Incredibly dramatic rock peaks and spires rising straight from the valley floor, sparkling mountain lakes and glaciers towering over a beautiful valley - Grand Teton National Park is truly one of the gems of the entire National Park System. We are very lucky to enjoy Grand Teton as it exists today and it very easily may not be the park it is now without the hard work and dedication of many key players. Below is a summary of the amazing story of how the park was preserved in its present state.
In 1919 Horace Albright, the Yellowstone National Park Superintendent, proposed expansion of NPS holdings south. This proposition was not well received by many of the private landowners of the Jackson Hole area, at the time consisting mostly of cattle ranchers, dude/hunting ranches, and homesteaders.
Development pressure led to a desire to create “a museum on hoof” to maintain the cultural history of the area but continued to resist “park” designation to allow traditional activities to continue. Then-Senator John Kendrick of Wyoming, with support from local Jackson residents and the Coordinating Commission on National Parks and Forests, submitted a draft to designate Grand Teton National Park in 1928.
The original Grand Teton National Park, set aside by an act of Congress in 1929, included only the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the mountains. John D Rockefeller Jr., after visiting Jackson Hole and meeting with Horace Alright, launched the Snake River Land Company in 1929 with the intention of secretly buying private land on the valley floor to gift to the National Park Service. This buyout of the valley took nearly 20 years and met stiff resistance most of the way. Aided mostly by economic downturn allowing some ranchers to “get out”.
Rockefeller, growing impatient with the inability of Congress to pass the park expansion, pressured then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare the land a National Monument to circumvent the issue. The Jackson Hole National Monument, decreed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt through presidential proclamation in 1943, combined Teton National Forest acreage, other federal properties including Jackson Lake, and a generous 35,000-acre donation by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Rockefeller lands continued to be privately held until December 16, 1949, when the impasse for addition to the national park was resolved.
There was immediate backlash at the local, and state levels that garnered national attention. Multiple Bills to abolish the monument were introduced (and passed) only to be vetoed by FDR. Following World War II steps were taken to rectify the conflict of the parkland and form a comprehensive management plan for the ‘oddities’ for a new GTNP such as grandfathering in grazing rights and stock driveways, reimbursement of lost tax revenues to Teton County, allowing hunting to continue to manage the elk population and allowing the continuation of certain existing uses on private inholdings.
On September 14, 1950, the original 1929 Park and the 1943 National Monument (including Rockefeller’s donation) were united into a “new” Grand Teton National Park, creating present-day boundaries. These boundaries have been added to since then through further donations of inholdings, boundary areas, and transfers from other federal managing agencies.
Jackson Hole Kayak School is a permittee of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and an equal opportunity provider