Photo: BTNF

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Hawks Rest Pack Bridge Replacement Project located in Yellowstone Meadows on the Blackrock Ranger District is scheduled to resume on May 20, 2021.  Due to seasonal weather conditions, the project is expected to conclude by mid-October 2021.

The existing 155’ bridge constructed in 1959 spans the Yellowstone River providing access to remote backcountry in the Teton Wilderness and the neighboring areas of Yellowstone National Park and the Washakie Wilderness on the Shoshone National Forest.  After being evaluated by US Forest Service engineers in 2016, it was determined the bridge is in critical need of replacement.

Further evaluation in 2019 showed additional cracking and deterioration of support piers and abutments. Blackrock Ranger District completed an environmental analysis in 2017 and the Regional Forester has approved a motorized and mechanized Wilderness Exception for portions of the project, including use of a Type 1 helicopter, the largest type of helicopter the Forest Service typically uses for firefighting, and other motorized and mechanized tools. These are necessary for installing the large bridge components and for removing large existing components such as steel girders.  All elements of the project that can be accomplished with primitive tools and pack stock will be completed in this manner.

In 2020, in preparation for setting the new bridge this year, the contractor removed bridge railing, excavated the approaches back from the bridge and left temporary false work and bracing in place that was installed on the old bridge.  Presently the way the current bridge is configured it is impossible for people and/or stock to use the bridge.  Until the bridge is completely replaced and new approaches are constructed, the Hawks Rest Pack Bridge can’t be used to cross the Yellowstone River this season (2021). The conditions and flow of the river will subside later this season which will allow the river to be forded.  Please check with the Ranger station for the latest conditions.

Spring is a popular time to visit Yellowstone Meadows, Atlantic Creek and Bridger Lake to fish the Yellowstone cutthroat trout spawn.  Unfortunately, spawning season will coincide with the months the bridge will be unusable.  Due to spring flooding of the Yellowstone River, accessing traditionally used camping sites around Bridger Lake and crossing the river could be difficult or unsafe without the bridge.

With less access, fishing and camping opportunities in Yellowstone Meadows area will be reduced.  High demand by outfitters and private parties for limited camping sites along the Atlantic Creek drainage, extending up to Two Ocean Pass, is anticipated. Due to a possibility for overcrowding, and to minimize conflict between Wilderness visitors searching for campsites and fishing spots in these areas, please consider alternatives to camping in Yellowstone Meadows this year.  Alternates include traveling during a different time of year, adjusting your trip to a different part of the Wilderness, or shifting your trip dates to next year.

Blackrock Ranger District will station a ranger near the Atlantic Creek drainage for the purpose of outreach and education. Patrols will promote minimum impact and Wilderness principles, protecting resources and visitor experiences, and providing information on Hawks Rest Pack Bridge Replacement Project.

For those who choose to travel to the project area, there will be a temporary closure at the project site during the construction period to ensure public safety and expedite work on the bridge replacement.  A bypass trail will be managed by the forest’s Contracting Officer Representative and the contractor to allow access through the closure area, except during active helicopter operations.

The map provided with this press release is designed to emphasize the bridge construction area closure, other areas with special camping and grazing considerations, and to highlight alternate fishing opportunities in locations outside the project area.  Reminders on stay limits, person and stock number limits, food storage and certified weed seed free stock feed requirements are also listed.

Buckrail @ Jacob

Jacob Gore was born and raised in Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming. As a proud Wyomingite, he loves to share his home with visitors from around the world. Spending years in Jackson and Alaska as an interpretive nature guide, he remains a photographer, traveler, storyteller, and avid hobbyist of all-things outdoors. Jacob enjoys bridging the connection between Jackson and the rest of the state.