The arch spans all four lanes of U.S. Route 89 as the highway passes through downtown Afton. The arch is 18-feet tall and 75-feet wide. Smaller elk antler arches flank each side of the arch’s base. Although Jackson Hole’s elk antler arches are more widely known, the antler arch in Afton is believed to be the largest in the world.
First conceived by the Afton Chamber of Commerce in 1956, the Elkhorn Arch was completed in July 1958. It’s composed of 3,011 intertwined elk antlers and weighs over 15 tons. The arch was constructed at an estimated cost of $2,500. Today, the antlers, popular as an aphrodisiac in Asian medicine, are valued at an estimated $300,000.
No elk were harmed in the arch’s construction. Elk shed their antlers each spring, and the naturally discarded antlers were collected with a permit from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Most of the antlers were gathered from the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming. Annual antler collections continue for the arch’s maintenance and upkeep. It also receives a yearly coating of a special weatherproof finish.
If the Elkhorn Arch was not already impressive enough, it received a centerpiece during the early 2000s. It was topped by a sculpture of two life-size bull elk with their antlers locked in combat. These mating battles occur every autumn when elk are in rut. The realistic wooden elk were carved by Afton’s native son, Jonathan “The Bear Man” LaBenne, as a gift to his hometown. LaBenne is best known for his chainsaw sculptures of wild North American animals. The elk stand on a sawn grass platform emblazoned with the words, “AFTON, WYOMING.”
Beneath the elk sculpture is a sign proclaiming, “World’s Largest ELKHORN ARCH.” As a bonus, visitors can drink from a nearby fountain that brings water from a geyser, the Intermittent Spring, located five miles east of Afton.