Our tour of Grand Teton National Park started out at Jackson Lake Lodge which was a 13 minute drive from our campsite in Colter Bay RV park. Our tour vehicle was a nice, comfortable van. Besides our tour guide, Christine, there was one other couple. Climb on in, and I’ll take you to each of the sites we visited.
Our first stop was Oxbow Bend. Here the Snake River makes a classic, crescent bend. According to the NPS website, “The oxbow is created over time as erosion and deposits of soil change the river’s course.” Our guide said the river’s course will continue to change over time.
With the stillness of the early morning stop, the river reflected the grand scenery all around us. Our guide mentioned that later in the day, this would not be the case. And when we drove past later near the end of our tour, we noticed she was right. So, mark this for an early morning stop. Here, we also saw a bald eagle soaring in the sky. The day was just beginning, but what a beautiful beginning it was.
Mount Moran Turnout
Mount Moran is the tallest of the Grand Tetons. It was named after Thomas Moran, a landscape artist who visited the area with the Hayden expedition in 1872. Thomas Moran only visited the west side of the Teton range; he never saw the mountain named for him.
According to a plaque at the site, the mountain has five glaciers. The glacier on the left is known as “Skillet Glacier.” These glaciers have shrunk 20% in the last 40 years because of our changing climate. A black vertical line can also be seen on the mountain. According to the NPS website, this is actually a vein of black diabase which came from molten lava squeezing into the cracks of the mountain about a billion years ago.
Our next stop was String Lake. String Lake is a small but picturesque lake set between two larger lakes – Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake. This is a pretty area with several hiking trail options available. On the day we visited, there were several kayakers enjoying the calm and scenic water. Our guide also pointed out some wild huckleberry bushes. I tried one, but it was small and somewhat bitter. My understanding is huckleberries are usually sweeter.
As we drove to our next stop, we passed the South Jenny Lake area. This is where one can catch the shuttle boat, our guide pointed out. She recommended going early or later in the day to avoid the long lines for the boat shuttle. The number of cars parked in the area attested to the wisdom of her advice.
Chapel of the Transfiguration
Our next stop took us to the Chapel of the Transfiguration. Here was a church – a small structure with built-in elements of beauty, all surrounded by the grandeur of God’s creation. It is in a place such as this where I feel closest to God. This is a place to reflect and to pray.
When entering the chapel, immediately to the left and to the right are two most colorful stained glass windows. In the corner, to the right of the door, is a small stand with a prayer intention book. I wrote in two requests. While these requests will remain in my heart, I did feel, being in such a sacred place, the requests would be given “special status” and sent to the “Powers that Be” by express delivery. Let’s just say, I expect I will be getting many more blog followers very soon. Just kidding! That was not my prayer.
The Chapel of Transfiguration was built in 1925. In 1980, the chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both attended services in the chapel. Since I was on a tour, I couldn’t stay long. But I did sit, just a bit, and said a quick prayer. Should I ever return to Grand Teton National Park, I would make a point of attending Sunday services at the Chapel.
Not too far down the road from the Chapel is Menor’s Ferry. Bill Menor came to Jackson’s Hole in 1894. He homesteaded land near the Snake River where he operated a ferry and a general store. The cabin and the country store are original, but the ferry and the cables are replicas. Menor’s Ferry became a main crossing in the central part of the Jackson Hole area. The ferry was a “reaction ferry” design which uses ropes connected to a cable across the river. The ropes are used to catch the current which propels the ferry.
Maud Noble’s Cabin
Just a short walk from Menor’s General Store is Maud Noble’s Cabin. Bill Menor sold his ferry and general store to Maud Noble in 1918. Maud doubled the fares for the ferry, but eventually a steel truss bridge was built south of the ferry. Of course, after the bridge was built, nobody needed the ferry.
In 1929, Maud sold her holdings to the Snake River Land Company. However, while Maud may sound somewhat shrewd, her cabin is preserved as an important part of the area’s history. Maud’s cabin is where a meeting of local folks and the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Horace Albright, was held. This meeting, held on July 26th, 1923, laid the groundwork for what eventually became Grand Teton National Park.
The first settlers to – what is now known as Mormon’s Row – came to the area in the 1890’s. The community worked together to make farming tasks easier. The settlers created an extensive irrigation system which served the community from 1896 until 1937. Electric power came to Mormon Row in the 1950’s; however, by this time many of the families had sold their homesteads to become part of the national park.
Pictures of the Thomas and John Moulton barns are so ubiquitous, I thought you’d enjoy a more unique one with our tour group included. Cathy and Tom told us we could remember their names because they were “Tomcat.” Tom and Cathy. Sounds crazy, but guess what. It worked.
Unfortunately, we really didn’t get to explore this area very much at all. Basically, we had time to take our own version of the iconic photos of the barns. Imagine my surprise when I looked more closely at this informational board and saw that two of the homesteads on Mormon’s Row were . . . Chambers! Just think if they would have had electricity sooner, perhaps one of them would have had a blog – ChambersontheRow!
Have you stopped laughing yet?
All kidding aside, should we ever return to Grand Teton National Park, I would like to walk around and explore this area more. Our guide also mentioned that the land is slowly being restored to how it was before all the irrigation channels were put in by the Mormons.
Snake River Overlook
The Snake River Overlook was our tour’s last stop before heading back to Jackson Lake Lodge.
This stop may be the favorite for all you bloggers who love photography. It is also a testament to the power of a photograph. An informational plaque marks the very place where Ansel Adams took his famous picture of the Snake River overlook.
Ansel Adams stood here in 1942 and took this photograph of the vast unspoiled beauty of the Snake River and jagged Teton Range. The National Park Service hired Adams in 1941 to capture nature as exemplified by national parks. At the time local ranchers were battling a proposal to include the Jackson Hole valley in Grand Teton National Park. Adams’s photographs helped promote and protect western U.S. landscapes.Capturing Nature in a Box
Grand Teton National Park
With that, our tour came to a happy conclusion. Are you tired? Even though we were driven to each of these attractions in the national park, we still had over 8,000 steps. Are you in for tomorrow? If so, you better rest up because our activities tomorrow will register over 12,000 steps, and that’s no bull! My next post will explain.