sons (or daughters), or grandchildren on the big hunt and really just want to concentrate on those younger folks getting their first kill.

A big reason for that annual hunting trip is that weather in the mountains or foothills of Wyoming can be so darned nice in the fall. They are just wanting to get away from the humdrum of daily life and enjoy the paradise that God has put at our disposal called Wyoming.

Plus another reason the “fun ends” is that when you pull the trigger it often signals the end of the hunting trip. Darn it, we have to leave the mountains and go back to our regular lives.

Now let’s talk about the “real” hunters.  Those men and women who are truly serious about killing their prey and filling their licenses. Most of these folks have a strong ethic where they plan to eat what they kill. They deserve our respect.

In the northwest part of Wyoming, these hunters are discovering that they are no longer at the top of the food chain.

Many folks suspect that grizzly bears are reportedly stalking both human hunters and the game those same hunters recently killed. Several hunters told me that the most uneasy feeling they can recall is when they are gutting their animal and suddenly things get real still.  Sort of like maybe some big critter has smelled your animal and is sizing up the fresh carcass.  And yours, too?

A famous photo circulated around the internet a while back showing a hunter taking a selfie photo of himself with his kill. In the background was a huge mountain lion.  Yikes.

A Cody hunter considered himself the luckiest man alive in Wyoming after his close encounter with a grizzly in the fall of 2011.    

Steve Bates, ended up on the losing end of his scrape in the Shoshone National Forest. He was happy to be alive, despite fractured ribs and cuts on his face and scalp.

A grizzly rushed him on a dead run before Bates could react.  After he was knocked over, the bear worked him over, clawed him, and chewed on him, before ambling off.

Once he recovered his senses, Bates grabbed his rifle and aimed it at the bear, then paused.  He wisely let it lope off.  Game and Fish officials said they would not track down the bear because it was reacting normally to its perceived threat.

“Considering what happened, “ Bates, recalled at the time, “I think I came out pretty good.”

That same year, a grizzly bit an Oregon hunter on the hand, also in our Shoshone National Forest.  Now that hunter must have one helluva story to tell. Names were not released.

One of my favorite bear stories concerns an old grizzly bear known as “Old Number One” – a sow in Yellowstone National Park. She was the first grizzly to ever wear a radio collar in the park.

A long-time agent for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Roy Brown of Lander, told me this story.

When the bear died some years ago, Brown headed up a necropsy procedure on the bear and the team found a surprise. The bear had six .38 caliber bullets in her head.  It must have happened many years before because skin had even grown over the injuries.

Roy says people wondered: “Hmmm, what happened to the guy who emptied his revolver into this bear?”

That poor guy may have found out first-hand where human beings are finding themselves in the food chain these days.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Outdoor Recreation & Tourism: A Look at the Numbers

in Cat Urbigkit/Recreation/Column/Tourism
Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Tourism:
2267

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that outdoor recreation contributes 4.4. percent of Wyoming’s gross domestic product. That’s something to celebrate, with Wyoming’s percentage among the highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii, Montana, and Maine.

According to the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, outdoor recreation “contributes $1.6 billion to Wyoming’s economy” and “accounts for 23,036 jobs or 8 percent of total employment in Wyoming which is the highest in the nation. Those jobs also account for 4.7 percent of total compensation in the state, which is second in the nation behind Hawaii at 5.1 percent.”

Curious about how these numbers are compiled, I turned to the BEA website for the details, including the methodology used in these estimates. The BEA report attempts to isolate the economic activity associated with outdoor recreation spending and production within a state’s economy.

The largest chunk (72%) of the $1.6 billion outdoor recreation value contributed to the state’s economy is in the form of “supporting outdoor recreation,” primarily via travel and tourism (food, beverages, lodging, shopping, souvenirs, and transportation) more than 50 miles from home.

Another 20% of that $1.6 billion is classified as “conventional” outdoor recreation such as bicycling, boating, fishing, climbing/camping/hiking, hunting, shooting sports, motorcycle/all-terrain vehicle use, recreational flying, RVing, snow activities (skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, dog mushing), and other conventional outdoor activities such as skating, rafting, rock hounding, races, running/walking/jogging, and wildlife watching and birding.

The remaining 8% is “other” outdoor recreation including amusement/water parks, festivals, sporting events, concerts, guided tour and outfitted travel, gardening, game areas (tennis and golf), field sports, swimming, yard sports, and multi-use apparel and accessories (bug spray, sunscreen, coolers, GPS equipment, watches, backpacks, etc.).

The new BEA report puts outdoor recreation’s contribution to Wyoming’s economy at $1.6 billion, and I understand the methodology used to generate that number. Seeking more information about our state’s top industries, I turned to the Wyoming Business Council’s industry profiles, where I read that the #2 industry in Wyoming is tourism, with “$5.6 billion consumer spending on outdoor rec.”

Although the business council suggests “50,000 jobs created by outdoor rec – more than oil, gas, mining and extraction combined,” the BAE reports the total outdoor recreation employment level in Wyoming is just over 23,000 people in 2017. It took some searching, but I found that the numbers cited by the Wyoming Business Council came from the trade group Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). The bottom line is that the OIA’s numbers were about double the numbers released by the BEA, apparently because they used a different methodology.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism uses yet another number: “domestic and international visitors in Wyoming spent $3.8 billion” in the state in 2018, with the state’s tourism industry supporting 32,290 full and part-time jobs.”

Further digging revealed that the State of Wyoming’s website description of the state’s economy is sadly outdated, with most recent statistics more than a decade old. That same state information page still lists Matt Mead as Wyoming’s governor, an indication of neglecting to keep up with the times.

Curious about the state’s other top industries, I looked for agricultural statistics. The Wyoming Business Council’s estimate of $1.8 billion in agriculture worth to the state’s economy annually was an easy one, since that number comes from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the majority of that number ($1.44 billion) is simply cash receipts for ag products sold (cattle, sheep, hogs, hay, sugarbeets, corn, etc.). But those statistics don’t attempt to demonstrate the total value of ag spending in the state (such as the sales of vehicles, machinery, equipment, veterinary services and supplies, outdoor clothing and farm/ranch supplies, etc.) or the investment in ag facilities and properties.

Mining (oil, gas, trona, and coal) have ranked #1 in contributions to Wyoming’s economy, providing substantial revenues to governments, employing workers, and gross production values. But with so much upheaval in various segments of the state’s mining industry in the last few years, and wary of the importance of what was being measured or and how it was being valued, I gave up trying.

I don’t doubt the importance of the outdoor recreation industry, and my guess is that the BAE report is the closest to being accurate, but it also has its limitations. All these assessments for various industry sectors sum up what we already knew: they compare apples to oranges and every segment of Wyoming’s economy is important.

What we can agree on is that the majority of people in Wyoming participate in outdoor recreation, whether it’s rig hands stopping to admire a bull moose on the way to work on a drilling rig, a parent purchasing a child’s first bicycle, or a rancher taking new neighbors out to visit a local sage grouse lek. We’re all in this together.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Outdoor recreation major contributor to Wyoming’s economy

in News/Recreation/Tourism/wildlife
2188

By Cowboy State Daily

Outdoor activity in Wyoming contributes a larger share to the state’s economic activity than the majority of states, according to a federal report.

The report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that in 2017, outdoor recreation in Wyoming generated $1.6 billion, about 4.4 percent of the state’s economic activity, well above the national average of 2.2 percent.

And the industry in Wyoming shows no signs of slowing, said Dave Glenn, of the state’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, a division of the Parks and Cultural Resources Department.

“The RV industry’s continuing to grow, the mountain bike industry’s continuing to grow, the (off-highway vehicles), the snow machines, the fly fishing, hunting, all those thing are growing in the state of Wyoming,” he said.

Wyoming is behind only Hawaii, Montana, Maine and Vermont in terms of how much outdoor recreation contributes to the state’s economy. Nearly 8 percent of the state’s jobs are also in outdoor recreation, the highest figure in the nation.

Glenn said he believes the state is poised to see tremendous growth in outdoor recreation, thanks to its plentiful resources.

“I think we have the ability to double or triple that number,” he said. “Wyoming has the access to public lands, we’ve got our big three national parks, we have all kinds of national forests, (Bureau of Land Management land), Red Desert, all kinds of great country. We need to work on our infrastructure so when people come here, they have something to do and to stay longer as well.”

The Parks and Cultural Resources Department, along with the state Game and Fish Department, recently joined forces to promote activities on state lands by helping commemorate National Public Lands Day.

The observation on Sept. 28 was designed to encourage people to get out and enjoy their public lands.

“Whether it’s recreation, hunting, hiking, fishing, the Game and Fish (Department) properties are open to all that,” said Ray Bredehoft, with the department.

Bredehoft said his department is working to minimize conflicts between recreational users of the land and wildlife as the number of people using public lands grows.

“We’re trying to balance that, there’s always going to be some sort of conflict,” he said. “We’re here for the wildlife, to make sure they’re here for generations to come.”

First lady encourages Wyoming youth to “be best”

in News/Recreation
FLOTUS Melania Trump in Wyoming
2168

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Melania Trump is encouraging Wyoming young people to “Be Best.”

The first lady this week visited Jackson, Wyoming — her first visit to the Cowboy State since her husband became president. She spent the day Thursday meeting the local Scout troop and rafting the Snake River, enjoying the outdoors and national park system.

Grand Teton National Park

The first lady was in Jackson to promote her “Be Best” initiative, which encourages positive social, emotional, and physical habits. 

Shortly after her arrival, Trump met with local scouts at the landmark Jackson Town Square. She was met by a cheering crowd surrounding the square, some singing the national anthem, others calling out, “We love you, Melania!”

Trump, who was accompanied by Steve Ashworth, head of the Jackson Parks and Recreation Department and Mindy Kin-Miller, Jackson’s first female scoutmaster, held up the Scouts in the Jackson area as a shining example of young adults and children taking leadership in conserving and preserving natural history while embodying healthy living. 

Since the 1960s, the Scouts have partnered with the National Elk Refuge to collect shed antlers from the protected area. They then use a portion of the proceeds from an annual antler auction to help with conservation projects.

Trump thanked the young leaders in the Scouts, commending their commitment to public service and protecting historic national treasures. 

“I applaud their dedication to such important causes,” she said.

Later that day, Trump rafted the Snake River, along with a group of 10 fourth graders from the Teton County School District and guides from the local Rafter X Ranch. White House Officials said the activity was intended in part to set an example for young people, encouraging them to get outside and enjoy the natural resources the nation offers. 

The first lady was in a raft with a group of five school children, while the guide talked about wildlife in the area, including antelope, moose, and bears. 

“We should continue encouraging our children to experience and preserve the diverse rivers, mountains, and landscapes that make up the natural beauty of Wyoming that we had the privilege of enjoying today,” the first lady noted.

White House officials say the raft trip also complemented the National Park Service’s Every Kid Outdoors program, in which fourth graders across the nation get free access to all National Park attractions.

Trump’s visit to northwest Wyoming was scheduled to continue Friday in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, but weather cut the visit short.

According to the official web page, the mission of “Be Best” is to focus on some of the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to “Be Best” in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health.  

The first lady has emphasized other pillars of the “Be Best” Initiative in previous visits around the country. She has visited with school children in Florida while promoting online safety, as well as a stop at Microsoft headquarters in Washington.

‘Shootout’ challenge reflects Shoshoni’s can-do spirit

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Community
Now entering Shoshoni
2032

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Like a challenge delivered out of the Old West, a shootout at high noon was held Saturday in Shoshoni.

Mayors of Fremont County’s towns, or their designees, met at the Shoshoni Rifle Range on the south edge of town to compete in three shooting categories – rifle, handgun and Annie Oakley shotgun-style shooting – as part of a fundraiser for the Fremont County Republican Women.

“When the Republican Women’s president, Ginger Bennett, called me, she wanted the shootout at high noon on Shoshoni’s Main Street,” said Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith. “I said, ‘Anything is a possibility in Shoshoni, let’s talk about it.’”

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni.
Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni. Highsmith — whose father also served as Shoshoni’s mayor — said residents care about the community and have good ideas for its future. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Highsmith was elected Shoshoni’s mayor in 2018. Like Saturday’s mayoral shootout, his can-do spirit is reflected throughout the 650-resident town.

It’s all about building and maintaining a community, its people and a great place to live, according to Highsmith.

“Shoshoni has always been my hometown, the place I consider my home, and the place where I always planned to retire,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith’s parents moved to Shoshoni in 1962. His wife Kathy’s parents moved to Shoshoni about 1950.

“I married my wife in 1972. That’s when we purchased our first real estate in Shoshoni. We have three beautiful daughters we raised in Shoshoni until 1989. We returned to Shoshoni in 2009,” he said. “We are Shoshoni people with Shoshoni roots.”

In fact, Highsmith’s father Joel Thomas Highsmith Sr. was mayor of Shoshoni in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Shoshoni in 2019 is a microcosm of life these days in central Wyoming. Local economies are struggling, even in Shoshoni where ConocoPhillips operates a gas plant in Lost Cabin, east of town.

Some people have left town. People make long commutes, usually through Shoshoni and the town’s famous intersection, to work in the oil and gas industry. Young people graduate out of the Shoshoni school system, and most leave. And few young people and their families live year-around in the community that boasts small-town amenities and is bordered by one of Wyoming’s best fishing reservoirs.

Boysen Reservoir, which borders Shoshoni, is a major focus for the community, with a committee considering ways to bring more people to the reservoir to take part in various activities and help revitalize the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

“Besides our school system, I believe Shoshoni’s crown jewel is Boysen Reservoir,” Highsmith said.

Shoshoni also benefits from residents willing to look at ways to breathe new life into the community, the mayor said.

“People care about the future of this town and they have ideas,” he said.

The Shoshoni Town Council, or as Highsmith calls it, “the governing body,” has established a pair of committees focused on Boysen Reservoir and the rifle range.

“We are looking at different options to enhance our town. The Lake Committee has met with Boysen State Park officials and the new owners of the Boysen Marina, who are both doing a great job,” Highsmith said. “We are looking at developing more activities and fishing opportunities so that Boysen becomes more of a destination for people on their way to Jackson and other places.”

Highsmith said the goal is to bring more events to Boysen Reservoir, which in turn, will help the town. At one time, winter carnivals, high-altitude drag races, fishing derbies and other events flourished at Boysen throughout the year and brought visitors and their money to Shoshoni.

Highsmith said the same committee approach is being used to draw people to Shoshoni’s rifle range, arguably the best in the county and central Wyoming. Grants and donations have helped the local rifle club improve safety at the range through steps such as having local range enthusiasts act as monitors when the range is open.

Shoshoni continues to host a number of community events, including its Labor Day Ranch Rodeos and its annual Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show.

The landscape of Shoshoni is changing for the better, too, Highsmith said.

He recalled the days when downtown Shoshoni boasted a Gambles store, grocery store and movie theater.

This photo shows some of the old buildings that line Shoshoni’s streets. The town recently demolished six old buildings on Main Street, along with a hotel and the community’s old school. Residents are now looking into ways to fill the empty space with businesses to help the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Today, some of the older, unusable buildings, including six separate buildings of the old Main Street, have been demolished, as has an old motel and the Shoshoni school in the center of town.

A new $39 million K-12 school has been built on the north end of town and is in its fourth year of operation.

The mayor said town officials are keeping an open mind to the opportunities for Shoshoni.

“We’ve been talking to the developer who bought our old school land,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been thinking and discussing, what can survive here.”

Town officials and many citizens agree Shoshoni needs an active motel/hotel and a local gathering spot, such as a café.

“That would be a big bonus for school activities and activities at the lake and rifle range,” Highsmith said. “Boysen State Park and the marina need more camper spots. Maybe we need a campground, because the lake is an important part of what we may do. Maybe our future is senior housing. We need more housing so our teachers can live here.”

The future for one of Wyoming’s busiest intersections – where U.S. Highways 20 and 26 meet – is involved, too, because it’s in the middle of town. Contrary to billboards on the edges of Shoshoni proclaiming the superiority of each highway, both provide convenient and scenic pathways to Yellowstone National Park.

The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)
The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)



“There will be changes in our intersection, even possible business expansion,” Highsmith said. “Our history involves a time when there were seven gas stations, and one on each corner of our intersection.”

Highsmith said Shoshoni people want businesses that benefit the community, including its school.

“We are open to ideas, and we are looking at things,” he said.

New Shoshoni school is a bright light in town

Bruce Thoren is in his sixth year as superintendent of Fremont County School District No. 24.

Shoshoni’s school district is very rural in nature, covering nearly 2,000 square miles.

“We’ve got kids attending from Natrona County, from Missouri Valley, Hidden Valley, Burma, Riverton, Shoshoni … the valley is where the vast majority of our students live,” said Thoren.

The school provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for more than 390 students and about 25 of those live with their families in Shoshoni. A school bus also makes daily stops at Riverton’s old Kmart to serve the more than 100 Shoshoni students who live in Riverton. Other students drive themselves to town, or ride school buses.

The school district is easily the largest employer in Shoshoni, with nearly 100 part- and full-time employees.

“These employees are a big deal for the Town of Shoshoni, and I believe the new building is definitely helping the viability of the town. Without the school, quite honestly, I’d hate to see what would happen to the town,” Thoren said.

There’s history attached to Shoshoni schools, too, as the first Shoshoni School opened in 1906 with 58 children and two teachers. After its first year of operation, a new school was built to educate 134 students at a cost of $7,000. The new building allowed the first- through fourth-graders to escape the old Shoshoni jailhouse, where they were attending school.

Thoren is proud of the school district’s ongoing partnership with the town.

“Things are headed in the right direction in Shoshoni, and the town council and mayor are looking to increase the viability of the town. Everyone wants to put the nicer things in place, including more paved streets,” Thoren said. “While most of the school employees and the Conoco gas plant employees commute from other places to work, a lot of those people would live in Shoshoni if we are able to get some of these community upgrades completed.”

Thoren points to future oil and gas development, including the Moneta Divide project, as possible boosts to the Shoshoni-area economy.

The Shoshoni Recreation District is part of the school district’s partnership with the town.

“This is a small Wyoming town, but it’s thriving with recreation,” said Recreation Director Michelle Rambo, who herself attended Shoshoni schools for 13 years.

The recreation district is currently preparing for its annual Halloween haunted house involving the efforts of more than 30 volunteers. It’s said to be one of the creepiest and best of its kind in Wyoming.

“People come to Shoshoni from all over the region to participate. It’s a huge event,” Rambo said.

Rambo, like the mayor and school superintendent, is positive about the future of Shoshoni, a community grounded in volunteerism “that works together to do what’s best for all of Wyoming.”

“My childhood friends live here, raising their families. We are all part of this community. We support our town,” Rambo said, adding a statement of her pride for Shoshoni schools and the mascot. “We ‘Ride for the Brand, be a Wrangler.’”

Elk hunting outlook good, deer hunting ‘mixed bag,’ says G&F report

in News/Recreation/wildlife
2021

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Fall is in the air and it’s the time of year when hunters around Wyoming are finalizing their plans for a successful hunting season. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department  has prepared a fall forecast of its eight regions to make planning much easier. 

The WGFD uses a map to define the eight regions identified as Cody, Sheridan, Jackson, Pinedale, Lander, Casper, Green River, and Laramie. 

The hunting season outlook in each region for the big three game animals — pronghorn antelope, deer and elk — is covered in the forecast, along with information on other species. 

Antelope

According to the report, pronghorn populations are up in the Casper, Green River, and Laramie regions, while in Sheridan and Cody, the populations remain stable. Although lower populations have been recorded in Pinedale, the limited number of licenses issued should mean success rates will be high, the report said. In Casper, populations are average. A GPS collar tracking program is set for the winter of 2019-20 to provide better information to Pronghorn Managers.   

Deer

The outlook for deer hunting is a “mixed bag,” according to the WGFD forecast. Although a successful hunting season is expected for the Big Horn Basin, most deer populations in Wyoming are down due to the severe winter of 2016-17. However, the Pinedale and Cody regions are seeing large populations and high quality hunting opportunities, with Cody herds expanding into new areas and habitats.

Elk

Elk hunting should be good, the report said. Populations increased in Casper, Cody, Green River, Laramie and Sheridan, with Sheridan’s populations being high due to limited hunter access to private land. The Lander and Pinedale populations remain steady in almost all areas.

The WGFD Fall 2019 Forecast also has information on moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, bison, upland game birds and small game, including turkey and migratory game birds. 

For complete information you can read the full forecast at the WGFD website.

For adventure close at hand, Cheyenne residents hike or bike Hidden Falls

in Recreation/Tourism
2008

On the plains of southeast Wyoming access to mountainous hiking and biking can seem at a distance.

Curt Gowdy State Park offers Cheyenne residents and visitors from northern Colorado a great escape that’s just minutes from the capital city.

The Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls trail is a particular gem in the state park. The 3.6 mile out and back trail leads to a charming little waterfall and offers terrain that is fun for families but challenging enough that everyone gets to feel those muscles working.

It’s not an hours drive to get outside. This is your reminder, southeastern Wyoming, take in the fall weather while it lasts at Curt Gowdy State Park.

Camping in The Shadows of Outlaws

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1921

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Outlaw Cave, Hole-in-the-Wall, the names conjure images of bandana-covered faces, men in black hats, and a posse hot on their heels. Twenty miles southwest of Kaycee, Wyoming, is a campground that offers a chance to walk in the footsteps of those lawless legends. 

Outlaw Cave Campground is located on the rim of Outlaw Canyon, 1000 feet above the middle fork of the Powder River. This majestic 12-site campground offers few amenities, but a wealth of scenery and adventure. Great fishing and hiking abound, but the real draw is the history.

Wild bunch
Front row left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick, alias the Tall Texan, Robert Leroy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy; standing: Will Carver, alias News Carver, & Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Fort Worth, Texas, 1900.

Between 1899 and 1901, Butch Cassidy (aka Robert Leroy Parker) and the Sundance Kid (aka Harry A. Longabaugh) were lawless members of Butch’s gang the Wild Bunch. The same Butch and Sundance immortalized by myth, legend and Hollywood films. The Wild Bunch was part of a loose organization of other gangs known collectively as The Hole-in-the Wall Gang. The Wild Bunch’s crimes were wide-ranging and included bank robbery, stagecoach and highway robbery and horse and cattle rustling. 

The Hole-in-the-Wall gang got its name from their base of operations, out of Hole-in-the-Wall Pass. These desperadoes were outlaws on the run and one of their many hideouts was in hidden deep in a canyon on the Powder River. 

The route to the campground takes you past row after row of red sandstone bluffs, lined up like rusting battleships in port. In the early morning light, some look like ghost ships, or would could be mistaken for the last resting place of Noah’s Ark.

The drive will take you through working ranches, and you’ll see scores of wildlife, endless and amazing geological features, but few other campers. 

The no-fee campground is located on BLM land and has one vault toilet but no water and no trash collection. Camper are advised to pack out what you bring in. 

Fifty yards from the campground is the rim of Outlaw Canyon and the trailhead to Outlaw Cave. The hike down to the cave is a 1,000 foot descent! This hike is more technical than the average walk in the woods, but for the experienced hiker, the trek will take you about 20 minutes. It’s not hard to see why gangs chose this location for their hideouts. 

The reward for your effort will be a peaceful running river, and brown trout begging to take your bait. You did remember your pole?

Explore the caves along the other side of the riverbank, and take time to imagine yourself holed up there hiding from the law. Remember, you are standing in the shadows of the outlaws themselves. Butch, Sundance and the multitude could have plotted their next robbery right where you are standing!

A big dam deal: Buffalo Bill Dam expansion celebrated

in Energy/News/Recreation/Agriculture
1888

By Cowboy State Daily

The anniversary of the completion of one of Wyoming’s most impressive engineering feats was celebrated recently as Cody marked the 25th anniversary of the expansion of Buffalo Bill Dam.

The $132 million expansion project launched in 1985 raised the dam’s height from 325 feet to 350, increasing its storage capacity by 260,000 acre-feet.

The “Great Dam Day” on Aug. 17 celebrated the completion of the project with a number of activities that gave visitors a chance to stop by the dam and its visitor’s center.

Among the attendees was Bill McCormick, who served as the project manager for the expansion.

McCormick said one of the most challenging parts of the job was removing a large section of a mountain to allow for the expansion.

Project officials soon figured out that rock from the mountain could be used as “riprap” to line the reservoir’s shoreline, he said, eliminating the need to bring in the material from elsewhere.

“So it seemed very logical,” he said. “We had good granite right here and (workers could) take the rock from here.”

While the project was originally supposed to be completed in five years, various developments delayed completion, McCormick said.

“The estimated five years for the project actually took 11 as things were modified or problems came up or the design changed,” he said.

The dam today provides irrigation water for more than 90,000 acres of land in the Big Horn Basin, along with a 6-mile long reservoir that serves as a recreation area.

More than 100 ride to raise money for cancer patients

in Recreation/Community
PEAKS fundraiser for cancer patients
Cyclists head out of Cody on Saturday during the annual PEAKS to Conga bicycle ride for charity. More than 100 riders took part in last weekend’s event to raise money for cancer patients in the Bighorn Basin, riding from Cody to Shell — a 66-mile journey. (Photo by Wendy Jo Corr)
1556

By Wendy Jo Corr, Cowboy State Daily

On a breezy morning in Cody, the first full day of summer, more than 100 people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities wheeled away for a common cause.

The ninth annual PEAKS to Conga bicycle ride got underway shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday when 100-plus bicycles hit Highway 14/16/20 east of Cody on a 66-mile journey to the tiny town of Shell as part of a fundraiser to assist cancer patients in the Bighorn Basin.

The ride is meant to be fun and non-competitive, according to organizer Laurie Stoelk, and is fully supported – meaning designated vehicles running the route were available to pick anyone up who didn’t want to ride the entire 66-mile stretch.

The participants ranged in age from young adults to senior citizens, and while many of the riders were decked out in cycle gear, many were less experienced.

Rayna Wortham, a Cody police officer, was one of the participants. Although she’s not a competitive bike rider, as part of her fitness routine she regularly rides the North Fork Highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park. Her trusty dog, Macy, rode along with her this year in a bike basket.

Stoelk says the fundraiser began after a group of local bicyclists befriended a gang of lady motorcycle riders 10 years ago who were taking part in a cross-country “Conga” journey in honor of a friend who was battling cancer.

Stoelk, a nurse at the Cody Regional Health Cancer Center in Cody, began organizing what would eventually become the PEAKS to Conga ride. PEAKS (which stands for People Everywhere Are Kind and Sharing) provides short-term gas, grocery and other non-medical expense assistance to Cody cancer patients who are experiencing financial hardship.

Stoelk noted that over the past several years, the annual bike ride has raised more than $100,000 to help cancer patients from all over the Bighorn Basin. And this year’s turnout was the biggest in the event’s history, with 130 people registered.

The route isn’t easy – from Cody, there are a few hills as riders begin, and a steep incline to the top of Eagle Pass, about 13 miles east of town. It’s mostly downhill for the next 30 miles or so, but quite hilly between Greybull and Shell.

At the end of the line, though, is the reward – the park in Shell each year is taken over by massage tables, yoga practitioners, food vendors and musicians as a celebration (or rather, a “Shell-abration”) for those who participate in the event. Riders’ registration fees include dinner and dancing to live music. Many participants choose to camp out in Shell overnight.

And for those who would rather not straddle a bicycle for 66 miles, Stoelk points out that there are other ways to contribute to their cause. PEAKS is sponsored by the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation in Billings, Montana, and donations can be made directly to the Foundation.

Wyoming’s Wallace wins unanimous approval for Interior post from powerful US Senate committee

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1533

WASHINGTON, DC — Wyoming resident Rob Wallace is one step closer to overseeing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service following unanimous approval of his appointment to the post by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on Wednesday morning. 

Wallace, nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, received commendations from Republican and Democrats alike during the meeting of the 21-member committee.

“I’ve known Rob for over 35 years and without question Rob is the right person for the job,” said EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). “Stakeholders from across the political spectrum agree that Rob is an outstanding choice and I urge my Senate colleagues to support his nomination.”

Minority EPW Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said Wallace was both qualified and ready to lead, noting that Wallace “pledged to uphold science and bolster the expertise of the career staff” at the Department of Interior.

“I believe he is up to the challenge to providing badly needed leadership within the Department of Interior,” Carper said. “I look forward to welcoming Mr. Wallace to Delaware.”

Following the vote, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said he was “delighted” to vote for Wallace and said the two had a “terrific conversation”.

“Even though the organization he would work for is called the Department of Interior, this is a country that has more than interior, it also has edges,” Whitehouse said.  “The edges are our coasts and our coasts are overlooked by the department and he agreed to sit down with a bipartisan group of coastal senators and begin a conversation as to how coastal communities can be treated with more attention and more fairly.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a similar meeting on Thursday morning to consider the nomination of Wallace.

Wallace’s appointment must also be approved by the full Senate.

Wild night of bare-knuckle boxing returns to Cheyenne

in News/Recreation
1212

By Cowboy State Daily

The appearance of the great-grandson of legendary heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey in the main event highlighted a wild night for bare-knuckle boxing’s return to Cheyenne on Friday.

The four-hour show also saw a 300-pound fighter crash through a unique caged ring and tumble to the floor below. Promoters declared this latest event with its eight knockouts and usual bloodshed a success. The expectation is for more of the events to be held as the long-underground sport emerges into the limelight. Up to a half dozen similar “backyard brawls” might be held in Wyoming — the only state where the sport is legal — later this year.

“It’s different. It’s just a good time all the way around,” said fan Anya Turner, 26, of Cheyenne, comparing the sport to boxing. “The energy’s definitely better. It’s a little more raw.” 

The 700 or so fans who attended “BYB Brawl 1: Brawl For It All” at the Cheyenne Ice & Event Center roared when the action grew frenetic, which was often. Tens of thousands more watched via pay-per-view.

The organizer, BYB Extreme, of Miami, Florida, unveiled its unusual “Trigon Triangle” ring, enclosed by a 7-foot-high chain-link fence and shaped like the Superman symbol. 

“It’s really to promote confrontation and therefore resolution, and keeping those results in the hands of the fighters,” said Mike Vazquez, president of BYB. Translation: Knockouts are preferred over judges’ scoring decisions.

Indeed, eight of the nine bare-knuckle fights ended in knockouts. The ninth was declared a no-contest after Josh “Dempsey” Gormley, Jack Dempsey’s great-grandson, may have accidentally stuck a finger in the left eye of Bobby Brents, who was unable to continue.

“I hit him in the head with a closed fist,” said Gormley, 45. “There was no eye poke. I’m upset about it.”

Brents charged hard at the outset and opened cuts around both of his opponent’s eyes, but Gormley fought through it.

“I’m a Dempsey. I’ve got more heart than body,” he said. 

The newest combat sport began in Wyoming because of former state representative Bryan Pedersen, a financial analyst and kickboxer who successfully sponsored legislation in 2012 creating a state mixed martial arts commission, which he chairs. Last year, the commission — at his urging — approved rules for bare-knuckle bouts. After 28 other states declined to legalize the matches, Wyoming sanctioned the sport. 

Pedersen and other supporters view it as safer than Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because no kicking or kneeing is allowed, plus the absence of gloves leaves less skin area to be struck.

Cheyenne hosted the nation’s first event in June 2018, followed by bouts in Gillette and Casper. Bare-knuckle fighting has provided significant advertising for Wyoming, underwritten by fans watching on pay-per-view, Pedersen said. 

“They pay 19 bucks, watch the fights with their friends and they hear, ‘This is in Wyoming,’ and someone will come,” he said.

Although Mississippi and New Hampshire are toying with the sport, Wyoming still has the edge, with more fights coming. 

“Maybe another four to six events the rest of the year, based on phone calls we’re receiving,” he said.

Billy “The Kid” Martin, who grew up in Cheyenne and lives in Casper, lost by technical knockout (TKO) to Leo Pla of Parker, Colo. Martin broke his own left hand early, then Pla broke Martin’s nose, sending him to the canvas. 

“I popped right back up and then he had a really, really good body shot – right in the liver,” Martin said. “You ask any fighter: It takes one good liver shot and you can’t breathe.”

Rock Springs native Joseph Guillen lost by TKO to Joey Angelo of Las Vegas.

Guillen sat out three years, grief-stricken over the deaths of his mother, two cousins, two uncles and a friend, all within two years.

“I shut down. I just stayed in my house and quit training, quit everything. So this gave me the opportunity to get back into the ring,” he said. 

The evening included two traditional MMA fights. In a super heavyweight match, Lamar Cannady-Foster attempted a kick but Jermayne Barnes grabbed his foot and pushed him backward. Cannady-Foster’s bulky frame hit the gate and popped the latch bolt, springing it open. He fell backward and down five steps onto the concrete floor, injuring a leg. He was unable to continue so Barnes was declared the winner because he was ahead on the judges’ scorecards.

“I’m a warrior. I want to go out there and earn it,” Barnes said. “I don’t like freebies. I don’t like handouts.”

Filmmakers with the popular 2015 Netflix documentary Dawg Fight – about illegal backyard fights – shot new footage for a followup. Dada 5000, a star of the film, helped organize the Cheyenne event.

“What a great place to have it at,” he said. “And it’s far from the backyards.”

Mixed Martial Arts finds home, big-name sponsorship in Wyoming

in Recreation/Community
1185

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Pain shot across Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor Devin Henry’s face as he disengaged a grapple Monday with one of Cheyenne Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s students. 

“Hang on a sec,” Henry calmly told the student. “I think I broke my finger.” 

The 42-year-old’s purple belt cut a sharp contrast against his black gi, a lightweight, two-piece garment worn by several martial arts participants, as he cradled the injury and paced the training mats.

Within minutes, he returned to his student, and the duo continued to drill a series of subdual techniques.

“It doesn’t hurt now,” Henry said. “But I’m going to be in pain tomorrow, for sure.”

The Jiu Jitsu academy’s primary coach and owner Matt Cano nodded, acknowledging his junior instructor’s tenacity.

“It’s a rough sport, and you do get hurt from time to time,” Cano said. “But we bounce right back and keep at it.”

About 30 students and instructors sparred in pairs during the night’s training session, guided by Cano’s quiet d