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Jackson Hole, the only hole for me!

By © Daryl L. Hunter – The Hole Picture

Cowboy, Grand Tetons, clearing storm, light beams, (Daryl Hunter's "The Hole Picture"/Daryl L. Hunter)

Cowboy, Grand Tetons, clearing storm, light beams, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

Birds gazing at the Grand Tetons from the back of a bison as if they were a bunch of tourists on a bus. Pardon my anthropomorphisation :D (© Daryl L. Hunter - The Hole Picture/Daryl L. Hunter)

Birds gazing at the Grand Tetons from the back of a bison as if they were a bunch of tourists on a bus. Pardon my anthropomorphisation. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

In the mountains of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of northwest Wyoming there is a special valley resplendent with alpine amenities, wide-open spaces, vast forest wilderness, surrounded by towering peaks, and populated with more creatures than you can imagine. Six thousand  elk on the National Elk Refuge outside town, big horn sheep on the mountain tops, moose up the side canyons, deer on the buttes, antelope on the flats, black bears hiding in the trees, buffalo wandering from here to there, and wolves and grizzly bears that want to eat them all. This amalgamation of alpine wonder is called Jackson Hole.

Jackson Hole is nestled between the magnificently jagged Grand Teton Range on the west and sublime Gros Ventre Mountains to the east, the Wyoming Range on the south eastern flank, the Snake River Range on the southwestern flank and the Absaroka Mountains touching base on the north eastern corner. All these mountain ranges are chucked full of beautiful wilderness, granite peaks, abundant wildlife and recreational opportunities.

The Grand Tetons on the west side of the valley isn’t the only breath taking geologic feature, upheavals and erosion in the Gros Ventre range on the east side of the valley have produced an interesting formation. These works of nature have created what appears to be a  “Sleeping Indian,” complete with mouth, nose, flowing headdress, and folded arms across the chest. With a sharp eye and a little imagination you can see the Indian on the horizon. This Valley is also home of Grand Teton National Park and is the southern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Jackson Hole is known worldwide as the best of the old west.

The Grand Tetons over looking the golden aspen of the Bridger Teton National Forest of Jackson Hole Wyoming (© Daryl L. Hunter - The Hole Picture/Daryl L. Hunter)

The Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole valley the Bridger Teton National Forest in the Gros Ventre Mountains

I as a photographer  was drawn here because of the compositionally perfect landscapes, the plethora of wildlife and the lifestyle, both to live and to photograph. Relic western architecture as well as picturesque working ranches often compliments the natural landscape here. Jackson Hole also is a great base for photographing the rest of the Greater Yellowstone.

The secret is out that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a skier’s nirvana, especially those who lust for double-black diamond steeps blanketed in deep powder. Teton Village at the foot of the mountain is a picutresque clump of multistory chalet style hotels to facilitate the visitor. This world-class resort is one of several reasons I choose to move here.  Equally deserving of a visit or stay, just 12 miles from that mountain masterpiece, is the century-old, authentic Western cowboy town of Jackson.

Jason Tatersall dropping into Corbet's Couloir at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Jason Tatersall dropping into Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The town of Jackson (pop. 10,000), famous for the four elk antler arches around the perimeter of the town square add to the western ambiance by featuring wooden sidewalks to compliment its amalgamated Western/Swiss hybridized Faux western architecture  Jackson offers AAA four-diamond lodgings such as the Rusty Parrot Lodge and Wort Hotel. Other town attractions are upscale boutiques, exceptional restaurants, 30 art galleries, and the Center for the Arts completed in 2004. Total lodging count is 80+ properties with 5,000 rooms. Prime entertainment centers are the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which features live music and saddles as bar stools, and the Silver Dollar Bar. Part of the latter’s appeal is the 2,032 silver dollars inlaid in the counter. Jackson also has movie theaters; indoor ice-skating and a performing arts center.

Where is Jackson Hole? (© Daryl L. Hunter - The Hole Picture/Daryl L. Hunter)

Where is Jackson Hole? A poster I made in 1996. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

Many who visit Jackson wonder why the town of Jackson isn’t named Jackson Hole, as Jackson Hole is where they set out to visit. This conundrum deserves an explanation. The mountain men of yore called valleys; “holes,” Davy Jackson was the mountain man that trapped beaver in the valley of the east side of the Grand Tetons; therefore, it became known as Davy Jackson’s Hole or Davy Jackson’s Valley. It has in the ensuing one hundred ninety years been shortened to Jackson Hole; therefore, the town of Jackson is in the valley called Jackson Hole.

“The hole” or “the valley” is 48 miles long and six to eight miles wide, embracing an area of approximately 400 square miles. The Snake River Flows through the Valley and the Grand Tetons tower 7,500 feet above the valley floor with the Grand Tetons rising to 13,770 feet above sea level.  Jackson Hole lays a few miles west of the continental divide and lies near the Snake River’s headwaters in Yellowstone. Hundreds of mountain streams converge from the surrounding highlands, adding to the Snake River’s flow.

Cross country skier Daryl L. Hunter skiing the foothills of the Grand Tetons

Cross country skier Daryl L. Hunter skiing the foothills of the Grand Tetons

With so many mountain ranges within a stone’s throw, Jackson is a hub of outdoor recreation opportunity. Skiing is the major winter pastime, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King and Grand Targhee all offer an excellent skiing experience and accommodations but many locals prefer the Teton backcountry for their ski mountaineering adventure, skinning up the mountain gives you a greater appreciation for the descent. There is a saying around Jackson; “I came here for the skiing but stayed because of the summer. There is about five fun things you can do in the winter but in the summer there are hundreds, horseback riding, fly-fishing, whitewater sports, canoeing, hiking, and photography just to name a very few. Something different offered winter and summer is “The Jackson Hole Shooting Experience“, where you will shoot approximately 10-20 rifles & pistols – Every single experience is different and customized in real time to be perfect for you and each individual in your group. Nothing says Jackson Hole like a shoot out a Jackson Hole shooting experience.

Jackson is the prefect North American Wildlife Safari destination; elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn antelope, moose, grizzly bears, black bears, and many other small mammals can be found throughout the valley. A plethora of bird species hangs also can be found in the valley throughout the year including various ducks, eagles, geese, and trumpeter swans. Jackson Hole is also home to the National Elk Refuge where thousands of elk winter right outside the town of Jackson. The National Elk Refuge, northeast of Jackson, provides a home for thousands of elk each winter. Visitors can take sleigh rides among the elk from mid-December through April.

The embarrassment of riches listed above it why I moved to Jackson Hole in 1987 to pursue landscape, lifestyle and wildlife photography as well as skiing and back country horse exploration.

Buckrail Fence, Grand Tetons, October snow, (© Daryl Hunter's "The Hole Picture"/Daryl L. Hunter)

Buckrail Fence, Grand Tetons, October snow. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

Jackson Hole’s History

Fiddler, Jackson Hole, Jackson Lake, Grand Tetons, Pioneer woman

Until shortly after 1800, Jackson Hole was a favorite spring, summer, and fall hunting ground of the Indians, but the Indians, unlike us, always had the common sense to move to warmer places for the winter. There is a mountain in the Grand Tetons named Mt. Teewinot The name of the mountain is derived from the Shoshone Indian Tribe word meaning “many pinnacles” and Teewinot is thought to be the name the Shoshone Indians called the whole Grand Teton Range.

John Colter was the first American to see Jackson Hole In 1807, originally a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a fur trader named Manual Lisa who had recently set up a trading post on the Yellowstone River recruited Colter to do some PR work with the Indians and let them know where his trading post was and that he was open for business. He traveled south down the Bighorn River, west up the Wind River, over Togwotee Pass, down through Jackson, over Teton Pass and down through eastern Idaho telling the Indians he encountered along the way of the trading post on the Yellowstone River. He then backtracked through Jackson Hole, then veered northwest into Yellowstone but that is another story.

 (Daryl Hunter)

Old Jackson Hole barn on historic ranch. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

The decades that followed are frequently called the “Fur Trade Era,” for the Teton region became the scene of intensive exploration and trapping activities. The mountain men of Jackson Hole were hardy characters who, over a period of about two decades contributed to the opening of the western frontier. Among these frontiersmen were Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger and Davy Jackson. William Sublette (a partner of Davy Jackson’s) who, named Jackson Lake and Jackson Hole after Jackson in 1829.  Jackson Hole was a crossroad of trapper trails of the fur trade era, because six trapper’s trails converged as the spokes of a wheel upon their hub.

By 1845, because of the declining supply of beaver pelts, the corresponding increasing price and the new popularity of silk top hats spelled the demise of the beaver trapping business. During the next four decades, the valleys near the Tetons were largely deserted, except for Indians who still-hunted here.

Derilict log cabin, Cowboy hat, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This was the cabin used in the movie "Shane" 1954 starring Allan Ladd. (© Daryl L. Hunter - The Hole Picture/Daryl L. Hunter)

Derilict log cabin, Cowboy hat, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This was the cabin used in the movie “Shane” 1954 starring Allan Ladd. Click on photo to purchase print or license photo

As the American frontier expanded and one government expedition after another surveyed the west, the most important of these for Jackson Hole was the Hayden Surveys of 1871, 1872, 1877, and 1878. These survey parties named many of Jackson Hole’s natural features, including Leigh, Jenny, Taggart, Bradley and Phelps lakes and Mount St. John. William H. Jackson, a member of the 1872 Hayden Expedition, took the first known photographs of the Tetons. In 1879, and Expedition artist Thomas Moran put them on canvas.

In the mid 1880s, the first settlers came. They entered by the Gros Ventre River Valley from the east and Teton Pass from the west, most were Mormon, these pioneer homesteaders established the villages of Kelly, Jackson, Wilson and Moran. Among these early settlers was Nick Wilson who became failure with Jackson Hole when he ran away from home to live with the Chief Washakie’s Shoshone tribe in the 1950’s.

Photographer Daryl L. Hunter, photo by Stephen Oachs

Photographer Daryl L. Hunter, photo by Stephen Oachs

Jackson Hole, once over shadowed by world famous Yellowstone National Park, however because of Jackson Hole’s embarrassment of riches  it has become a destination resort in it’s own right. Many visitors passed through Jackson Hole on their way to Yellowstone then return to Jackson Hole year after year because of the plethora of recreational opportunities it offers the visitor.

Another explanation has evolved for why this beautiful valley is called Jackson Hole. Some say it is called that because when people come to visit the fall in and can’t get out. I suppose that is what happened to me.


Jackson Hole Landscape Gallery

Click on gallery to purchse print of licence photo

Greater Yellowstone Wildlife Gallery

6 thoughts on “Jackson Hole, the only hole for me!

  1. Jeff Clow says:

    Excellent blog posting, Daryl…..I share your affinity for the Jackson Hole area. You’ve captured the essence of the vally well with your writing here.

  2. Laura says:

    I always enjoy your work. Well done.

  3. Alkalyn says:

    Always wanted to visit there, I think I ought to think about getting there a bit more seriously.

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