Another busy season in canyon

Boaters, anglers and hunters using the Elbow ramp in the Snake River Canyon this fall noticed tall fencing around an area of replanted vegetation.

The restoration project is one of several stemming from designation of the Snake as Wild and Scenic. The Bridger-Teton National Forest replanted willow shoots and cottonwoods in an area that used to be trammeled by vehicles. Rangers also created a trail for walk-in access. “We’re going to get a nice, healthy river bank coming back, a healthy riparian area,” says Dave Cernicek, river manager for the Bridger-Teton.

The work follows construction of an improved boat ramp downstream at Elbow in 2008. Even after the concrete ramp was installed, users continued to back down from the parking lot, through water and over gravel bars, into the river. The fencing, along with boulders placed in the vicinity, will prevent vehicle travel and allow the new vegetation to grow. Meanwhile, an improved trail will guide anglers and kayakers to the water.

The Snake River Fund has a longstanding partnership with the Bridger-Teton for Wild and Scenic projects like this, as well as basic maintenance and operations in the canyon. In the last 10 years, the Fund has given nearly $500,000 to help provide river rangers, training, equipment, trails, bathrooms, trash pickup and recycling.

Still, there are other needs yet to be met. The Bridger-Teton compiled a list of maintenance projects this year and identified priorities and funding amounts. The agency also surveyed outfitters to help determine priorities. Topping the list is stabilizing the West Table and Sheep Gulch boat ramps, which were undercut by high water in recent years and have some of their supports exposed. Also prioritized were improvements at Pritchard boat ramp. We are pleased to report that the first step toward these projects is underway. The Fund recently contracted with engineers and landscape architects to create plans for the repair of West Table and Sheep Gulch ramps and upgrades at Pritchard.

“We’re grateful to have this overview and assessment, and we look forward to partnering with the Forest Service to accomplish some of these projects,” says Rebecca Reimers, executive director.

The Fund worked this year to improve communication between outfitters and the Forest Service, and to improve budgeting for Forest Service operations and projects. In cooperation with Cernicek, who serves as liaison, the Fund provided more than $3,000 in equipment to Star Valley Search and Rescue, which responds to most canyon emergencies. The donated items include dry suits, ropes, tethers, knives and pumps.

Thanks to your donations, there are now five life-saving AEDs in the canyon, with backboards. The Fund contributed $2,000 this year to replace an older device. One of these AEDs helped save the life of a young whitewater floater in 2010.

For Wild and Scenic, the Fund procured a $9,000 grant from the Wyoming Office of Tourism to install signs throughout the watershed alerting visitors of the special designation. After three years of work, the Bridger-Teton plans to release in January the draft Comprehensive River Management Plan required by the federal legislation. Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are expected to present their plan for the upstream sections and tributaries at the same time. The public will have 45 days to comment.

Stay tuned for more on Wild and Scenic and our continued partnership with the Forest Service in 2013. Your support makes all of this work possible.

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