Where Are the Bodies?

Barker-Ewing, History, Rafting

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Deadman's Bar Skull
Where is my body?

In 1887, Wyoming Territory held its first murder trial on the heels of a triple homicide. The story of these gruesome murders and the subsequent trial are well known to Snake River boatmen. It’s how Deadman’s Bar – the spot where we launch our Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips – got its name. All you have to do is ask, and I’ll happily regale you with the tale. And if you don’t ask, I’ll tell you anyway.

I like to begin the murder saga just as I launch the boat, and wind it up as we round the first bend in the river. We’ve floating past a crime scene and into a beautiful vista: the view of the Tetons made famous by Ansel Adams. It’s a great start to our 10-mile trip on the wild and scenic Snake River through Grand Teton National Park. I rarely have the opportunity to field questions during these first spectacular moments – I’m navigating the current, scanning the bank for wildlife, avoiding submerged obstacles, and alerting my passengers to the first of many stunning photo ops. But, there are questions, and I’ve got some answers. …continue reading Where Are the Bodies?

When Interpretation Goes South

Barker-Ewing, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

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When Interpretation Goes South

River Otter
Last seen swimming the “otter way.”

Over the years I have witnessed and participated in the famous Western propensity to spin yarns about almost any subject. “Where is the hole?” is our version of the age old Snipe hunt. And though tourists may expect some measure of abuse at the hands of “the locals,” I’m keenly aware that the captive audience in my raft is experiencing something truly magical for the very first time, and hopes to learn something from it. My job? I’m a Barker-Ewing boatman. Which means that, in addition to navigating the river safely, I’m also an entertainer. And a tour guide. And a teacher. And it serves me well to remember this.

I confess to having occasionally invented a tale or let loose a pun in a less-than-ideal situation – a habit I may have picked up from one of the many experienced purveyors of bad taste who ply these particular waters. If I’m lucky enough to spot a river otter from the raft, I’ll share loads of information about their habitat and behavior. But I also might mention that otters are rarely sighted, due to the meandering characteristics of this riparian environment. By which I mean that we’re floating one way, while the otters are swimming the otter way. Boom! Yes, puns are the lowest form of humor. And my poor captives never seem to see them coming. …continue reading When Interpretation Goes South

Wapiti Wilderness

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

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Olaus_and_Mardy_MurieI grew up in Jackson Hole in the shadow of the Tetons, and spent vast stretches of my childhood wandering the wapiti wilderness. I waded through Ditch Creek, explored the caves and crags on Blacktail Butte, and rode my little horse for miles across sagebrush flats. Lucky for me, my neighborhood north of town was also home to some of the most famous naturalists and anthropologists of the time: the Craigheads, whose decade-long study of Grizzlies in Yellowstone pioneered advances in wildlife ecology and conservation; the Laubins, who studied the lifeways of the Plains Indians and wrote several famous books about tipis, dances and archery; and Mardy Murie, considered by many to be the founder of the modern conservation movement; all lived within a couple of miles of my house, and were as much a part of my childhood landscape as the mountains themselves. …continue reading Wapiti Wilderness

Winners of the 2015 Barker-Ewing Photo Contest

Barker-Ewing, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

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The-Last-Great-Wild-Places-cover-smAfter days of hard work, Mr. Tom Mangelsen – our illustrious, esteemed, and impartial photo judge – has decided on the winners of the Second Annual Barker-Ewing Photo Contest. He deliberated over many customer photo entries in not one but two categories. We added a landscape category this year because, in addition to world-class wildlife viewing, Jackson Hole is justifiably famous for its scenery. The winners of the contest are each receiving a signed copy of Tom’s latest book, The Last Great Wild Places.

The winner of our Wildlife category is Dee Anna Piatek from Marble Falls, Texas with this amazing close-up of an immature eagle. You can almost hear the wind rustling through its feathers. Terrific shot, Dee Anna! DSC_0136

The winner of our new Landscape category is Jim Betz from Livonia, Michigan. He captured a view that I’ve seen nearly 2,500 times over two decades of floating the Snake. It’s such a dramatic moment, and I’ve never tired of it. I know how this particular spot on the river looks, smells, feels, and sounds. Great work, Jim!DSC_3994

Congratulations, and well done to both of our contest winners! And a sincere thank you to everyone who took the time to send us photos from your vacations in this wonderful wild place. We enjoyed seeing our beautiful valley through your eyes. It reminds us how lucky we are to live and work in this corner of Wyoming, with Grand Teton National Park on our doorstep and Yellowstone just up the road. We hope that you all enjoyed your trips to our mountain home, and that you’ll return again soon!

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