What’s the Future of Grand Teton’s Busiest Spot?

Park planners seek public feedback on alternatives for redesign of Colter Bay Village

The Visitor Center at Colter Bay is home to Grand Teton National Park’s largest exhibit on Indigenous history within the park. (Courtesy photo from Grand Teton National Park / National Park Service)

By Melissa Thomasma

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Nestled in the heart of Grand Teton National Park, Colter Bay Village is one of the park’s busiest locations. Offering a convenience store, laundromat, visitor center, marina, restaurant, campground and other amenities, the area hosts 12,000 visitors on an average peak-season day. 

That’s not what the original plans anticipated, Amanda Brushaber, environmental protection specialist for Grand Teton National Park told the Wyoming Truth. Now, Brushaber is leading the planning effort to rethink the popular park locale and implement a redesign that will enhance guest experiences. 

Colter Bay is increasingly unable to accommodate growing and diverse visitation, changing environmental conditions and staffing required to keep the area running smoothly, she said.

To select the most ideal plan, Grand Teton National Park is seeking public feedback through Jan. 11 on what they’d like to see change or stay the same in Colter Bay. Park leaders haveshared six design concepts as potential alternatives for the village’s future. 

“Colter Bay was completed in 1966 and has had very little improvement in the intervening years,” Brushaber said, citing outdated structures and deteriorating pavement. 

The plan also will identify places where Indigenous tribes can continue traditional cultural practices and maintain their longstanding connection to the land, she added. 

Colter Bay marina offers access to boaters in Grand Teton National Park and is a key element of the area’s day use. (Courtesy photo from Grand Teton National Park / National Park Service)

Park leaders are examining visitor needs and how the arrival sequence might be altered to better accommodate expectations. The facilities at Colter Bay were originally designed for overnight visitors who stayed in the campground or cabins, Brushaber noted. Today, approximately 2,500 overnight guests utilize the amenities each day during peak season—a small fraction of day users. This has promptedBrushaber and her team to re-examine the order in which visitors encounter facilities.

In its current form, Colter Bay first greets guests with a convenience store and laundromat, and then leads to hiking trails, the visitor center, boat ramp and marina. 

Changing environmental factors have caused lake levels to vary over the past decade, some years dropping so low that the Colter Bay marina was unusable. Future planning will incorporate insights from hydrologists and climate experts to create sustainable and flexible solutions. (Courtesy photo from Grand Teton National Park / National Park Service) 

“We’re exploring whether we should flip that arrival sequence around or have a hybrid sequence that meets the needs of both,” Brushaber said. 

In recent years, Jackson Lake has experienced low water levels, which have rendered the marina and lake access facilities at Colter Bay unusable at times. Recognizing that climate change could make these low water levels more frequent, Grand Teton National Park is collaborating with hydrologists and climate experts to better understand how the area can ensure ongoing visitor access to the lake itself.

“That’s exactly what we want to hear from visitors about: What’s working? What’s not? Are things currently located in the right place?” said Brushaber.

Brushaber said that the team has already received about 100 comments from respondents nationwide. As the design process continues, Grand Teton National Park expects to offer more opportunities for public feedback on particular elements, the first of which is anticipated in late spring.

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