With an early start to the rafting season this spring, the Snake River Fund has rehired River Ambassador Jay Pistono to help manage the Wilson-to-South Park stretch.
This is Pistono’s third season in the post. Much as he does with skiers in the wintertime on Teton Pass, he will greet and educate boaters and help ease congestion during times of heavy use. He starts today and will work through the end of September.
Pistono will be at the boat ramps Friday to Sunday, plus another half-day during the week that will vary according to weather, use and holidays. He will split time between Wilson and South Park, totaling nearly 30 hours per week.
“We are delighted to have Jay working on the river again and are grateful for our contributing partners who have made it possible,” says Rebecca Reimers, Snake River Fund executive director. “We have gotten positive feedback on Jay’s work from both private and commercial river users. Jay has a unique ability to welcome, educate and help manage the needs of different groups, resulting in a much smoother and user-friendly experience for everyone.”
The Snake River Fund is sponsoring the position with grants from Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Patagonia. Westbank Shuttles, a new service from Westbank Anglers, has donated shuttles for Pistono’s weekly floats down the river.
Among the many issues Pistono has dealt with in previous seasons are crowding; friction between fishing and rafting outfitters when both try to launch in the morning; use of jet boats and jet skis; littering and trash at South Park; and inconsiderate parking that impedes access at the boat ramps.
Pistono has been attending outfitter guide training to meet all the guides and explain what he does and how they can work together at the ramps to make sure things go smoothly. Earlier this month, the Snake River Fund partnered with Game and Fish to improve grading at the Wilson ramp with gravel donated by Evans Construction.
His rehiring comes after an incident of vandalism at the Wilson access point in which locks to the restroom doors were smashed. Restrooms were unlocked at the time.
Unlike most of the Snake in Wyoming, the stretch between Wilson and South Park is largely unregulated, falling outside the jurisdiction of the national forest and park services. The Snake River Fund is part of a task force working on cooperative management of parcels along the river formerly managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Wilson and South Park ramps are on BLM parcels slated to be transferred to Teton County. In the meantime, the task force has agreed on a plan that calls for increased law enforcement patrols by the various agencies.
The Wilson Bridge recreation area is the most heavily used river access point in Teton County. In 2010, Pistono counted an average of nearly 21 boats per hour launching in July. The peak came on the Mormon holiday Pioneer Day, July 24, when 155 boats launched and 1,045 people used the area.
The Snake River Fund has a cooperative agreement with the BLM to manage the Wilson access point and has spent more than $100,000 since 2004 for maintenance, bathrooms, trash pickup and recycling.
Pistono is a longtime mountain and fishing guide who just completed his sixth winter as Teton Pass ambassador, a joint program between the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Friends of Pathways.
After becoming certified in a training program last year, he will continue to help the Wyoming Game and Fish Department combat the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels. He can inspect watercraft and steer infected boats to a decontamination station. He reminds users that all boats must bear an AIS decal, available for purchase at the Game and Fish office on North Cache or at fishing license retailers. The decals cost as little as $5 for Wyoming residents with nonmotorized crafts.