ASHTON — Between the northern end of the Teton Range and Yellowstone's Pitchstone Plateau cuts a dirt road made for adventure.
The Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road is remote enough and rough enough to make a visitor feel like they might be traveling dangerously.
And its well-traveled enough that help is usually only a Utah or California tourist away.
For some folks, its one of a list of must-do road trips every summer.
Don't try it in the winter unless you are traveling by snowmobile when the road becomes a popular snowmobile trail.
Anyone who has traveled this road will know what to expect. For those who never have had the experience, be prepared.
Cars do travel it, but these are cars with high clearance and likely not brand new shiny cars with proud and picky owners.
It's more fun in a SUV or pickup truck that can take the dips and dirt better. Whatever the vehicle, it will get dirty. Mountain bikers also share the road, but its almost as rare to see them as a black bear or coyote.
When the road enters the forest, literally the Caribou-Targhee Forest, it turns to gravel. But the scenery turns to expansive mountain views. Check out the Grand Teton to the southeast along the first few miles where the road follows the ridge.
For most of the way, though, the views will be of forest and streams, with the lily-padded Indian Lake, where you may see a moose and expansive meadows, such as Gibson and Squirrel, where seeing a grizzly bear at dawn or dusk is not out of the range of possibilities.
Wildlife sightings will most likely include a deer or elk and an occasional curious marmot.
Because the road travels the northern tip of the Teton Range and reaches elevations of about 7,500 feet, the terrain is rocky, like you might expect of crossing a mountain range.
While some folks just travel the road for a day's adventure, many use it to access trails heading into Yellowstone National Park, which borders the road to the north in some spots.
Other destinations along the road:
• Grassy Lake Reservoir, where anglers search for trout and an occasional loon may be spotted.
• Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp tucked into the forest to the south of the road.
• Camping in several sites in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway, the area crossed by the road on the eastern, Flagg Ranch end.
And speaking of the end, once at the Flagg Ranch, the traveling choices abound. You could turn around a see what you missed on the same return route, head south out of the parkway into Grand Teton National Park and its many sites and attractions or head north into Yellowstone Park. Both park routes loop back to Idaho, eventually.
The about 40-mile trip (Ashton to Flagg Ranch) can take as long as you want, but plan at least three hours one way.
The road was built in the early 20th century to accommodate construction from 1911 to 1916 of Jackson Lake Dam, a Bureau of Reclamation facility. Materials for the dam were hauled from the rail head in Ashton to the dam site in Wyoming across the road. That's how the road got its other name, the Reclamation Road.
An new concrete and earthen dam was constructed in stages between 1911 and 1916, raising the maximum lake level to 30 feet above the lake's natural elevation, providing a storage capacity of 847,000 acre feet. The new dam was designed by Frank A. Banks, who would later supervise the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.
The reservoir was created by damming the outlet of the natural glacial Jackson Lake, with the additional height creating a storage pool for the Minidoka Project, which provides irrigation water from the Snake River for farmlands in Idaho. Jackson Lake stores and releases water which is collected by Minidoka Dam and American Falls Dam more than 100 miles downstream for diversion to distribution canals. At the time of the dam's construction, Jackson Hole and the Teton Range were as yet unprotected from development. Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929, and excluded Jackson Lake. The lake was incorporated into Jackson Hole National Monument when it was proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act, and became a part of Grand Teton National Park win 1950 when the park was expanded to encompass the national monument lands. When the dam was built there was no attempt to clear the shores of the lake of standing timber, resulting in an unsightly band of dead trees when the waters rose. This vista, and the mudflats created by drawdown of lake waters, were cited in later years in successful arguments against reservoirs in Yellowstone National Park.
Construction personnel for the dam were housed at a temporary camp that dwarfed the nearby town of Moran, Wyoming. Supplies came in from the Grassy Lake Road north of the park, which runs west into Idaho to meet the nearest railhead at Ashton.