This audio tour provides a glimpse into the Bar BC's past, focusing on the ranch's early days in the 1910s and 20s. Learn about this iconic dude ranch, and listen to excerpts from the writings of Struthers Burt, who co-founded the ranch with Horace Carncross, and Burt's son Nathaniel.
Listen in the park app, or follow along on the map as you explore the tour online.
If you do plan to visit the Bar BC site, be aware that the road is rough and high clearance is advised. Please park at the gate above the site and walk the last few hundred feet down to the ranch itself. Watch your footing, as there are loose rocks and uneven ground. Enjoy your visit!
1. Approaching the Bar BC
The approach to the Bar BC creates quite a sense of anticipation and arrival, whether you're traveling by car or by wagon.
Host: The Bar BC was one of the first dude ranches in Jackson Hole, and perhaps the most iconic. Today, it’s the oldest one still standing. It was founded in 1912 by Struthers Burt and Horace Carncross, Easterners who emigrated to Wyoming. Burt and his wife, Katharine Newlin Burt, were prolific writers, so their ranch attracted a more artistic and literary set. The clientele tended to be wealthy Easterners who wanted a rustic vacation experience, away from the constraints of high society. Many former guests bought ranches in the area, and some of their families are still in the valley today. During the heyday of dude ranching in the 1910s and 20s, many other ranches operated in Jackson Hole and throughout the West. At its height in the 1920s, the Bar BC was actually one of the valley’s largest employers, hiring over fifty people to help run the ranch each summer. The industry declined as tourism dropped during the Great Depression and World War II, though there are still some dude ranches in Jackson Hole today.
Excerpt from "Jackson Hole Journal": "You couldn’t see the ranch as you started toward the Gros Ventres, with the Tetons and evening at your back. It looked as though you would have to travel straight across the valley for hot miles of sagebrush to those further mountains. Then suddenly came the second bench, a prehistoric riverbank, running neat as a dam north and south, then the steep road down a gully in the jolting wagon between larkspur and mules-ears, with perhaps a last decadent little snowbank still lingering in the draw—the whole panorama of river valley opening out below. Then finally you come down the first bench right into the ranch itself—the sod of tarpaper-roofed cabins, the corrals and saddle shed and barns and ditches and willows and big pines and aspen groves and the shining square of the swimming pool dug out of the flat between cabins and river. It was coming home with a vengeance."
2. Millionaires and Poets
The Bar BC hosted everyone from artists and writers to Rockefellers. Listen to find out who else!
Host: The BarBC regularly hosted celebrity visitors, including the Rockefeller family, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway, who supposedly stayed in this cabin. Struthers Burt’s friendship with Horace Albright, the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, gradually brought Burt around to the idea of creating a national park in Jackson Hole. Burt became a strong conservationist in his own right and a key advocate for the future Grand Teton National Park, using his position of prominence to generate support for it. In 1930, he sold his share in the Bar BC to demonstrate the importance of preserving the valley as a park, and he and his family relocated to a ranch farther north. Burt also encouraged his friend, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to contribute funds to buy up property in the valley to donate to the park, which was a critical step in the formation of Grand Teton National Park as we know today.
Excerpt from "Diary of a Dude Wrangler": "We have entertained millionaires and poets and artists, business men of every description…angels and those who weren’t; people whose homes were in every part of the country from New York to San Francisco; Prohibitionists and Anti-Prohibitionists, Fundamentalists and Modernists, Reactionaries and Radicals, Futurists and Classicists; the bow-legged and fat-legged and spindle-shanked and knock-kneed; Englishmen and Frenchmen and Canadians."
3. Saddle Up
Then as now, visitors to Jackson Hole loved to go on trail rides to experience the landscape. See what "dude wrangler" Struthers Burt had to say about the riding skills of his dudes.
Host: Trail rides were a popular pastime on the ranch, much as they still are in the park today. The tack room was a hub of activity. Wranglers would catch the horses each morning on their pasture and bring them down to the ranch. When guests were ready to go on a trail ride, the wranglers saddled up the horses and brought them out. Dudes often rode the same horse for years, developing a strong attachment. Look for the horses’ names written on the wall, above where their saddles would have hung.
Excerpt from "Diary of a Dude Wrangler": "Dude-horses are in a class by themselves. They are not easy to find. They must have a combination of qualities rare in any single animal, and certainly non-existent in the human animal. They must be young and fast, yet gentle and easy-gaited, and infinitely wise. I have seen the ignorant perform about them, and on them, feats that leave the cowpuncher gasping. Twice, I have seen people get on backward! Yes—they put the right foot in the left stirrup and with the utmost abandon, swung the left leg over the horse’s head and landed facing the horse’s tail, an exploit difficult for even the trained rider."
4. A Slower Pace of Life
Many dudes appreciated their Western vacations as an escape from the stresses and hectic pace of their daily lives. Sitting on a corral fence was one of Struthers Burt's favorite places to pass the time.
Host: Many Bar BC guests of the 1920s and 30s came on vacation to Jackson Hole seeking some of the same things that visitors hope to find today—the peace of being in nature, the splendor of the mountain scenery, and the appreciation of a slower pace of life. Struthers Burt and Horace Carncross selected this site for its beautiful views, its gentle breezes that ruffle the aspen trees, and its solitude, provided by the river valley. Though much about the Bar BC has changed, the setting itself is much the same. What are you hoping to find on your visit here?
Excerpt from "Diary of a Dude Wrangler": "Some of the happiest hours I have ever spent and some of the most profitable, philosophically speaking, have been spent on the top rail of a corral fence, the favorite sitting-place of all Westerners if they have nothing else to do—and, sometimes, even when they have something else to do. I don’t know which makes you the more homesick for the West when you are away from it: the thought of shadowy forests and cool water, or the recollection of warm dust and the top rail of a corral fence and, on Sunday afternoons, the shady side of a cabin or saddle-shed, where you sit with some chosen companions and converse at intervals."
5. Journeying to the Bar BC
In 1920, it took over a week of travel by train and wagon to get to the Tetons and the Bar BC. Listen to hear what that was like.
Host: Early visitors arrived at the Bar BC after a several-day journey by train and wagon. Because the trip took so long and was so expensive, visitors tended to stay at dude ranches for weeks, if not the entire summer. Often, the same families would return year after year. However, with the growing popularity of the automobile in the 1930s and 40s and the advent of the “tin can dude” or automobile tourist, more people wanted to stay for just a few days and visit more locations—similar to the way people vacation today. A growing middle class also meant that more people had the means to travel, though generally not the freedom to take the entire summer off. These shifts changed the unique culture and camaraderie that once existed among the longtime guests and their hosts at dude ranches, and many ranches ceased operating altogether.
Excerpt from "Jackson Hole Journal": "The journey took about six days on a train through the summer Middle West with no air conditioning, and windows that opened to the blasts of baked prairie heat and cinders from the steam engines. … Finally, we boarded [another] train up to Victor, arriving in the morning for the total excitement of the Teton Range emerging, turned backwards, over the Idaho foothills; and then at last came the disembarkation to the waiting wagon, or, later on, the truck. The trip was miserable, enthralling, exhausting—an experience. And finally, the blessed clean, cool quietness of the ranch, loud at night with the sound of the river, brilliant by day with flowers and butterflies. No wonder that when Easterners went through all that, they felt that they had gotten somewhere—somewhere important, exotic, isolated and special, well worth the trip—but on the other hand, made worthwhile by that trip."
6. The Dance Cabin
The Bar BC held regular parties to entertain both staff, guests, and neighbors—from costume parties to square dances. In an area with so few people, a party was an event worth traveling for.
Host: The dance cabin was the social center of the ranch, where parties entertained dudes and locals alike. Struthers Burt felt it was his duty, as a host, to provide activities and amusement for his guests, from costume parties to dances to card games. In such a remote location—a day’s wagon ride from Jackson, in the 1920s—they had to make their own entertainment.
Excerpt from "Diary of a Dude Wrangler": "A friend of ours, a rancher from many miles away, came to visit us unexpectedly and found us in the midst of a fancy-dress party. I was dressed in some sort of a silly costume, and the doctor, my partner, was dressed in something even more silly. We give these parties every now and then, usually on the spur of the moment. The neighbors drop in, and it is all very colorful and amusing—the big log cabin lit with candles, the fire smoldering in an open fireplace, the fiddlers over in one corner, and, unlike most fancy dress parties, the cowboys real cowboys. But the visiting rancher, being a simple man of cattle and arriving after dusk when the party was at its height, was taken aback and for a while imagined himself, I dare say, in a place where the inmates had overpowered their keepers."
7. The Swimming Pool
Though many things change over the years, some stay the same. Then and now, visitors to the Tetons have enjoyed a cool swimming hole on a hot day. The Bar BC swimming pool is empty now, but listen to find out where it once was.
Host: Like many visitors to the park today, Bar BC guests looked forward to a swim on hot afternoons. Though the pool here was artificial, its tranquil, reflective surface and cool water were picturesque and welcome additions to the ranch. It was simply a large hollow, fed by a ditch that brought water to the ranch from Cottonwood Creek, over three miles away. Part of the flow was diverted to the garden and corrals, and the rest fed the swimming pool. Wells provided water for drinking and washing. Only two shallow depressions are visible today to mark where the swimming pool once was.
Excerpt from "Jackson Hole Journal": "We learned to swim in the wide swimming pool, held up by breath-inflated white canvas water wings. In the same pool, ladies dipped themselves, dressed in rubber shoes, black stockings, floppy black bathing dresses reaching to the knees, and floppy caps over all that put-up hair. Men wore either long one-piece suits or, later on, the universal blue flannel shorts with white canvas belt and white jersey topshirt. Our wranglers, like most Western horsemen, scorned the water and never came near the pool."
8. Preserving a Legacy
Learn about ongoing historic preservation efforts to stabilize the main cabin and other buildings at the site.
Host: The Burt family lived in this cabin for many summers on the ranch. Their son, Nathaniel, was even born on the kitchen table one winter. Several other people and families cared for the Bar BC over the decades, including Horace Carncross, Struthers Burt's original partner; Irving Corse and his family, who took the ranch over from the Burts; Peggy Conderman of the neighboring 4 Lazy F Ranch; and Margaretta Sharpless, Irving Corse's widow. The Western Center for Historic Preservation and Grand Teton National Park, in partnership with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, are working on a multi-year project to stabilize and preserve this cabin and other buildings here, so that visitors can continue to enjoy them and learn about the Bar BC.
Though the families who lived here and the guests who came to stay are gone, their legacy remains in these buildings, the beginnings of tourism in Jackson Hole, and the formation of Grand Teton National Park. Visitors to the valley today experience the same wonder and joy at the high peaks, the cool swimming holes, and the novelty of Western life. Though the dudes and wranglers have left, and these cabins are now empty, you can still explore the Bar BC and imagine the experiences they had here.
Excerpt from "Diary of a Dude Wrangler": "I have a thousand and one golden memories as well as a thousand and one tales. Memories of faces and voices and laughter, of rides and camps and loveliness seen in company. Of crisp mornings when snow-clad peaks soared against blue skies with the still whiteness of gigantic pelicans, of nights when the moon, coming up behind the sleeping ranges to the east, picked out for a moment a ragged pine, and made isolation suddenly another companion, and flooded the sage-brush with light so that you saw ambergris floating in a sea of silver. For a week or two in the late autumn when everyone is gone, a dude-ranch is a lonely place—haunted."