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

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

Where the Wild Things Are: Jackson Hole Wildlife


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Now that spring has finally come to Grand Teton National Park, all sorts of animals are on the move. We have been seeing hundreds of elk making their way across the sagebrush flats, coming back into the Park after wintering on the National Elk Refuge just north of town.

We had two cougars pass through our neighborhood a few nights ago, and have had several grizzly sows with cubs roaming the area.  My daughter Leith photographed one of these sow grizzlies recently, just before she led her two cubs into the raging Gros Ventre River.  Leith watched as the three were swept downstream but was relieved to see that eventually they made it safely across to the other side.

Then late this afternoon an enormous bull moose showed up here in our yard.  He’s a giant, with a good start on what will become some very impressive antlers!  Our home/float trip base is only a mile away from the Float Trip Parking Lot at Moose, so we keep our fingers crossed that this big fellow will show up along the river and will be seen by many floaters.

What an enormous privilege it is to have these wild neighbors all around us!

A Day of Peace on the River

History, Rafting

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The International Day of Peace is held every year on September 21st, with the purpose of providing” an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace.”   As a project for her Roots & Shoots program–which engages and inspires thousands of young people from countries around the world–Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and humanitarian, conceived the idea of flying Giant Peace Dove Puppets on/near International Peace Day as a demonstration of and commitment to peace.

Back in 2004, wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen asked if we would carry a Giant Peace Dove Puppet on one of our rafts as a way of celebrating this special day.  We were thrilled to honor Tom’s request!  What better place to contemplate this dream of peace on earth, than in the heart of the wild scenery of Grand Teton National Park? During the course of the float trip, Tom used his cell phone to call Dr. Jane Goodall,  and actually reached her! He described the Peace Dove which was flying above our raft down the Snake River, and she was elated.  And the following year, she decided to join us on the raft, helping to carry the Dove herself!

As it turned out, the International Day of Peace in 2005 was cold and grey with intermittent rain showers.  The majestic peaks of the Tetons were barely visible.  But Dr. Jane, displaying her indomitable spirit, buoyed everyone else’s determination to continue with our purpose.  So our small floatilla of rafts ventured out.  No grand audiences lined up for our peace dove display; our biggest crowds were the occasional eagles, elk, and moose with whom we share this beautiful landscape.  What a truly special day it was, with our white Peace Dove soaring amidst the grey clouds, along with our spirits, thanks to Dr. Jane.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this global observance.  And now, more than ever, we all should gather and show our commitment to peace for ALL – people, animals, and the environment.   Let us keep the dream alive – wherever we may be, September 21st.


Wildly Scenic is a blog by Barker-Ewing employees and fellow river enthusiasts.

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 over 40 years, floating beneath the Grand Tetons on the headwaters of the Snake River.