One of the most beautiful areas of Grand Teton National Park, and of the National Park System, is the Jenny Lake area that sits at the foot of the Tetons. A small, beautiful lake fringed by forest reflects the crags and is wrapped by a trail that leads you into the mountains.
Not surprisingly, this area is a magnet with visitors, who in turn cast a tremendous footprint on the area. Each year an estimated 1.8 million visitors come to Jenny Lake to paddle on its waters, to hike around the lake and head up to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, or take a short boat ride across the lake to head up the hiking trails.
The area is perfect for testing aspiring climbers, and in fact some of the park's climbing concessionaires lead day classes in the area to prepare their clients for heading to the roof of the park, to the top of the 13,770-foot Grand Teton herself.
Mindful of the impacts heavy day-use of the Jenny Lake area has inflicted, Grand Teton officials are embarking on a planning effort to develop a renewal plan for the area, one that could improve trail conditions, generate a more in-depth interpretive plan for the area, and better protect the natural resources there.
The effort has been anticipated by locals, including the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, which intends to support the park's effort with a campaign to help rejuvenate the Jenny Lake area.
The areas that need to be addressed are clearly evident if you've visited Jenny Lake. Many of the trails were built back in the 1930s, long before heavy throngs of visitors were envisioned for the park. As a result, many of the trails have poor drainage and sections that are too steep under today's planning efforts. As a result, erosion is common, and on some days in summer over-crowding impacts visitors' enjoyment and leads to trampling of vegetation.
Four areas will be considered in the planning process, according to park officials. These include South Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, the String Lake outlet, and the Jenny Lake overlook. Project priorities are to: retain the historic character of the area; improve route finding; expand interpretation of Jenny Lake’s history, natural resources, and wilderness values; preserve and enhance the natural resources; and improve the overall visitor experience.
Grand Teton officials currently are in the scoping process for the project, asking for your input on what should be considered during development of the rehabilitation work and development of a master plan for the area. Part of the effort will include preparation of an environmental assessment that will analyze potential impacts of the project to a number of resources including geology, soils, vegetation, wildlife, cultural resources, water resources, wilderness character, and visitor use and experience.
Interested individuals, organizations or agencies are invited to provide relevant information or suggestions for consideration by park managers before a draft EA is written and made available for public review this winter. Scoping comments will be accepted through September 15.
You can obtain more information, including maps of the area, and submit comments online at this site, or by mail to Grand Teton National Park, P.O. Drawer 170, Moose, WY, 83012, c/o Margaret Wilson.