Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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Explorers and Scientists (continued)

As a result, Hayden's surveys were well funded for the next few years. The 1872 survey employed the largest field crew yet; 61 men were divided into two divisions. Hayden led one group into Yellowstone, while James Stevenson led the other party into the Snake River country, which included Teton Basin and Jackson Hole. Snake River Division members included the following people: Professor Frank Bradley, chief geologist; Gustavus Bechler, topographer; John Merle Coulter, botanist; C. Hart Merriam, ornithologist; and William H. Jackson, photographer. The Hayden Surveys provided experience and exposure for men who would distinguish themselves in their fields. The 1872 survey was notable also for the number of political appointees included in the expedition; the packers and guides referred to them as "pilgrims." While some carried their weight, others did not. Hayden, mindful of future funding, cultivated the favor of politicians by accepting these pilgrims. [27]

The Snake River Division left Ogden, Utah, on June 24, 1872, and reached Fort Hall, Idaho, on July 3. From Fort Hall, Stevenson led the division into Teton Basin, formerly called Pierre's Hole. They spent two weeks surveying the basin and mapping the Teton Range. Two notable events occurred: N. P. Langford and James Stevenson made the first ascent of the Grand Teton, and William H. Jackson took the first photographs of the Grand, Middle and South Teton. Hayden reported the ascent by Langford and Stevenson in the introduction of his 1872 report, stating "so far as we can ascertain they are the only white men that ever reached its summit." Langford also wrote an account of the climb for Scribner's Monthly. [28] Their claim went unchallenged until 1898, when Franklin Spalding, Jack Shive, Frank Petersen, and William O. Owen reached the summit. Owen challenged Langford's claim for reasons discussed in another chapter of this study, launching a controversy that still flares up periodically today.

Hayden, Paris
Ferdinand V. Hayden (left) and William Paris in camp, 1872. William Henry Jackson Photograph, National Park Service

Meanwhile, Jackson set out from the camp on Teton Creek to find a suitable vantage point to photograph the Tetons. He recalled that "this side trip to the Tetons was really secondary to the main object of the expedition, but by this time Yellowstone had lost something of its novelty, and the Tetons, never before photographed, now became of the first importance, so far as I was concerned." [29] Jackson was accompanied by his assistant, Charley Campbell, John Merle Coulter, the botanist, P J. Beveridge, and a packer named Aleck. They ascended Table Mountain situated to the west of the three Tetons. The mules carried food and camp gear, while Jackson's mule, "Old Molly," hauled his precious photographic equipment. They set up camp at tree line, spent three days exploring the area, and sought a good vantage point for photographic work. While making their way to the summit of Table Mountain, they found their passage blocked by a wall of rock. "On one side was a sheer precipice, but on the other a ledge supported a bank of hard snow, 'which offered a passage around the wall.' " The snowbank formed a dangerous angle, hanging over a sheer drop of several hundred feet. Deciding the risk was worth the view, they first packed a trail on the snow, then carefully guided their saddle and pack animals across the snowbank. Jackson spent most of the day making 8 x 10-inch, 11 x 14-inch, and stereoscopic negatives. One exposure shows young Jackson kneeling beside his dark tent near an abrupt precipice with the Teton peaks looming on the horizon. He arranged the photograph, while Aleck the packer made the exposure. Jackson's photographs of the Grand Teton are among the most famous of his thousands of remarkable images of the American West. The Grand Teton was revealed to Americans for the first time. After ten days on their own, Jackson's party returned to the main camp. [30]

view from Table Mountain
Photographing in High Places by William Henry Jackson, 1872. Jackson and an assistant ascended Table Mountain to photograph the surrounding area during the Hayden survey of 1872. His photographs were the first ever made of the Tetons. US. Geological Survey, William Henry Jackson #172

The Snake River Division made their way north toward Yellowstone, meeting Hayden's division in Yellowstone in mid-August. A portion of Stevenson's division set out to explore the headwaters of the Snake River and Jackson Hole in early September. They surveyed about 40 small streams that make up the headwaters of the Snake, then moved down the river into Jackson Hole. W. H. Jackson did not accompany Stevenson on this portion of the survey, thus no photographs were taken of the Teton Range from the east. [31]

On September 19, the division reached the inlet of Jackson Lake, flanked by trees cloaked in the yellows and pale reds of autumn. Geologist Frank Bradley described the scene: "The Teton Range had been before us for many days as a prominent feature of the landscape, but now its peaks stood up as the features of main interest, bounding the valley on the west with a series of roof-like ridges and pointed peaks, well besprinkled with patches of snow." [32] At their camp, less than a mile above the inlet of the lake, Beaver Dick Leigh, the popular guide, rejoined them. One member of the party, Robert Adams, took the first soundings on Jackson Lake, securing a reading of 258 feet in depth before a driving squall forced him off the lake. Adams's canoe trip was the first record of boating on Jackson Lake.

On September 21, the Snake River Division moved south along the eastern shore of the lake, camping at a location possibly east of Sargent's Bay. The next day they reached the outlet of Jackson Lake and followed the course of the Snake River to the Oxbow Bend area. They camped here for two days.

Topographer Gustavus Bechler followed the Buffalo Fork nearly to its headwaters. Meanwhile, Frank Bradley possibly ascended Lozier Hill rather than Signal Mountain for he described Jackson Hole "from the top of the butte at the mouth of the lake." From the summit, Bradley observed that the Snake River had abandoned its southern channel for its present course in the remote past. His description suggests Signal Mountain, but the map of his route through Jackson Hole indicates Lozier Hill. On September 24, Stevenson's division forded the Snake River below Oxbow Bend. Here the party split up, one group following the river along its west bank, while the other group traveled in a southwesterly course to the glacial lakes at the base of the Teton Range. At String Lake, they camped from September 25 to 28. [33]

Leigh family
"Beaver Dick" Leigh and his family at Blackfoot, Idaho. Leigh was the guide for the 1872 Hayden Survey; Jenny Lake was named for Leigh's wife. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

In his report, Frank Bradley left a record of a landscape that remains remarkably unchanged today. The survey team traveled over broad sagebrush-covered plains, interspersed with isolated ponds. They crossed a narrow belt of spruces, then descended into the old channel of the Snake River. Bradley described clearly the Potholes and Burned Ridge, a forest-mantled glacial moraine. Rudolph Hering, an assistant topographer, prepared the first cross-section of the valley, based on elevation statistics. Bradley's narrative is the first scientific description of Jackson Hole. The survey team named the lakes in honor of their guide, Beaver Dick Leigh, and his wife Jenny, hence the names Leigh and Jenny Lakes. This constituted a refreshing departure from the Hayden precedent of naming features for themselves or congressional supporters. William Taggart, Bradley's assistant, hiked up Cascade Canyon for a short distance, where he "found a cluster of falls and rapids about 250 feet high with lofty precipitous walls on either hand." [34] Taggart had visited Hidden Falls, one of the most beautiful places in the park. Predicting lakes at the mouths of other canyons, Bradley and Taggart located two, which they named Taggart and Phelps Lakes. (Beaver Dick Leigh informed them that a hunter named George Phelps had first seen and reported the southern lake; they named it in his honor.) Bradley Lake appears on the map, but it is not mentioned in Bradley's report.

Snake River Division Camps in Jackson Hole

Sept. 19-22, 1872 Inlet of Jackson's HolePossibly Lizard Creek
Sept. 21-22, 1872 Jackson's LakeUnknown
Sept. 22-25, 1872 Outlet of Jackson's HoleOxbow Bend area
Sept. 25-28, 1872 Eastern foot of Mount Hayden between glacier lakesString Lake
Sept. 28-30, 1872 Snake River, at junction with creek from glacier lakesCottonwood Creek
Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 1872 Snake River, below mouth of Gros Ventre CreekOpposite north end of West Gros Ventre Butte
Oct. 1-2, 1872 East of Teton Pass

On September 28, they followed Cottonwood Creek to its junction with the Snake River, just above present-day Moose, Wyoming. They camped in this area until September 30. While here, Gustavus Bechler forded the river and ascended "a high rocky butte" which they named Upper Gros Ventre Butte. This conspicuous summit is Blacktail Butte. Based on Bechler's field notes, an illustrator produced an excellent drawing of the Teton Range from Blacktail Butte. This may be the first artistic illustration of the Teton Range. [35] Bradley wrote that this area consisted of a series of terraces dominated by sagebrush. They saw antelope in Jackson Hole for the first time. Noticing the effects of fire, Bradley wrote that around Blacktail Butte, "large areas of the sage had been burned off, and the grasses had grown up densely, forming fine pasturage."

The Snake River Division moved south along the west side of the river on September 30, camping about a mile below the mouth of the Gros Ventre River, across from the South Gros Ventre Buttes. The next day they camped at the foot of Teton Pass. On October 2, the Snake River Division split, one party crossing Teton Pass, while the other group followed the course of the Snake River into Idaho. Stevenson's Snake River Division ended their season's work at Fort Hall on October 11, 1872. [36]

The Hayden Surveys returned to Jackson Hole in 1877 and 1878, but neither proved historically as significant as the 1872 survey. Later surveys examined the area to develop a detailed map and a systematic geological survey of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. [37] Gustavus Bechler led the Teton Division in 1877. Hayden directed Bechler to map the sources of the Snake River. Bechler managed to survey approximately 6,000 square miles before Chief Joseph's retreating Nez Perces forced his division to suspend work in the fall. [38]

Orestes St. John accompanied the Teton Division as staff geologist, entering the valley in August 1877. St. John noted in his letter of transmittal that his fieldwork supplemented the work of Bradley and Taggart. But, in doing so, he added more detailed information about the Teton Range and Jackson Hole. St. John examined the central Teton Range confirming the granitic and metamorphic composition of the peaks. He investigated the vast morainal deposits in Jackson Hole and speculated that while glaciation explained the canyons scoring the Tetons and moraines at their base, the "potency of simple-acting atmospheric influences" was the cause of water-worn debris in the valley. [39]

Making more general observations, St. John found the soil in the valley fertile and that there was plenty of water, but concluded that latitude, altitude, and a short growing season would prohibit the development of agriculture. He believed the valley was more suited to grazing. Further, the variety and abundance of wildlife impressed him; noting that "at seasons the woods are stocked with game; elk, deer, antelope, and bears abound, while in the forest two or three kinds of grouse are found, and the streams afford abundance of large delicious trout." [40] In the 1880s and 1890s, Jackson Hole would become famous for its hunting and fishing. Finally, while investigating the mountains in the vicinity of Togwotee Pass, St. John reported "immense columns of smoke from forest conflagrations rose high in the air, in places blotting out the view of distant mountains." [41]

In 1878, the last Hayden Survey took the field, continuing the work of 1877. Hayden broke the survey into four divisions. F. A. Clark led the Wind River Division, which completed the topographical work that included areas adjacent to Jackson Hole. A. D. Wilson completed the primary triangulations of the entire survey area, begun in 1877. The Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton was an important station. William H. Jackson rejoined Hayden after an absence of two years, leading a photographic division through Jackson Hole. [42]

Wilson came to Pierre's Hole in 1878, after water-swollen rivers had prevented entry in 1877. With Jackson's team, they detrained at Point of Rocks, Wyoming, and set out for the Wind River Mountains. W. H. Holmes, a topographer with an aptitude for drawing accurate sketches of the landscape, traveled with Jackson's party. Hayden himself accompanied the group. They traveled to the head of the Hoback River, then followed the trapper-Indian trail into Jackson Hole. Jackson found the Hoback's scenery attractive, "but it had some serious problems in the long steep slides that crossed it frequently. These made precarious footing for riding and pack animals." One mule stumbled and rolled some 200 feet down a slope, but escaped unhurt. At Little Gros Ventre Creek (Flat Creek) Wilson and Jackson parted company. Wilson's party crossed Teton Pass into Pierre's Hole, while Jackson's division followed the course of the Snake River into Yellowstone Park.

Wilson intended to use the Grand Teton as a primary triangulation station, which required an ascent of that peak. The survey team followed Teton Creek into the gentler western portion of the range, where they set up a base camp. Accompanied by his assistant, A. C. Ladd and his guide, Harry Yount, Wilson set out to climb the Grand Teton in August. The small party made their way up the plateau (Table Mountain) west of the Tetons, a single line of three men on horse trailed by one pack mule. They reached the plateau with no trouble, but found their path to the Grand Teton blocked "by a deep and very abrupt canon [sic]," the South Fork of Cascade Canyon. Even though it was August, heavy snow banks blocked their passage down the steep slopes into the canyon. Wilson and his companions descended from tree to a basin with enough grass and timber to set up camp. Heavy rain and snow forced them to camp for two or three days. Since they had only brought food for three of four days, Wilson became concerned about the weather. [43]

While waiting for the weather to improve, Wilson climbed to a ridge southeast of camp to scout the approaches to the Grand Teton. It was here that he spotted four grizzly bears on a snowbank below the ridge, "playing 'hide and go seek' among the crevasses." Wilson stole into a hidden position in the rocks, apparently undetected by the bears. Then he "fired three or four shots at them, killing two of them; but finding that I had but one cartridge left and two bears, I thought discretion the better part of valor, and . . . 'lit out' for camp!" There is no record that Wilson returned to assure himself that the bears were dead or collect any part of the carcasses for scientific purposes. [44]

On August 20, the weather cleared, allowing Wilson, Ladd, and Yount to try an ascent. They first crossed a pass in the light of a full moon, possibly Hurricane Pass, into the South Fork of Cascade Canyon. They picked their way over a spur, before beginning their climb of the Grand. Scrambling up a slide of loose rock on the southwest side of the mountain, they finally reached the Lower Saddle between the Grand and Middle Teton after an hour's hard work. The group reached the Upper Saddle after a rugged climb. At this point, he could see no way to scale the last several hundred feet to the summit. Wilson expressed his disappointment, recalling "for the first time, after climbing hundreds of peaks during my twelve years of experience, I was compelled to give up reaching the summit." He noted the same circular enclosure discovered by Langford and Stevenson in 1872, along with a pile of rocks supporting an upright stick presumably built by a white man. [45] Wilson and Ladd set up their instruments and recorded their measurements from the Upper Saddle. They returned to the main camp and set out for Yellowstone on the next day. The work of Wilson's primary triangulation survey covered 28,000 square miles. His survey established relative locations between prominent topographical features that were critical to accurate mapping.

Meanwhile, the photographic team traveled north through Jackson Hole. Hayden reported that Jackson photographed "several magnificant views" of the Teton Range from the Jackson Lake area. [46] These are the first known photographs taken from Jackson Hole. Jackson was not so ebullient as Hayden. In his memoirs, he recalled that few negatives were made in the valley, because of "a smoky haziness that filled the air." From a highpoint on Signal Mountain, he made a very credible negative of the Teton Range, framing the Grand Teton on the left and Mount Moran on the right. The haze of smoke from forest fires is clearly visible, looming over Jackson Lake and the valley. In his autobiography, Jackson does not mention photographing the Tetons, writing only that they passed through "the beautiful basin that has the distressing name of Jackson's Hole." [47]

sketch of Mount Hayden
Artist Thomas Moran sketched this early view of Mount Hayden (the Grand Teton) and Mount Moran from Pierre's Hole in 1879. Moran never actually visited Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

The photographic survey rode north into Yellowstone. Jackson made 45 8 x 10-inch negatives and 110 negatives of 5 x 8 inches, forsaking quantity to produce a selection of quality prints. In September, the party traveled along the Upper Yellowstone River, crossing Two Ocean Pass into the Buffalo Fork drainage. From the vicinity of Togwotee Pass area, Jackson photographed the Teton Range for the first time, although he did not consider the photographs especially significant. While on the Upper Yellowstone, he stalked and killed a "large silvertip" grizzly bear, which he believed a high point of the trip. [48]

The 1878 survey was the last directed by Hayden, for in 1879, Congress created the U.S. Geological Survey, which dissolved the three civilian surveys then in existence. This included Hayden's Geological Survey of the Territories. He had fallen victim to the intense rivalries between explorers and bureaucracies. The last Hayden Survey ended nearly a century of discovery in the American West. In 1803, the land west of the Mississippi River was a great void on maps. The interior beyond the Spanish settlements in New Mexico and California and west of the frontier on the Mississippi River was unknown to transplanted Europeans. By 1878, explorers, scientists, and surveyors had changed that; they had explored, mapped, and described the American West. The age of discovery was over.

This frontier is significant for several reasons. First, using the knowledge of the fur trapper, explorers opened the West for settlement by mapping and surveying transportation routes. Second, surveyors had prepared accurate and detailed maps by the end of the 1870s. Third, these frontiersmen had produced voluminous reports covering a wide range of topics. Fourth, early explorers such as Fremont guaranteed a United States that would span the continent from coast to coast. Fifth, surveyors and scientists identified many of the problems in administering vast public lands. For example, surveyors argued convincingly, though not with much success, for the systematic classification of western lands. John Wesley Powell believed that political entities in the West should be based on hydrological features or river drainages. Sixth, these frontiersmen explored for the sake of knowledge itself. Scientists and surveyors saw the West as a vast natural laboratory. Resources of the West were exploited, but for their secrets rather than financial gain. Significant discoveries were made in the fields of geology, botany, zoology, paleontology, and ethnology-archeology. It became a golden era in the history of science. Seventh, because of this frontier, science and land management became institutionalized in new federal agencies and new specialties in science. Finally, explorers, surveyors, and scientists revealed the West to Americans through their reports, maps, and illustrations. And in revealing that wondrous land, they helped shape the self-image of Americans. If Americans had no great architectural monuments or long cultural traditions, they could take pride in a vast and splendid empire of deserts and forests and plains and mountains, filled with plants, animals, and natives. [49]

Six surveys associated with this frontier visited Jackson Hole. Capt. W. F. Raynolds came first in 1860. Through this expedition, the frontier of the mountain man, explorer, and scientist merged. Jim Bridger passed on his knowledge of the West to Raynolds and F. V. Hayden. For the first time, specimens were collected, as Hayden studied the geology of the Gros Ventre-southern Jackson Hole area through the eyes of a scientist. Further, Raynolds concluded in his report that the country around the Teton Range was too rugged for a railroad. Finally, Raynolds gave Union Pass its name. It was 13 years before the next survey party entered Jackson Hole, led by Capt. William A. Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers. Capt. Jones's "discovery" and naming of Togwotee Pass may be this expedition's most significant legacy to Jackson Hole.

Surveys, although important sources for historians, did not always prove fruitful. Lt. Gustavus Doane's trip in 1876 accomplished very little. Only the courage and campaign experience of Doane and his cavalrymen, aided by a generous pinch of luck, averted a disaster. Yet, Doane's narrative is arguably the most entertaining of the survey records. Near today's park headquarters at Moose, Wyoming, Doane and his troopers choked down horseflesh that tasted like a saddle blanket smells. Yet, Doane was irrepressible. Even after the ordeal in Jackson Hole, he was ready to press on down the Snake River from Fort Hall, when his superior recalled him to Fort Ellis. Doane's folly points out that exploration was an adventure as much as it was measuring elevations and collecting rock and plant specimens.

The 1872, 1877, and 1878 Hayden Surveys, particularly the 1872 expedition, were the most significant to the history of Jackson Hole, especially the 1872 survey. The 1872 survey produced a generally accurate map of the Teton Range and surrounding region though flawed in detail. Langford and Stevenson claimed the first successful ascent of the Grand Teton, while Jackson took the first photographs of the Grand Teton and Teton Range. In Jackson Hole, scientists evaluated the natural resources in detail for the first time. Frank Bradley and W. R. Taggart reconnoitered the geologic features of the valley, building on Hayden's work in 1860 and beginning a fine tradition of geologic study that goes on today. John Merle Coulter, the prominent botanist, accompanied Jackson on his excursion up Table Mountain, where he undoubtedly examined and collected alpine plants. Coulter collected around 1,200 plant specimens; the list in the report totals 34 pages, a significant number being found in the Snake River Valley and Teton Range. C. Hart Merriam collected a significant number of bird skins, nests, animal skins, and skulls. A representative number came from the "Snake River, Wyo." He collected one specimen of rabbit that he thought was a new species. Called Baird's rabbit, it was actually a snowshoe hare. Frank Bradley, impressed by the scenery in Teton Basin, predicted a bright future for tourism when railroads reached the area. Robert Hering reported a feasible railroad route from the Central Pacific line in Utah through Idaho and over Targhee Pass to Montana. He also located a possible wagon or rail grade north of the Teton Range through the Falls River-Beulah Lake country. [50]

But perhaps the most significant legacy of the Hayden Surveys is the place names of topographic features in the valley. The Snake River Division named a number of peaks and lakes in 1872. Some failed to survive such as North Gros Ventre Butte, known as Blacktail Butte today. They renamed the Grand Teton as Mount Hayden, in honor of their mentor, but it failed to stick. They gave Mount Moran, the prominent peak west of Jackson Lake, and Mount Leidy, east of the valley, their names even though neither man ever visited Jackson Hole. In 1879, Thomas Moran visited Teton Basin and saw the peak named for him from the west side of the range. [51] The surveyors named the glacial lakes at the base of the range; Phelps, Taggart, Bradley, Jenny, and Leigh Lakes. [52] Mount St. John was named later in honor of Oreste St. John, the field geologist with the surveys in 1877 and 1878.

Other surveys would follow, but their significance was less important. By the time, President Chester A. Arthur traveled through Jackson Hole in 1883 with a large entourage of guides, Indians, cavalrymen, packers, and political cronies, the avowed purpose was recreation rather than exploration. A year after Arthur's tour, the first settlers entered Jackson Hole, marking a new era in the valley's history. [53]

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004