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Go on an expedition guided by local experts on the "Wildlife" track. Imagine life as a homesteader on the "Art, History & Culture" track with stories of dudes & ranchers, conservationists & artists.
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NORTHBOUND: TOWN OF JACKSON, WY TO COLTER BAY VILLAGE Due west at Jackson Lake Junction takes you across Willow Flats to the base of Jackson Lake dam and the original town site of Moran, named for Mount Moran that dominates the scenery above the lake. In 1895 Ben Sheffield established his hunting lodge below the outlet of the Snake River from Jackson Lake. He also constructed a wooden toll bridge across the river. Prior to that you either forded or ferried across the river further south. Ben would lead hunting parties out of the lodge in the summer and fall; in the winter he would head for Chicago where he worked in a large sporting goods store to earn money in the off season and to continue building up his client base of hunters for the following ear. Between the hunting, excellent fishing, and magnificent scenery in the valley his business continued to expand. He hosted VIPs from the east as well as royalty from Europe at his lodge. With the building of the first dam on Jackson Lake in 1908 the town of Moran continued to grow with housing for some of the workers, a store, a laundry, saloon, and gas station. The first dam was a log and earth affair which raised the lake level only a few feet. When spring floods washed out the dam in 1910, work began on its replacement which was to be a more substantial one of steel and concrete. Construction began in 1911 and it was finished in 1916 and is the one you drive across today. When Grand Teton National Park began expansion in the 30s they moved a few of the lodge cabins and buildings to Colter Bay and the rest of the Moran town site was cleared off and re-landscaped. A small town, which in its heyday had over 100 buildings along the riverbank below the dam, now is merely brush and sage around a boat launch for fishermen. SOUTHBOUND: COLTER BAY VILLAGE TO TOWN OF JACKSON, WY The 1914 McKinstry homestead at the mouth of Pacific Creek, now just inside the Park boundary near Moran, was one of the last in Jackson Hole. Harold (“Mac”) McKinstry brought his bride Linda here in the spring of 1915, determined to build up a cattle ranch. The adventurous young couple were deeply in love with each other and the valley. “Already being afflicted with that ranching fever for which there is no cure,” wrote Mac in his memoirs, “I penetrated that gloriously scenic area in September and filed on a homestead. Being young and inexperienced in that kind of country precluded any feeling of futility as to my ability to select a good homestead site. A beautiful flat, lying between Pacific Creek and the foot of the mountains, was my choice…” The wild and romantic setting came with serious challenges: when a kindly and concerned forest ranger informed them that area would be blanketed in over 6 feet of snow come winter, they tore down their newly constructed cabin and rebuilt it closer to the primitive road that lead to Moran; that first winter Linda never saw another woman for over five months; they had no phone and a baby daughter. Fortunately, young Jeanne loved the cold and took her naps snuggly wrapped in a buffalo robe on the open porch. The couple survived an epidemic of Spanish flu, a close call with belligerent moose, and a near fatal accident while stringing the area’s first telephone line. In January, with their daughter still a toddler and the thermometer at 20 below, their second home burned to the ground: “On January 15th”, wrote Linda, “Mac had gotten up before 5:30 as usual. He had started a fire in the kitchen range, and gone out to milk. I got up soon after 6:30, stopped in the kitchen to put more wood in the stove, then went to the living room to dress as it was warmer in there. Soon I noticed a crackling sound over my head….Looking out the window I saw a bright yellow reflection on the snow. Then I knew what it was. Rushing out, I ran toward the barn screaming at the top of my lungs. Mac was just finishing milking, heard the screams, and came hurrying around the barn with a pail of milk. Immediately he saw the blazing high roof of the house. Even then we did not realize how fast the fire was traveling.” “I grabbed Jeanne” wrote Mac, “rolled her mattress and blankets from the crib where Linda had dragged it near the door and set her down in the snow swathed in all the bedding we could get around her. We got out the dining table and chairs. By that time the men from Moran were there helping. Knowing how important it was to save our kitchen range, most of the men started dragging and shoving it to the kitchen door, hot though it was. Water slopped from the reservoir and instantly froze to a glare of ice on the floor. In the doorway it jammed. Behind them came a big fellow carrying a mattress, blankets and the fur robe. Just then the fire broke through the ceiling and he had to drop his load and jump over the stove to save himself… there was nothing to do but watch it burn. The logs fell together in embers like the fuel of a seething fireplace. The heat was terrific. In an hour there was nothing left but a pile of hot ashes… It was time to start over.” To find out what happened to the McKinstry family go to www.jacksonholehistory.org.