Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Take a Free Ride on Menor’s Ferry and Experience Old West History

Thursday, August 20 2009 14:35   Grand Teton
A bit of Old West history has returned to Wyoming, and thanks to the National Park Service, visitors to Grand Teton National Park during summer months are enjoying free rides across the wild Snake River on the replica ferry.

Known as Menor's Ferry, the pontoon craft played a vital role in providing safe transport for passengers over the swift-flowing Snake River during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Runing seasonally, from mid-July through mid-September, park ranger naturalists offer free ferry rides daily between Bill Menor's general store and Dornan's on the east bank, a pasta and pizza shop on the east side of the Snake River. The ferry serves as a central feature of the Menor/Noble historic district and is located just north of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.

"History is meant to be experienced and the operation of Menor's Ferry, one of the important historical points in Jackson Hole, is a way to allow people to do just that," said Candy Moulton, author of Legacy of the Tetons, her account of homesteading in Jackson Hole, and about the pioneers who developed Mormon Row, now protected inside the park.

"I have always loved the story of the Menor brothers, how they argued and fought with each other, but managed one of the businesses that became a Jackson Hole icon," she added.

Prior to the ferry's existence, the Snake River was essentially impassable from Wilson to Moran, except during low water periods in the fall and winter months.

As a man of vision, Bill Menor saw the need for a more convenient access across the Snake River and built and operated his ferry from 1894 until 1918, when he sold it to Maud Noble.

Maud operated the ferry until 1927, when its use became obsolete after a steel truss bridge was constructed across the river, allowing for vehicles and foot traffic to cross without the assistance of a boat.

Today's Menor's Ferry is a refurbished replica that consists of a platform deck which is set upon two pontoons for flotation. The ferry is tethered to a cable system that spans the river and operates by directing the pontoons toward the opposite riverbank, allowing the power of the current to push the craft across the river channel.

The system uses river power rather than motor power to push the ferry across the water. This type of river travel existed in ancient times and was widely used throughout the United States.

"People love the ride," Ranger Mike Nicklas told OldWestNewWest.Com. "It's not motor powered, so it's quiet. When we want to go, we angle the pontoons and let the river carry it."

While the ferry has been running since 2005, the deck was refurbished in 2009 by the Western Center for Historic Preservation. When the ferry isn't operating during the off season, rangers haul it out of river and store it for eight or nine months of the year.

The ferry is on west side of the Snake River-recently designated a wild and scenic river-just north of Craig Thomas Visitor Center. Visitors go through the Moose entrance center to find it.

"The Park Service has supported preservation of historic structures on Mormon Row, and now adds to the legacy with the re-establishment of Menor's Ferry," Moulton said. "Kudos to the park managers for recognizing that people do want to understand the human history of the region as well as experience the natural resource opportunities."

For more information on Grand Teton National Park, visit the Web site at or to purchase Moulton's Legacy of the Tetons book, go to at the University of New Mexico Press' Web site.