Does Grand Teton Fissure Indicate Anything? Apparently Not

A Grand Teton fissure in the Hidden Falls area has caused a certain level of buzz. But the fissure may not be so new, and the experts say it may not be all that important, either.

Anything out of the ordinary in Grand Teton National Park is always a topic of discussion. Unlike the Yellowstone National Park plumbing, which frequently changes things when it comes to geyser activity, Grand Teton is regarded as a much more stable area. So when word emerged that a Grand Teton fissure near Hidden Falls was discovered and expanding daily, it created a little buzz, especially after park officials closed down the popular Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point areas near Jenny Lake. The natural concern from park officials: falling rocks could end up harming someone.

At the time of the closing, Superintendent David Vela said, “Human safety is our number one priority, and with an abundance of caution we are temporarily closing this area until we can properly assess the situation.”

But the closing was for naught, apparently.

Climbing guides now tell park rangers it dates back to last fall, and reports of activity in the last few weeks might be a little overstated. The emergence of Steamboat Geyser and smaller geysers as active thermal spots has led to plenty of speculation about any potential large-scale activity in the greater Yellowstone area, and a new fissure on a popular rock wall certainly would be out of the ordinary. From the Jackson Hole News & Guide:

“Additional conversations with some of the climbing guides revealed information that they thought perhaps that has been there for a while,” Teton park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “They believe that it may have been there since last fall.”

“It’s uncertain when that established itself,” she said. “Perhaps it’s just a part of the freeze-thaw cycles that happen on a routine basis.”

Teton park staff have monitored the section of rock that has splintered for the past 10 days, and they surveyed it at being 100 feet long, 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. So far, the crack hasn’t changed in any discernible way, and it’s being monitored with time-lapse cameras and precision GPS equipment.

Yes, the watched pot never boils. And it’s generated headlines, with the likes of Fox News calling it a “massive” fissure and linking it to a potential eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. (It’s hard to call a 100-foot-long fissure as massive given the scale of the Tetons.) So while Grand Teton officials were smart to close off the area for the sake of safety, beware drawing lessons from a small, limited occurrence.

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