Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) was established in 1929, though Yellowstone is only 56 miles north of Jackson. The trademark of GTNP are the jagged and impressive Teton Mountains that dominate the western view of the valley. In addition, a string of lakes below the Teton Range offer canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, and hiking. A network of hiking trails offers a tramp worthy of any skill level. The Snake River runs through the entire park. A drive along any of the park’s road offers non stop Kodak moments.
Teton first dazzled the fur traders in the early 1800s. Then later in the 19th century, settlers finally arrived. By 1890, Jackson Hole had a population of 64. Hunting and fishing were popular even then. After touring the area in 1926, John D. Rockefeller, Jr, bought private lands in Jackson for park use. Rockefeller’s agent over 35,000 acres over the next 20 years. In 1929, Congress established GTNP. In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a proclamation establishing Jackson Hole National Monument. The 210,000 acre monument includes most of the federal land in Jackson. In 1949, the Rockefellers donated nearly 33,000 acres to the federal government.
Grand Teton itself is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,770 feet above sea level. The name Teton was perhaps given to this range by the French trappers in the area. Tetons, for those of you who do not speak French, means “breasts”. So, with nearly 200 miles of hiking trails, the avid tramper can hike up and down the breasts for weeks. The Tetons are a glaciated range composed of horns and aretes, separated by U shaped valleys, headed by cirques, and ended by moraines. The largest lake, Jackson Lake, was impounded by a recessional moraine left by a large glacier. The rocks on the eastern face of the Tetons are 2500 million years old.
For thousands of years, Jackson Hole was a neutral crossroads for trading and travel through the area. Native Americans have been in the area for over 12,000 years. The French explorers, trappers and traders named the Tetons, as vividly explained above. John Colter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is reputed to be the first white American to visit this area. Later, homesteaders moved in, but were rebuffed by the short growing season. Later, Yellowstone’s superintendent,, Col. Young, proposed adding this area to Yellowstone. In 1929, Teton became a National Forest when the bill was signed into law by President Coolidge. After a large donation of land by the Rockefellers, Grand Teton National Park became a reality in 1949.
GTNP is home to over 1000 species of vascular plants. Various trees thrive up to the 10,000 foot timber line. Add around 900 flowering plants and 300 species of birds, and a variety of animals, including squirrel, marten, black bear, moose, coyote, badger, mountain lion and wolf. Among the many activities here in the park are: climbing, boating, fishing, biking, horse back riding, skiing, and hiking. Oxbow Bend is a good place to view wildlife, including the bald eagle. The Rendezvous Peak Tramway offers a 2.5 mile trip to the top of Rendezvous Peak. A strenuous day hike takes you to Cascade Canyon and Lake Solitude. Several scenic drives offer views from above, such as the Signal Mountain Summit Road. The Lake Jenny Scenic Drive, and Menor’s Ferry and the Chapel of Transfiguration are two more popular routes.
I actually enjoyed Teton more than Yellowstone itself. Hard to believe, but true. Find our for yourself.