50 Interesting Facts About Grand Teton National Park

Last updated on July 7th, 2021

Grand Teton National Park located south of Yellowstone National Park is one of Wyoming‘s most stunning destinations. Established in 1929, the park protects the Teton Range’s major peaks. The national park is named after Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. 50 facts about Grand Teton National Park include information about the area’s unique geography, fun facts and history. The following facts cover the unique attributes of Grand Teton National Parks.

1. You can join small groups of explorers in the fall and spring for detailed exploration of the Grand Tetons, which were created by earthquakes that struck the region with its six glacial lakes.

2. The national park was first established in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge, who defied a large contingent of interests who were opposed to letting the land remain in its natural state.[1]

3. Grand Teton National Park was enlarged from its original 96,000 acres in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who established the Jackson Hole National Monument as protection against encroachment of the federal lands surrounding the mountains. The re-establishment of the park added 210,000 acres.[1]

4. Glaciers did the heavy work over the millennia of sculpting the land into intricate U-shaped canyons and jagged peaks, the most noteworthy of which is Grand Teton. The youthful mountain range still contains 12 glaciers, and half of them are situated in the Cathedral Group, which comprise the tallest mountains of the Grand Tetons.[1]

bald eagle
A bald eagle. Image credit – Big Ben

5. Evidence of the first human colonization of the Grand Tetons dates the first colonies back about 11,000 years. The native Americans lived throughout the valley from spring through the fall, but they migrated away during the severe winters.[1]

6. Grand Teton National Park attracts hordes of researchers, naturalists and birders. A vast variety of native wildlife and birds occupy the area in near-pristine natural environments that offer excellent evidence of how birds and animals live in the wild, untouched by civilization.[1]

7. Bird species in the area include the trumpeter swan, which is the largest waterfowl found on the North American continent, and the calliope hummingbird, which ranks as the smallest bird in North America.[1]

a small herd of Elks, Grand teton national park
A small herd of Elks. Image credit – abbeyprivate

8. The abundance of wildlife in the park includes buffalo and elk herds, coyotes, moose, foxes, bears, wolves and bald eagles, which are the real treasures of the park that led the way in conserving and protecting species from extinction.[1]

About the area’s extraordinary elevation.

9. The 40-mile Grand Teton Mountain range ranks as the youngest range of the Rocky Mountains, and in fact, some of the youngest mountains in the world for conservationists and scientists to study.[2]

10. Grand Teton National Park is the only national park in the United States to have its own airport. The Jackson hole Airport was established in the 1930s and absorbed into the Jackson Hole National Monument and eventually, Grand Teton park.[2]

Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Wyoming, USA
American Airlines plane parked at Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Wyoming, USA. Image credit – Remko Tanis

11. The Grand Teton Mountains features Grand Teton, which is located in a min-range of three teat-shaped mountains, from which the mountain and park derive the name Grand Teton. The mountains stretch for 40 miles and range in width from 7 miles to 9 miles, and Grand Teton is the tallest at 13,775 feet above sea level (and the second highest peak in the U.S. state of Wyoming after Gannett Peak).[3]

12. Mountain Valley of Jackson Hole stretches 55 miles long and 6 to 13 miles wide, featuring an average elevation of 6,800 feet. There are eight peaks in the mountains that top 12,000 feet in elevation, and the lowest elevation in the area is 6,320 feet at Fish Creek.[4]

13. The area receives an average of 21.6 inches of precipitation each year, and the annual snowfall in the valley reaches 173 inches. That’s in a good year.[4]

Taggart Lake. facts about Grand Teton National Park
When Grand Teton National Park was first founded in 1929, it included only the major peaks and six glacial lakes at the mountains’ feet. Taggart Lake is one of the original six lakes. It covers 110 acres and averages 80 ft. deep. It is a natural lake at the terminus of Avalanche Canyon formed about 12,000 years ago when the terminal moraine from a retreating glacier impounded the lake. In the background is a partial view of the Cathedrals, a group of most of the tallest mountains in the Teton Range. Image credit – Tim Lumley

Historical facts about Grand Teton National Park abound because the area served as home to native tribes and was quickly discovered on the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

14. Nomadic tribes of Paleo-Indians entered the valley soon after the glaciers began to withdraw. The tribes left behind fire pits, tipi rings and tools made of stone that placed them securely in history about 11,000 years ago. Summers were a time of abundance with fish from the lakes and streams, wildlife and bulbs and berries.[5]

Mt. Moran (Teton Range, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA)
Mt. Moran (Teton Range, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA). Image credit – James St. John

15. The first European-American explorer to discover the region’s abundance and natural beauty was John Coulter, who left the Lewis and Clark team in 1806 to travel through the region.[5]

16. John Coulter, America’s most famous mountain man, disappeared from his settlement, and his body was never found. However, a human-shaped stone was found that resembled the man, and it was engraved with the man’s name and the date 1808. It hasn’t been authenticated by science, but the stone is displayed in one of the park’s museums.[2]

17. Exploration and settlement of the area that would become Grand Teton National Park was mostly accomplished by fur trappers, also known as mountain men. David Edward Jackson established his camp in the area, and it would become known as Davey Jackson’s Hole after his partner, William Sublette, coined the phrase.[5]

A pair of mother and child beaver
A mother and child beaver. Image credit – Elizabeth Haslam

18. The beaver population of the area was decimated by fur trappers who wanted them for popular fur hats. The beavers might have been lost from the area if not for the fact that silk hats replaced fur hats as the fashion norm, and the era of the mountain men faded away.[5]

19. The area was mapped and explored by several key figures for information on its natural resources and for possible train routes through the region. Exploration parties included groups led by Captain W.F. Raynolds, Ferdinand V. Hayden and Gustavus C. Doane between 1860 and 1876, which contributed greatly to the world’s knowledge base about the geography of the area and its natural resources.[5]

20. The Homestead Act of 1962 promoted settlement of the West, but homesteaders didn’t arrive in Jackson Hole until 1884. Despite abundance during the summer, the soil was rocky, winters were extremely cold and drought was common. The homesteaders struggled to ranch cattle and farm the land.[5]

Located in Grand Teton National Park, USA, this is perhaps one of the most photographed barns in the USA.
Located in Grand Teton National Park, USA, this is perhaps one of the most photographed barns in the USA. Image credit – Tom Driggers

21. Local residents became extremely desperate after an agricultural depression swept across the United States in 1920. Around this time, wealthy Easterners visited the area and were duly impressed with the outdoor beauty, wildlife, hunting and hardscrabble ranching practices.[5]

22. The dude ranching experience evolved from the fact that wealthy Easterners were willing to pay more for the experiences of ranching that homesteaders could earn from ranching or farming. The “Golden Age of Dude Ranching” donated the 1920s.[5]

23. Tourism attracted big crowds, the resulting saloons, dancehalls, gas stations and other services began to trouble local ranchers and farmers, who loved the open spaces and undeveloped nature of the region. That’s when Congress stepped in out of political pressure to designate Grand Teton National Park.[5]

USA - Wyoming - Grand Téton National Park
Grand Téton National Park. Image credit – AlCapitol

24. John D. Rockefeller was instrumental in protecting the region when he scheduled meetings and toured the area with Yellowstone Superintendent Horace Albright. Falling in love with the area, Rockefeller pulled strings to purchase federal land to preserve it, which he eventually donated to the park.[5]

25. In 1950, Congress decided to combine the original park, Grand Teton National Park and the land Rockefeller donated to establish Grand Teton National Park as it exists today.[5]

26. Congress authorized the building of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to honor his philanthropy and commitment to the nation’s national park system.[5]

The area’s abundant wildlife creates lots of fun facts about the region. Some of the top facts about Grand Teton wildlife include:

Pronghorn in Grand Teton Park.
Pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park. Image credit – Rick Cameron

27. Protesting the creation of present-day park boundaries, a Hollywood star named Wallace Berry drove 500 head of cattle across the park in a protest that may have actually marshalled support for the project.[5]

28. The fastest mammal on land in the western hemisphere is the pronghorn, which is a native of Grand Teton National Park. The pronghorn can run up to 70 miles per hour.[4]

29. He are supports six hoofed-mammal species, four reptile species, 16 fish species, six bat species, six amphibian species, three rabbit species, 17 carnivore species and 22 species of rodents.[4]

Bison herd near Elk Ranch
Bison herd near Elk Ranch. Image credit – Grand Teton

30. Some of the mammals found in Grand Teton Park include river otters, coyotes, gray wolves, grizzly bears, elk, bison, moose and martens. Naturalists can study wildlife under pristine conditions, and visitors enjoy fishing, mountaineering, snowboarding, rafting, hiking, boating, skiing and camping.[4]

31. The flora of the region include seven species of coniferous trees and more than 300 species of birds, which makes birding one of the most popular activities of visitors.[3]

32. The wildlife includes myriad invertebrates, but fortunately, there are no venomous spiders native to the region. None of the four species of reptiles are poisonous.[3]

33. The sparkling, clear waters of area lakes and rivers, fed by glacial runoff, supports sagebrush, groves of aspen trees and forested buttes. These natural conditions make excellent habitats for the deer, elk, bison, pronghorn and many other animals.[6]

Grand Teton national Park on map

34. The park features some of the oldest rocks found on the planet. The oldest rocks are at least 2.7 billion years old, which is surprising when you consider that the Grand Teton mountain range is one of the youngest.[6]

35. The reptiles and amphibians found in the park range from the common garter snake to the western chorus frog.[6]

36. Among the 300 species of native birds, you can sight both golden and bald eagles, a defining moment for many birders and naturalists. The area also support other bird of prey that include peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, ospreys and American kestrels.[6]

37. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be visiting the park in winter, you should know that bears don’t really hibernate in the park in winter. They enter a deep sleep called torpor, but they can be awakened by loud noises of attempting to touch them.[7]

Grizzly Bear Grand Teton
Grizzly Bear in Grand Teton National Park. Image credit – Rudy Wilms

38. You should never feed the grizzly bears in the park because a fed bear is a dead bear. When bears become accustomed to human feeding or pawing through human trash, they must be euthanized to protect park visitors.[7]

39. The best place to sight black bears is around Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain during the summer months. You can also view them along the Moose Wilson road, which runs along the Teton Range’s eastern boundary.[6]

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