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The Rich History of Jackson Hole

Posted On
Oct 28, 2015
Historical Sites near Yellowstone

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.

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.

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, the villages of Kelly, Jackson, Wilson and Moran were established by these pioneer homesteaders. 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.

Jackson Hole, once over shadowed by Yellowstone, due to it’s embarrassment of riches 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.

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