Elk Refuge Pathway will stay open later

By on September 20, 2013

Park_Path_SpringJACKSON HOLE, WYO – The section of pathway between Flat Creek and the Gros Ventre Bridge will remain open one month longer – through October – than its historic October 1 closing date, according to officials at the National Elk Refuge.

The pathway opened in the spring of 2011 and has since come under fire for a drop dead calendar date closure of October 1, when it seemed there was little-to-no elk migration into the refuge until later in the fall. After being convinced by data collected for the past two-and-a-half years through GPS collared elk, refuge authorities announced the bonus month on Friday.

Biologists collected GPS elk collar data and conducted weekly elk counts on the area south of the Gros Ventre Hills during both the spring and fall migration periods, according to a press release issue by the Elk Refuge on Friday.

The release read, “Additionally, Brian Schilling from Jackson Hole Community Pathways deployed motion–detecting trail cameras at elk jump locations during the fall migration period in 2011 and 2012. Captured images were recorded along with the specific location, date, time, and species. The resulting information from the various data collection methods was factored into the decision to adjust the seasonal closure dates.”

Refuge managers found that the main segment of the Jackson elk herd that crosses the pathway to access the refuge comes from Spring Gulch and the southern sections of Grand Teton and is historically one of the last to migrate there. A reported third of all pathway crossings occur during daylight hours, research showed.

The official closing date for the North Highway 89 Multi-Use Pathway is now November 1, 2013. Officials said they are still studying next year’s spring opening date.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. Thomas

    September 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    “The section of pathway between Flat Creek and the Gros Ventre Bridge”

    I thought that the GTNP boundary started at the top of the hill just above the fish hatchery. Is GTNP on the left side of the road and the NER on the right – do they meet in the middle?

    It would seem like the fence would be on the boundary line. Where does the NER boundary sit exactly?

    As for the change, everyone else already knew what it took them over 2 years to figure out. Government work.

    Last year the NER hazed elk off the refuge just after opening day in the spring. I’ll just continue to ride the highway shoulder if I want a bike ride north.

  2. 22

    September 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Trading the actual safety of humans for the imaginary safety of elk is the most insane land management policy I have ever heard of. The seasonal closure of the pathway for ‘elk safety’ needs to go away, this is a step in the right direction.

  3. Harris

    September 21, 2013 at 5:56 am

    The number of bikers & hikers is so low in October & November that I wonder just how anyone really thought that the elk (killed by the millions by hunters over the years) are threatened by the pathway users. They adapt – it’s called evolution.

  4. Margie

    September 21, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Great use of data to make informed decisions. Kudos to Brian Schilling and Elk Refuge management.

  5. Biker

    September 21, 2013 at 9:19 am

    This is awesome news for anyone – aka me -who still has late season training to do. Being able to ride safely on a dedicated path for a long distance is difficult in our location. This decision is huge for me.

  6. Anonyholic II

    September 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    GTNP includes all of US Hwy. 26/89/191 and land to the west when you hit the south boundary above the fish hatchery. The Elk Refuge is land to the east of the east highway fencing all the way to just south of the Gros Ventre River.


  7. Something is missing

    September 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm


    Who owns the land where the bike path is — between the “land to the east of the east highway fencing” and “all of US Hwy. 26/89/191 and land to the west when you hit the south boundary above the fish hatchery”

  8. Anonyholic II

    September 22, 2013 at 1:35 am

    It’s WYDOT’s right of way. Everyone just got buffaloed by USFWS on the pathway.

  9. Wheres the Elk

    September 23, 2013 at 6:21 am

    PJH/JHW provides online access to stories. How hard is it to link to the report, news release, and data? Major news organizations and all levels of government USUALLY provide direct web links to their information. http://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147530968


  10. Wheres the Beef

    September 23, 2013 at 6:52 am

    No data. No Facts. JHW just pushes news releases and never checks or confirms their conclusions. Asking professionals to examine the data and provide commentary ain’t happening. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, like any other branch of govt or industry, can’t be trusted before independent verification of their data.

  11. Common Sence

    September 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Close the path forever to bikes— just like they did the river to boats or do just want to shut down some folks instead of all— the path was a waste of money to begin with now its time to let nature have it back just like the river—- I say ban all human presence in teton county- and the parks! Fence Yellowstone!


  12. More

    September 24, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    They counted wildlife. Did they count hikers and bikers? Did they examine the interaction between the two? What evidence is there that wildlife can’t adapt or that the interaction with pathway users in the fall – when wildlife is strong & healthy – has any long-term effects on elk?

  13. Amen

    September 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Putting aside the issue of spending Federal tax money for rich Jackson Hole, it WAS a waste of money to begin with because it should have been built along Spring Gulch and wrapped around to the GT/Kelly intersection. That’s a nicer view and no conflicts with the National Elk Refuge.

    Besides that, who needs the pathway in the winter – or nasty-weather October? A few diehards, maybe. You can ride Spring Gulch or the highway shoulder anytime you want.

  14. Igor

    October 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    FYI the path on hwy 26/191 is located in Wydot’s roadway right-of-way. Pull the barricades and open the path during the shutdown or close the road. Both strips of asphalt are not managed by the park, they are run by Whydot.

    That and noone at the park is working right now, so they can’t reply.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply