Due to congressional and public opposition Grand Teton experienced a long battle to becoming a national park. The Tetons first received government protection in 1897, and as early as 1918 some members of Congress advocated expansion of Yellowstone to include the Tetons. Since Congress remained deadlocked, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., over several years purchased 35,000 acres of farm and ranch land with the intent of donating the land for an expanded park. However, the government didn’t accept the gift for fifteen years. In 1943 he threatened to sell it on the open market. Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Jackson Hole National Monument, Congress passed a bill to abolish his action, and President Roosevelt vetoed the bill.
The State of Wyoming then filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service to overturn Roosevelt’s proclamation, and when this failed, Congress withheld monument maintenance money. Finally in 1950 the original 1929 park and the 1943 Jackson Hole National Monument were combined to become Grand Teton National Park.
Jackson Hole has its own history. It’s actually a high mountain valley encompassed by the Teton Range and the Gros Ventre Range. Trappers. likening it to a deep hole, called the steep descent to the valley of the Snake River “The Hole,” and later it was named after one of the partners in a fur-trapping company. After the Homestead Act was passed many came to try their luck at farming but a lot gave up and left after fighting the harsh climate. Those who stayed took over the abandoned farms as well as their own and developed large ranches. Some of those parcels still remain as private property within the National Park because of the time lapse in its establishment.
The economy of the town of Jackson, about 10,000 population, is based on tourism, and it has been intentionally developed as a year-round tourist attraction, embellished with wooden sidewalks and arches made of elk antlers. Many guided tours are offered, some of them a few hours, and some multi-day ventures through both the Tetons and Yellowstone. River expeditions on floats as well as white-water rafting are offered, a dog-sled tour can be arranged, summer offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain climbing and biking, while in winter there’s skiing and snowmobiling as well as snowshoe hikes and ice fishing.
And, of course, not to be overlooked is the beautiful scenery. The jagged peaks seem to rise out of nowhere, yet from certain perspectives they seem to be resting directly on the water which reflects them.. Even though they’re so closely adjacent to Yellowstone, the terrain and vistas are very different. And though much of this area is by nature inaccessible to the handicapped, there is a great deal that can be reached easily.
It was about here, as we were preparing to head even more westward, that we became acutely aware of the fact that this wonderful trip would soon be over.