• The Cathedral Group from the Teton Park Road

    Grand Teton

    National Park Wyoming

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  • Seasonal road closures in effect

    Seasonal road closures are in effect for motorized vehicles. The Teton Park Road is closed from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to the Signal Mountain Lodge. The Moose-Wilson Road is closed from the Granite Canyon Trailhead to the Death Canyon Road. More »

  • Avalanche hazards exist in the park

    Avalanche hazards exist in the park, especially in mountain canyons and on exposed slopes. A daily avalanche forecast can be found at www.jhavalanche.org or by calling (307) 733-2664. More »

  • Bears emerging from hibernation

    Bears are beginning to emerge from hibernation. Travel in groups of three of more, make noise and carry bear spray. Visitors must stay at least 100 yards from bears. More »

Cultural History

Stewart Ranger Station

For a complete history timeline for the area, explore the Discover Grand Teton website. more>>

Useful maps to explore the cultural history of Grand Teton National Park:

Historic Sites Map
All Historic Structures Map
Park boundary map 1929
Park boundary map 1943
Park boundary map 1950
Park boundary map 1972

Humans and the Teton Landscape: 11,000 years of history in 1,100 words

The human history of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range dates back thousands of years. The stunning beauty and abundant wildlife and plants found here has drawn humans to this place for more than 11,000 years.

Nomadic paleo-Indians first entered the Jackson Hole valley shortly after Pleistocene Ice Age glaciers retreated. They left behind tipi rings, fire pits and stone tools. Summers were a time of abundance. Indians harvested bulbs and berries, fished the lakes and streams, and hunted wildlife. With the approach of the harsh winter, indigenous people followed their prey out of the valley in search of milder weather.

The first euro-American explorer who may have entered the Jackson Hole was John Colter. He left Lewis and Clark's expedition in the fall of 1806 and traveled through this region in 1807-1808 but left no written record of his journeys.

People also came here for wealth. Fur trappers, known as "mountain men," trekked west in search of prized beaver fur for hats that became fashionable in the early 1800s. Many trappers including David Edward (Davey) Jackson based their operations in the area. The valley we know as Jackson Hole was once known as Davey Jackson's Hole around 1929 and later Jackson's Hole. The beaver population declined rapidly with over-trapping and fashion turned from beaver to silk hats ending the era of the mountain men by 1840.

As America expanded westward, survey expeditions mapped the landscape, documented natural resources and scouted for future railroad access. Parties lead by Captain W.F. Raynolds in 1860, Ferdinand Hayden in 1872 and Gustavus C. Doane in 1876 traveled to the Teton region and expanded America's knowledge of the land and its wealth.

Even though the Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged settlement of the West, homesteaders did not arrive in Jackson Hole until 1884 becoming the valley's first year-round residents. Over the next decade, many settlers established homesteads. Conditions were difficult; the soil was sandy and rocky, the winters long and the summers dry. Homesteaders struggled to raise crops and cattle, and became desperate as an agricultural depression swept the country around 1920.

Wealthy Easterners enchanted with the West visited Jackson Hole for a "cowboy" experience. Homesteaders began to shift their operations to accommodate these visitors in 1908. These eastern "dudes" (men) and "dudenes" (women) paid handsomely for lodging, food, the use of a horse and other outdoor activities. Local ranchers quickly realized dude ranching was more profitable and easier than traditional ranching, leading to the golden age of dude ranching in the 1920s.

Development began to crowd Jackson Hole: cabins, gas stations, dancehalls, billboards and racetracks sprang up. Local ranchers and other businessmen wanted to preserve the valley as a "museum on the hoof." They held a meeting in 1923 at Maud Noble's cabin setting in motion conservation and preservation of the area. In 1926, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. toured the area with Yellowstone Superintendent Horace Albright. Rockefeller fell in love with the majestic mountain scenery and began purchasing private land throughout the valley. Over the next two decades, he amassed 35,000 acres through the Snake River Land Company with the intent of donating the land to the park. Local residents became concerned when they discovered Rockefeller's involvement. Transferring control of the land to the federal government meant a loss in local tax revenue an issue finally resolved by a Congressional hearing.

Grand Teton National Park took decades to establish. Congress established the original park in 1929 to protect the Teton Range and some of the lakes along the base. In 1943, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the remaining federal land in the valley Jackson Hole National Monument. In 1949, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the land he purchased to the government to be included in the national park. Finally, in 1950, Congress combined the original park, most of the national monument, and the Rockefeller land to establish the park we see today. In 1972, Congress established the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to honor Rockefeller's commitment to the National Park Service, connecting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

After World War II, more people owned cars and began to explore their country. Taking shorter vacations compared to dudes, these visitors would only spend a night or two at one location before moving on. In response to this new demand, auto camps became common here. Small cabins clustered around a central parking area allowed visitors easy access to the park. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. also saw a need to house travelers. He set out to develop an assortment of lodging-from small rustic cabins at Colter Bay, to a large lodge above Jackson Lake, to the elegant lodge near Jenny Lake.

With increased visitation, the park also saw the need to expand visitor services. As the National Park Service approached its 50th anniversary in 1966, the park completed new visitor centers at Colter Bay and Moose in the 1950s to provide information and ranger activities as part of the "Mission 66" program.

Adventure has always drawn people to this area. No one knows who first climbed the Grand Teton. American Indians built an "Enclosure" at 13,280' on a sub-peak of the 13,770' tall Grand Teton. Members of the Hayden Expedition of 1872 claimed to have reached the summit. William Owen, Franklin Spalding, John Shive and Frank Petersen claimed the first documented summit in 1898. Many followed them. Paul Petzoldt and Glen Exum established the first guide service in 1931 still operating today as Exum Mountain Guides. Today over 90 different routes and variations lead to the summit of the Grand Teton.

Olaus Murie first visited the valley in 1927 when he conducted a study on the local elk herd. Years later in 1945, the Murie families - Olaus and Mardy with Adolph and Louise - purchased the STS Dude Ranch in Moose. Conservation leaders met at this ranch, defining wilderness and pushing for its preservation, a legacy for all to share.

This majestic place inspired and sustained people for thousands of years-learn here how they too have shaped the Teton landscape. Follow the links below to learn more about some of the historic buildings and stories of this place. See the historic map for locations of buildings and take time to visit a historic structure during your next visit to Grand Teton National Park.

For additional information about historic sites within Grand Teton National Park visit:

National Register of Historic Places
Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office
Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Did You Know?

Bill Menors Ferry

Did you know that until the 1890s no one had settled on the west bank of the Snake River in the central part of Jackson Hole? William “Bill” Menor built a ferry at Moose to shuttle patrons across the river, the only reliable crossing point between Wilson and Moran.