Elk NetworkPass Creek, Wyoming – onX Public Access Project

Conservation , onX Public Access | June 4, 2021

From Truck-Eater to 2WD on Pass Creek

Road improvements enhance access to 9,600 acres

In the Bridger-Teton National Forest south of Grand Teton National Park, Pass Creek tumbles alluringly through fields of wildflowers, aspen and conifers trimmed in sage—all hallmarks of good elk country, and it is. Elk stage here in the fall, as do hardy bands of hunters.

But until recently, this area was also known for its treacherous and sometimes impassable roads, namely Pass Creek Road, which follows the creek for five miles and leads to Elk and South Horse creeks. This dirt path into the Wyoming Range was already infamous for jackknifing horse trailers amid mud-bogs of truck-swallowing ruts. But the sogginess of the fall of 2013 sent the gnarliness of the route to a whole new level. 

“The road deteriorated to the point that a lifted 1970s International Scout high-centered on a culvert going from one mud puddle to the next,” says Chad Hayward, U.S. Forest Service natural resource manager for the area.

The Forest Service felt it had to take action. In addition to the safety issues, the situation created a major roadblock for access to well-loved elk country. The Wyoming Game and Fish department counts on hunter harvests to keep elk herds in balance with the available habitat. Closing the road could push the elk herd above its objective, leading to other potential resource problems and game damage complaints. The muck-trough of a road was also degrading the adjacent riparian habitat and flushing sediments downstream. 

The solution came in the form of the Pass Creek Access Improvement Project. Money from RMEF’s Wyoming banquets matched Torstenson Family Endowment funding to help fund the work, along with other partners including the Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish and Sublette County’s Roads and Bridges department. Crews finished rehabilitating the five-mile road in 2015, followed since with weed spraying and habitat monitoring. Now the
road is in better shape than ever, and hunters can search
for elk without fear of getting high-centered, even towing horse trailers.

Wyoming Game and Fish Habitat Biologist Jill Randall says, “Last fall I went in there with a pickup and I never put it in four-wheel-drive.”