BONDURANT – A two-day public tour of the Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is being planned for July 12-13.
At its June 7 meeting, the Sublette County advisory committee for the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) began mapping out schedules and routes for horseback riders and hikers as well as motorized off-road vehicles on both days.
Those plans are now set for an unknown number of people taking an interest in Sublette County’s northernmost WSA, which has a small portion in Teton County.
The Shoal Creek WSA, which was designated by the Forest Service (FS), lies in Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) near Bondurant and extends the current Gros Ventre Wilderness. There are public access points from Highway 191 north of the Hoback Rim and from North Fisherman Creek, Jack Creek Road and Dell Creek Road near Bondurant.
The first day of the field trip – Wednesday, July 12 – starts for everyone at the BTNF’s Riling Draw trailhead north off Dell Creek Road by the elk feedground. The WPLI committee asks the public to meet at the Riling Draw site at 7 a.m. and be ready to hit the trails by 9 a.m. Camping is allowed here.
Public participants must bring their own means of transport, food, water, bug spray and any gear that might be needed. They should also be aware that they are responsible for their own safety and consider how to deal with emergencies that might arise, according to the Sublette WPLI.
Although dogs are allowed on the BTNF, the Sublette WPLI is asking people who are riding or hiking to consider leaving them home due to the number of people and horses participating as well as livestock and wildlife concerns.
Committee member Bill Lanning will lead the “motorized” group of those bringing their own off-road vehicles (ORVs) up Riling Draw and to Rock Creek just outside the WSA boundary. Committee member Mike Henn will preload GPS coordinates for the route. Motorized use will conform with existing FS restrictions and be confirmed first with the Big Piney Ranger District.
For those who choose to hike or ride the 12-mile “nonmotorized” route, this group will also meet Wednesday at the Riling Draw trailhead. The route will go from there to Parody Draw and the Rock Creek trail to Tin Can Park, which is in the WSA. The return ride will go along the West Dell Falls trail. This route climbs gradually from 6,800 feet to 8,300 feet with “short ups and downs.”
With black bears and grizzlies (as well as wolves) sometimes encountered in this area, participants are advised to bring bear spray. Riders should also bring rain gear as well as their own food, water, horses, saddles and any other gear they might need.
The Sublette WPLI committee plans a 6:30 p.m. “town hall” meeting at St. Hubert’s Episcopal Church to take public comments and answer questions about the Shoal Creek WSA’s review. Friends of the Bondurant Library will host the open house.
On Day 2, July 13, the WPLI committee plans to tour the southern portion of the Shoal Creek WSA, again with two motorized and nonmotorized groups.
Participants for both groups will meet up at 7 a.m. on North Fisherman Creek Road (turn east off Highway 191 across from Hoback Ranches) at its junction with the two-track road leading to the Craig Cabin. A committee member will be posted at the highway turnoff at 6:45 a.m. to guide anyone unfamiliar with the meeting place.
The motorized group will travel to a high point as close to the WSA boundary as possible. Again, GPS coordinates will be available. In the meantime, riders and hikers will follow an 11-mile route to the Craig Cabin and to the North Beaver Creek trail back to the trailhead. This route starts at 7,800 feet, climbs to 9,400 feet and ends at 8,700 feet.
The Sublette WPLI meets the first Wednesday of each month (except July), 1-5 p.m. at the Sublette County Commissioners Meeting Room in Pinedale.
For more background about the WPLI, WSAs, Sublette committee members, meetings, maps and other information, visit https://www.sublettewpli.org. The public can also submit comments.