Grand Success at Grand Teton National Park Hot Spot

Moran, WY: Grand Teton National Park is one of America's most iconic destinations. Craggy peaks erupt from the sagebrush valley skirted by pine forest and azure lakes, forcing all who pass to stop and marvel at this geologic wonder. Yet, Grand Teton National Park has seen a 23 percent increase in visitation in just four years, with 2016 seeing a record-breaking 4.8 million visitors. Although Grand Teton is a large national park, many of these 4.8 million visits are concentrated in certain frontcountry areas, creating concentrated areas of impact.

In particular, String Lake was recently designated as a 2017 Leave No Trace Hot Spot due to concerns with overwhelming use and human/wildlife interactions. Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers Team West Central recently completed a week long effort to educate and outreach to locals, visitors, park employees, and volunteers in an effort to give String Lake the boost it needs to stay protected and pristine. 

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During the course of the Hot Spot week our team focused on three avenues of outreach and education: visitors, locals, and park employees/volunteers. Here's how we made a difference for each group:

  • Visitors: Our Traveling Trainers walked the shoreline of String Lake conducting one on one outreach with visitors, being sure to praise those doing things well, and provide gentle education to those doing things a little "less than Leave No Trace." We also set up our outreach booth at the String Lake trailhead during busy days to chat with visitors as they entered the String Lake area. Finally, we partnered with the National Park Service to talk with dozens of campers at an evening ranger program in one of Grand Teton's busiest campgrounds. This visitor outreach helped us directly reach thousands of visitors to Grand Teton National Park with targeted Leave No Trace education.

 

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  • Locals: Locals of the Jackson region play an incredible role in protecting Grand Teton National Park. Often times they are the first and only person visitors may talk to before venturing into the park. Our Traveling Trainers toured the Jackson region and spoke with multiple business owners and managers about providing Leave No Trace education to visitors before sending them to String Lake. In addition, we partnered with Teton Science School to teach a group of 13 local youth about how to protect String Lake. These go-getter youth even picked up 1,284 pieces of micro-trash from the String Lake area in just 35 minutes!

 

  • Park Employees and Volunteers: In 2016, Grand Teton National Park launched the String Laker volunteer program to establish a crew of trained volunteers to patrol the shoreline of String Lake educating visitors. These efforts have been largely successful, and during our Hot Spot week, we amplified their training by teaching NPS employees and String Lake volunteers how to communicate effectively with visitors using the Authority of the Resource technique. These trainings provide a basis for volunteers to seek long-term behavior change when communicating with visitors.  

 

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We certainly can't talk to every one of the 4.8 million visitors to Grand Teton National Park, so you can help by passing on Leave No Trace information. Here are a few tips you can follow on your next String Lake visit to ensure the beauty of this precious resource for generations to come:

Plan Ahead and Prepare: String Lake fills up early, plan your visit for the early morning or late afternoon hours to avoid overcrowding. Research one of the many other magnificent destinations to visit in Grand Teton if the String Lake parking is full. 

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: The vegetation around String Lake and surrounding trails is incredibly prone to trampling and destruction from the sheer number of visitors to this area. Stick to the main trails and avoid taking any undesignated social trails. These social trails look like faint paths through vegetation that eventually become dusty ruts with overuse. 

Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all trash and food scraps from your time spent at String Lake. Dispose of your waste in the landfill containers, or in the appropriate recycling bins. Please don't leave your trash in the bear lockers, as this can attract bears to the area and leaves a mess for future visitors. 

Respect Wildlife: Bears are frequent visitors to the String Lake area, and are drawn in by the smells of human food and trash. Unfortunately, in 2015 three bears had to be euthanized at String Lake because of their habituation to humans with food conditioning. You can help protect Grand Teton bears by always storing your food properly. Never leave coolers or food items in the beds of pickup trucks. Store these items in the cab of the truck, or in one of the twelve bear-proof lockers available at String Lake.

If you plan to picnic and recreate in the water, be sure that your food and trash is attended at all times. Even wading in the water mere feet from your food is an invitation to hungry bears. If you can't be with your food, store it in the twelve bear-proof lockers along the String Lake shoreline. 

Be Considerate of Other Visitors: People from around the world visit String Lake to take in its scenic beauty and enjoy the calm sounds of nature. Listen to music at low volume or through headphones.

Enjoy Your World. Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace's Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Klean Kanteen, and Smartwool.