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16 Historical Facts About Jackson Hole

Colby Murphy


Jackson Hole is known for several things, including breathtaking and picturesque scenery, an acclaimed ski resort, and its dedication to the arts. This Northeast Wyoming town also has a long and fascinating history. From the origin of its name to its annual antler auction, here are 16 historical facts about Jackson Hole.

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole refers to the 50-mile long valley that parallels from north and south the eastern side of the Teton Mountain Range. Nestled in the valley, Jackson is a town with a population of approximately 9,000 residents. Although small in size (spanning only 2.9 square miles), Jackson certainly doesn’t lack things to do. This Wyoming town is filled with an abundance of museums and galleries, classic eateries, and locally-owned boutiques.

The Origin of its Name

Jackson Hole received its acclaimed name from various fur trappers and explorers who are credited with discovering the valley tucked in the shadow of the Tetons. One trapper and pioneer, a man by the name of David E. Jackson, named this area since it was his favorite trapping ground. Although much of his life is unknown, David Jackson played an important role in the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Shortly after, in approximately 1829, the area was named in honor of him.

Credit: Jackson Hole Traveler

The History of Water Rafting in Jackson

Long before it was considered a sport or form of entertainment, white water rafting was a mode of transportation. The first recorded attempt to navigate Jackson Hole’s unruly Snake river can be traced back to 1811. The group who attempted this, Overland Astorians, declared a portion of the river too precarious to maneuver, which resulted in the name “Mad River”. 

Jackon’s City Council

Wyoming is referred to as the “Equality State” and there’s a good reason behind this. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote and hold public office. In 1920, the Town of Jackson elected the first all-female town council. This also included a female town marshall. With roughly 300 residents, this small frontier town lacked law enforcement, and taxes and fines were slipping by unpaid. When five women were nominated, they ran with a simple angle—to clean up the town’s streets. With an all-female city council, the citizens hoped this “petticoat government” would help bring order to the town. On May 11th, 1920, the women won in a landslide. 

DeLoney’s General Store

In Jackson’s early days, Charles DeLoney opened the first single-room general store in his home. Established in 1899, the general store was located on Cache Street. It went through many transformations from its humble origins, varying from a log structure to a brick building. Now, one of the first DeLoney stores is the home of the Historic Society Museum, which pays homage to the olden days of Jackson.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

Established in 1908, Bridger-Teton National Forest is truly something to behold. Spread over a massive 3.4 million acres, it’s the third-largest National Forest outside of Alaska. This forest comprises a good portion of Yellowstone National Park. With so much public land for use, there is an endless amount of recreation that’s waiting to happen here.

Credit: Yellowstone Park

The Creation of the National Elk Refuge 

Created in 1912, the National Elk Refuge is a wildlife refuge located in Jackson Hole. It was developed to protect the habitat and provide a sanctuary for the massive elk herds that can be found within Jackson. The refuge expands across 24,700 acres and is the last stop for the second-largest elk migration on the continent. Since the weather is quickly cooling down, you can stop by the National Elk Refuge to take part in an elk-drawn sleigh ride. This festive ride is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

Jackson Town Square

Jackson might be small, but it certainly doesn’t lack character. The Town Square is particularly unique. In the town’s early days, the Town Square simply consisted of a dirt square. However, it was upgraded after the all-female town council was elected. Today, you will find log cabins dating back to the 19th century interspersed among local shops and eateries. Whether you’re craving a steak dinner or want to mosey through a museum, Jackson’s Town Square gives you plenty of options when it comes to things to do. 

Antler Arches

Perhaps the most intriguing (not to mention famous) part of the square is the four elk antler arches that frame the Town Square. These arches were constructed in 1953 by the Jackson Hole Rotary Club. Located on each corner of the George Washington Memorial Park, each arch is composed of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of antlers. This iconic entryway has become a popular place for locals and visitors to snap photos. The holidays are a particularly special time, especially since twinkling lights illuminate the arches at night. 

Credit: CLB Architects

Jackson Hole Airport

Nestled near the base of the grandeur of the Tetons, Jackson Hole Airport is spectacularly special—it’s the only airport located entirely within a national park! Opened in the 1930s, this airport has since become the busiest airport in the entire state. Jackson Hole Airport is the perfect gateway to welcome you to this regal corner of the globe. 

The Establishment of Snow King

Established in 1939, Snow King is Wyoming’s oldest ski resort. Located on the southeast corner of town, locals often refer to this mountain as “The Town Hill.” Town Hill is bursting with year-round activities. During the winter, you can take advantage of skiing while in the summer months, you can partake in an abundance of activities. The Alpine Slide, bungee trampoline, and treetop adventures are just a few of the many things you can do here. Not to mention, you’ll get to experience breathtaking 360-degree views at the top of the mountain. With so much to do year-round, Snow King is a great place to make memories with loved ones.

The Beginnings of Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park had a rocky beginning—quite literally. When the majestic park was established in 1950, it marked the end of 30 controversial years over attempts to stop extending government control. Some Jackson Hole residents believed this would signal the end of their recreational privileges while other residents supported federal control for the sake of conservation. After 30 divided years, the park was officially established and now serves to protect some of North America’s most impressive and majestic scenery. It’s no surprise this park attracts almost three million visitors each year. 

The World’s Longest Running Shootout

Jackson is home to the world’s longest-running shootout and has quite the story behind this fascinating piece of history. Legend has it that Clover the Killer and the Cache Creek Posse had a less-than-civil spat starting in 1956. This continued, marking the start of the Shootout Gang. Now—almost 65 years later—you can witness a reenactment of this famous tale. This shootout, which attracts multitudes of curious tourists each year, is the longest continuously running gunfight in the United States. An estimated 4 million people have witnessed it throughout the years.

Antler Action

During the spring, the elk lose their antlers before migrating to their summer range. Therefore, each year the Jackson Hole Boy Scouts help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by collecting the antlers that have been shed. These antlers are then auctioned off in the world’s only public auction for antlers. Started in 1968, this two-day event—which takes place the weekend before Memorial Day—is attended by thousands, traveling from other parts of Jackson Hole and around the globe. 

Credit: JPL - NASA

U.S. Voyager 2

In 1977, the U.S. Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched into space to explore parts unknown. Launched by NASA, this space probe was sent into outer space to study planets, making it the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space. It contains an Ansel Adams photograph of Jackson Hole among its numerous artifacts. 

Teton County Land

It’s obvious that Teton County is a special place, but perhaps what makes it so unique is the number of acres within the county that are federally-owned. 97% of its nearly 4 million acres are federally-owned or state-managed. Additionally, only 3 percent of the land surrounding the Jackson Hole Area is privately-owned. 

If you’re looking to explore homes for sale in Jackson Hole, contact Colby Murphy today. As one of the most sought-after real estate agents in Jackson Hole, Colby serves a wide range of neighborhoods. His expertise will assist you through the process of finding your dream home. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the name "Jackson Hole"?
The name "Jackson Hole" came from David E. Jackson, a fur trapper and pioneer who discovered the valley. It was his favorite trapping ground, and around 1829, the area was named in his honor.

What is significant about Jackson's City Council in 1920?
In 1920, Jackson's City Council was the first all-female town council in the United States. This development came after Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote and hold public office in 1869.

What unique characteristic does Jackson Hole Airport have?
Jackson Hole Airport is unique because it is the only airport located entirely within a national park. It was opened in the 1930s and is now the busiest airport in Wyoming.

What is the "world's longest-running shootout" mentioned in the text?
The world's longest-running shootout is a reenactment of a feud that started in 1956 between Clover the Killer and the Cache Creek Posse in Jackson. The reenactment, held in Jackson, is the longest continuously running gunfight in the United States and has been witnessed by an estimated 4 million people.

What happens during the Antler Action in Jackson Hole?
During the Antler Action, the Jackson Hole Boy Scouts helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collect elk antlers that had been shed. These antlers are then auctioned off in the world's only public auction for antlers, a two-day event attended by thousands that takes place the weekend before Memorial Day each year.

Colby Murphy

Colby Murphy

About the Author

Born in the land of the Delta Blues, Colby Murphy grew up as a nationally ranked cyclist and avid outdoorsman. Colby's addiction for competition took his amateur cycling career through college, capturing silver at the USAC National Championship and a spot on Team USA for the 2013 UCI World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand. While attending Middle Tennessee State University, Colby volunteered coaching youth athletes in addition to interning with the D1 NFL Combine Camp in Nashville, Tennessee. It was freshman year when Colby was exposed to the magic of Jackson Hole. Instantly attracted, he began splitting his time to ski Jackson every year thereafter.

Upon publishing research in the International Journal of Exercise Science and receiving his bachelor’s degree, Colby immediately relocated to Southern California in pursuit of his professional cycling career. Once retired from competition, Colby quickly found himself as a top producing sales professional serving owners of high end luxury real estate in areas of San Diego including Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla, and Coronado. With his affection for luxury property, history with Jackson Hole, and prior connection to Christie's International Real Estate, Colby saw a clear path and executed a move to Jackson. In his spare time, he now enjoys turning laps at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and giving back at Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding Association.

Colby is fortunate to have been raised around admirable examples of what drive, tenacity and resilience can yield. His father, a self-made entrepreneur, and uncle, an owner of the Christie's affiliate brokerage in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City, both inspired Colby's ambitions from an early age.

Now, Colby has positioned himself among some of the most respected networks in the industry. He feels proud and blessed to have established relationships with multiple Christie’s affiliate owners and associates spanning multiple cities, states, and countries. Colby has also recently become a member of REALM™, the first globally collaborative real estate collective designed to empower the real estate professional by curating new relationships and matching qualified buyers based on lifestyle experiences and passions rather than search criteria.

In a market where there are as many agents as annual transactions, Colby represented clients from Australia, the UK, Mexico, and several U.S. states in his first year alone. He applies the principles and work ethic he learned through sport and his impressive circle of mentors to ensure he creates the highest value for his clients. Always elevating, always seeking excellence, his acquired values and attributes provide a successful combination that will ensure your selling or buying experience is a win.

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Colby applies the principles and work ethic he learned through sport and his impressive circle of mentors to ensure he creates the highest value for his clients.

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