Former Campbell County Commissioner and Gillette City Councilman Stephen F. Hughes, 66, was found dead inside his business, Landmark Inc., early Friday morning, according to information released by …
JACKSON, Wyo. — There are a number of reasons the boat ramp beneath the Wilson Bridge is hectic.
First and foremost, Wilson is the most heavily used river access point in the valley. Fishing guides, scenic trips, private boaters and Sunday afternoon sun bathers all cherish this easily accessible and beautiful section of river. In July of last year, more than 20 boats an hour launched from the Wilson ramp.
Add to that the lack of proper parking, a proper boat ramp or even a proper eddy, and it is understandable that a busy day at the boat ramp can be chaotic and stressful.
Brady Johnston, a raft guide for Jackson Hole Whitewater, was waiting for a busload of clients Sunday morning. He had two large rafts tethered high up in the small eddy.
From his seat on the bow of his boat, he pointed to a bridge pylon just below the ramp that he saw four commercial boats run into, or bonk, earlier that morning.
"If you are at the bottom of that eddy and trying to get around the pylon, that's the sort of thing that can happen," he said.
As he spoke, a Subaru with a trailer backed down the rocky embankment to lower a raft into the water. The Subaru managed, but Johnston said he has seen cars get stuck on the loose gravel of the steep ramp.
He also said that when the launch is busy, it is almost impossible for boats trying to take out at the ramp to catch the eddy.
"I can't wait for the new park," Johnston said, referring to plans to renovate the Wilson boat ramp and surrounding areas.
In the meantime, the Snake River Fund, an organization started in 1998 to deal with increased river usage, has hired river ambassador Jay Pistono for a third summer to help mitigate some of these issues as well as a number of others.
Pistono is not new to the role as an outdoor diplomat, having served as the Teton Pass Ambassador for six years.
Pistono will split his time between the Wilson and South Park boat ramps Friday to Sunday, as well as during especially busy days throughout the summer.
Around both the Wilson and South Park boat ramps, Pistono emphasizes the importance of patience and awareness.
"The place can be busy, but, if you have the right attitude, you are going to get on the water and have a great day," he said.
Pistono has been meeting with commercial floating companies throughout the spring in an attempt to stagger launch times and decrease the early morning chaos.
Being completely prepared to get on the river before launching a boat is key, he said. This includes using the bathrooms, which Pistono points out are often busy at the same time as the boat ramp. Also being aware of where you are parked and what that means for others is essential, he said. When space is tight, Pistono is more than willing to help back in trailers.
Another part of his job is to remind boaters to respect the river, wildlife and one another to create harmony on the river, he said.
His newest responsibility is helping Wyoming Game and Fish combat the spread of aquatic invasive species.
He is now certified to check boats for inspection decals and will not allow boats without decals to launch. "Wyoming Game and Fish and the Snake River Fund are making a big push on this," he said. "The places that have invasive species are really bummed they have them."
Protecting wildlife is another area of concern for Pistono. Practicing proper catch and release techniques is important as is giving wildlife space on the river. There are a number of moose living in the river corridor between Wilson and South Park as well as a population of bald eagles.
"Sometimes you have no choice and end up floating right beneath a perched eagle, but I try and give them as much space as possible," he said.
Pistono also encourages good river etiquette. If one boat is passing another boat, it should announce its presence and then give the boat it just passed plenty of space.
"Don't leapfrog a boat and then fish right in front of it," he said.
Finally, Pistono wants to remind river users that there is a lot of private land along the Wilson to South Park stretch of river.
"It's pretty simple," he said. "Be considerate of where you anchor, and don't leave behind garbage."
All in all, Pistono thinks people do a great job on the river, and he actually doesn't have to deal with too many problems.
"The more aware people are, the less problems we have," he said.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com