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River ambassador seeks to raise awareness
Whitewater rafters make the Wilson boat ramp a busy place during the peak summer season. Snake River Fund photo

River ambassador seeks to raise awareness

Jul 6, 2012 - By Miller Resor, Jackson Hole News & Guide

JACKSON (AP) -- 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.

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