Unidentified Flying Objects

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Hiking & Climbing, Rafting, Wildlife

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Green-tailed_TowheeAs we navigate our stretch of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Barker-Ewing guides are constantly on the lookout for wildlife. Moose, Mule Deer, and Elk make their homes in the spruce and cottonwood forests along the riverbank and are relatively easy to spot. I’ve frequently had Pronghorn Antelope, Bison, Otters and Beaver swim the river within sight of my boat, and I’ve been lucky to spot Grizzly and Black Bears about once a season.

Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawks, Sand Hill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Mergansers, Ravens, all make appearances along the river, and are easy to identify. But we often float past smaller birds that pose an identification challenge. Luckily, we’ve got many resources in the Barker-Ewing boathouse to help us assign names to these UFOs.

…continue reading Unidentified Flying Objects

Soft Gold on the Snake

Barker-Ewing, Environment, History, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

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0522JournalTrapper-ThumbJackson Hole was the center of the Fur Trade for a short period in the 1820s and 1830s due to the abundance of beaver. This squat brown mammal (once decreed a fish by the Bishop of Quebec, to fit dietary law) was once abundant throughout North America. Fur trappers venturing west to collect beaver pelts (referred to as “soft gold”) pioneered many overland routes from the Mississippi River plains to the coastal reaches of California and Oregon before the shift in fashion from beaver felt hats to silk chapeaus ended the trade. Once numbering over 60 million, the North American beaver population had been reduced to an estimated 100,000 by the 1840s. (Don’t be alarmed: their numbers have rebounded to an estimated 20 million, and we see them frequently on our evening float trips down the Snake.)

Osbourn Russell, a fur trapper who worked along the Snake River in what is now Grand Teton National Park during the waning years of the fur trade left us with a lively diary of his adventures. This diary is available online, and like many first-hand accounts of the time, includes some fascinating editorializing and dubious “facts” about the place we know as Jackson Hole.

…continue reading Soft Gold on the Snake

Moose in Grand Teton National Park

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

MooseWe are privileged to live in Jackson Hole with Grand Teton National Park on our doorstep, and we do our best to be thoughtful stewards of our surroundings. But I admit that in my youth I have walked too close to a moose, approached a bear for a photo op, and skied close enough to a badger to make it lunge towards me. (I found this so amusing that I may have skied past this particular badger more than once. Perhaps as many as four times.) But it’s important for us all to be reminded that the creatures with whom we share this valley are wild and undomesticated.

One of the most charismatic wild creatures in these parts is the moose. Moose originated in northern Eurasia. They arrived in North America during the last ice age and have since evolved in step with the changing environment. …continue reading Moose in Grand Teton National Park

Birds of Jackson Hole

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Jackson Hole, Wildlife

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Black Capped Chickadee on a snow bank.A respectful “hats off” to the multitude of birds and animals that stick it out in frigid Jackson Hole for our long, long winters. And some of Grand Teton National Park’s heartiest winter residents are also the cutest. The chickadee has stick-to-it-iveness and cuteness in spades!

Here in Jackson Hole we have two varieties of chickadee: we enjoy seeing both Black-Capped and Mountain Chickadees on our forest ski trails, by our suburban feeders, and along the Snake River.

During the summer months it’s easy to hear the chickadee’s distinctive call, a two-tone whistle that sounds a bit like “fee bee.” It is easy to imitate, even for a novice whistler like myself, and I used the “fee bee” whistle for years to call the kids in from the yard, or locate them in a crowded store.

Mike Y., who guided for Barker-Ewing all through 70s and 80s, used the “fee bee” to communicate with his young daughter, too. One day, while she sat patiently waiting for daddy to return to the boathouse, a flock of chickadees flew overhead with a chorus of “fee bee” whistles. That little girl jumped up and ran off down the driveway, yelling “Daddy, where are you?” Poor thing: her daddy was still an hour away on the river! It took quite a bit of explaining when we brought her back to the boathouse: she thought that “fee bee” was her dad’s distinctive call, and didn’t realize that he had appropriated it from a chickadee. …continue reading Birds of Jackson Hole

Keeping Perspective – thank you, George Schaller

Environment, History

George Schaller float trip

Everything seems so busy in July.  Tourists trying to soak in all that Grand Teton National Park has to offer, whether they have 3 hours or 3 days.  Road construction delays, testing everyone’s sense of patience and relaxation.  The sun is intense, the weather dry, with an occasional dynamic thunderstorm for dramatic effect.

And then someone like George Schaller comes along and wants to float down the Snake River.

If you don’t know who George Schaller is, just read the article in this week’s Jackson Hole News and Guide and imagine yourself, at 23, walking up to Olaus Murie and asking “hey, can I be a volunteer assistant on your expedition to Alaska?”  And don’t forget to imagine yourself in 1956.  No neoprene, or gortex gear to keep you comfortable, and no mp3 or idevice to keep you entertained.

Schaller’s conservation passion wasn’t limited to Alaska and the creation of the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge.  Central Africa, Tanzania, Nepal, Brazil, and China were just a few of the place where he worked, and advocated for conservation.  Mountain gorillas, mountain lions, snow leopards, jaguars, and panda bears have all been blessed by Schaller’s efforts. Add THAT to your resume!

And yet, when he joined Barker-Ewing for a scenic float through Grand Teton National Park, if you didn’t know what he looked like, you’d never know you were in the presence of greatness.  Such a kind and quiet individual.  Just like Mardy Murie. Jane Goodall (is there a pattern here?)

Thank you for the visit, George Schaller.  You reminded us why what we do IS so important–keeping the sense of wonder alive.  Congratulations on the Spirit of Conservation Award; it is more than well-earned, and deserved!


Established in 1963, Barker-Ewing Float Trips has been sharing the beauty and wonder of Grand Teton National Park with visitors from around the world for 50 years, floating beneath the Grand Tetons on the headwaters of the Snake River.