National Elk Refuge
As development grew at the turn of the 20th century, migratory routes changed. Livestock competed with elk for natural grasses, and elk often raided ranchers' haystacks. These changes and a series of harsh winters led to the starvation of thousands of elk. The community of Jackson grew concerned the elk herd would not survive without human intervention.
In 1910, Stephen Leek attracted national attention by his writings, photographs and lectures about starving elk in the Jackson area. That same year, the Wyoming Legislature appropriated $5,000 for Leek to feed hay on his property south of the town of Jackson to purchase all available hay from local ranchers.
The following year, the Wyoming Legislature asked the U.S. Congress to cooperate with the State of Wyoming in feeding, protecting and preserving big game. Congress responded by appropriating $20,000 to feed, restock, and investigate the elk situation.
In 1911, Edward A. Preble of the U.S. Biological Survey was sent to the area to conduct a thorough study of Jackson Elk Herd. Preble's reported, entitled Report on Condition of Elk in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 1911 contained suggestions for a winter refuge for elk. In that document, he stated, "The establishment of a winter refuge, where the food can be preserved by excluding stock during the summer, is essential for the proper protection of elk." He stated later in the report, "The Biological Survey looks on the establishment of one or more winter refuges as the best solution of the problem of properly caring for the elk in the winter. . .Â It is earnestly recommended that at least one winter refuge for elk be established."
The National Elk Refuge was established by various Acts of Congress, executive orders, and other documents to provide, preserve, restore, and manage lands for wintering elk, birds, and other big game animals. The main Act of Congress on August 10, 1912 set aside lands "for the establishment of a winter game (elk) reserve in the State of Wyoming, lying south of the Yellowstone Park . . ."
A few of the significant documents and dates in the Refuge's history include:
August 10, 1912 - Act of Congress, Ch. 284, 37, Stat.293: Establishment of a winter elk reserve
March 4, 1913 - Act of Congress, Ch. 145, 37 Stat.847: Establishment and maintenance of winter elk refuge.
July 25, 1940 - Presidential Proclamation 2416: Changed the name from Elk Refuge to National Elk Refuge
Went the day after Christmas and enjoyed this time tested ride. Was good to be back and enjoy mother Nature. ($15) Be sure to drive the back side of the refuge and see the Bighorn Sheep licking the salt off the cars, its a *tip* from our guide Michael. Incredibly close up and wife took some great photos. Our guide was Michael and with proper clothing and blankets you will be warm enough. Recommend if you like nature when your in the area. Video of the (barely) sparring Elk on the YouTube Channel. Thanks for reading.
This was the perfect family experience, and a winter must-do, but bundle up-- it's cold in the refuge! We had a wonderful time despite the temperature, and were provided warm blankets on the sleigh ride. Our guide was fabulous and incredibly knowledgeable about everything from the history of the refuge to elk biology. He answered all of our groups questions and was personable and friendly. Likewise, everyone who worked in the museum and shop area were helpful and seemed to genuinely care about the work they are doing. Bonus points for also being bagless for purchases and eco friendly.
We have toured the refuge twice, and have enjoyed it both times. This weekend we got to see a few sets of bulls ay fighting. It is an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone.
Nice experience bring windproof clothes. There wasn't enough snow for the sleds. But the carriages work just fine. A little bumpy. The guide Justin was very nice and talked alot. Wich is what you want from a guide. Friendly horses and educated staff.
A beautiful place to camp! Amazing views of the Tetons. Magical! I'll definitely be back. Would have stayed longer, but there are employees of Jackson that need the area to camp while they are working in town. At least that's what the ranger told me. Sad they don't have enough affordable housing for seasonal workers, but I guess that's seems to be the direction most similar towns are going. Hope it changes. The visitor center was lovely.