Menor's Ferry Back in Service At Grand Teton National Park

The spirit of Bill Menor, top, lives on as naturalists at Grand Teton National Park have brought Menor's Ferry back into style. NPS photos.

They've turned back the hands of time at Grand Teton National Park, where Menor's Ferry is once more hauling folks across the Snake River. Of course, it's not Bill Menor himself at the helm, but rather a ranger whose sweat and toil takes you across the river.

Park ranger naturalists are offering free ferry rides daily between Bill Menor’s general store and Dornan’s on the east bank. The ferry serves as a central feature of the Menor/Noble historic district and is located just north of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.

As park officials explain it, "Menor’s Ferry consists of a platform deck which is set upon two pontoons for flotation. The ferry is tethered to a cable system that spans the river and operates by directing the pontoons toward the opposite riverbank, allowing the power of the current to push the craft across the river channel; the system uses river power—rather than motor power—to push the ferry across the water. This type of river travel existed in ancient times and was widely used throughout the United States.'

In the past the ferry played a key role in providing safe transport for passengers over the swift-flowing Snake River during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Prior to the ferry’s existence, the Snake River was essentially impassable from Wilson to Moran—except during low water periods in the fall and winter months. As a man of vision, Bill Menor saw the need for a more convenient access across the Snake River and built and operated his ferry from 1894 until 1918 when he sold it to Maud Noble, the Park Service notes. Ms. Noble operated the ferry until 1927, when its use became obsolete after a steel truss bridge was constructed across the river, allowing for vehicles and foot traffic to cross without the assistance of a boat.

The passing of the ferry didn't go unnoticed. In 1927 Ruth Patterson penned the following:

The old landmarks are vanishing;
One by one they are passing out.
The tourist with his modern ways
has brought this change about . . .

Many things are changing fast;
even the faithful Menor's Ferry
has been moored to rest at last.

Perhaps the ferry never truly was “moored to rest for last,” though, as park visitors can experience a ride across the Snake River just as early residents of Jackson Hole did during previous centuries.