Lunch Tree Hill: The Dream of a Teton Park - Countdown: 36 Days

July 20, 2012 Posted by: KG

Lunch Tree Hill, just a short hike from Jackson Lake Lodge, is a great spot for a picnic with a view. This vista overlooks several acres of willows that offer great wildlife viewing and an unobstructed panorama of the Teton Range.

Willow Flats and the Teton Range from Jackson Lake Lodge
NPS Photo/Danielle Lehle

Beyond the magnificent view and great wildlife viewing, this place is special because of a significant historical event that happened here.

This story begins with Horace Albright, the first National Park Service Superintendent of Yellowstone, who was well known for his love of the Teton Range and his dream to preserve it along with the Jackson Hole valley. A fortuitous visit to the Yellowstone area by the Rockefeller family, recounted below, proved to be just what Albright needed to germinate his master plan.

"The summer of 1926 found John D. Rockefeller, Jr., his wife and three children, again journeying to the West.  After a visit to the Southwest and California, in July they arrived at Yellowstone for a twelve day stay.  Soon Albright was motoring his guests south to the Teton country.  The first day they picnicked on a hill (now "Lunch Tree Hill" adjacent to Jackson Lake Lodge) overlooking Jackson Lake.  Five moose browsed contentedly in the marsh below them.  Across the lake spread the majestic Teton Range.  It was a day and a view destined to have a lasting impression on Rockefeller."  

Moose browsing in the willows
NPS Photo/Danielle Lehle

"The following morning they continued south towards Jackson.  Rockefeller and his wife were profoundly impressed by the Leigh-String-Jenny Lake region, but were appalled by the encroaching commercialism.  A rather tawdry dancehall seemed inappropriate, "unsightly structures" marred the road, and telephone wires bisected the Teton view.  Jackson Hole seemed destined for the ubiquitous uglification coincidental with unplanned tourist development.  Mrs. Rockefeller was particularly irate and asked if anything could be done.  Visual abuse led to verbal communication and soon Albright was sharing his ideas.  Returning to Yellowstone, they stopped at Hedricks Point, a bluff overlooking the Snake River which afforded a magnificent view in all directions.  It was here that Albright revealed the concerns of the Maud Noble cabin meeting three years earlier, and the plan to save not only the mountains but much of the valley spread out before them.  Although Rockefeller was noncommittal, he listened intently to Horace Albright's account of the efforts to save the valley." - page 45-46, Crucible for Conservation  

"When Rockefeller signaled his desire to purchase the whole northern valley, it was a remarkable turn of fortune. … Within a few days after receiving the material, Rockefeller gave his approval in a letter … to purchase 'the entire Jackson Hole Valley with a view to its being ultimately turned over to the Government for joint or partial operation by the Department of Park and the Forestry Department.'" - page 48, Crucible for Conservation

With Rockefeller's help, Albright's dream would eventually become a reality.

This story reminds us that whether help comes in the form of emotional support, money, guidance, or just a friendly smile, we all need people in our lives who believe in our dreams. Who is that person for you?

The Grand Teton Lodge Company offers naturalist led walks of Lunch Tree Hill starting from Jackson lake Lodge at 8am Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday through the end of September 2012. Call 307-543-2811 for details.


Quotations from: Righter, Robert W. "Crucible for Conservation: The Creation of Grand Teton National Park." Colorado Associated University Press. 1982.

Last updated: August 4, 2012

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