The Mystery of Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park

I was startled by my initial view of Grand Teton National Park as we entered from the north on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Memorial Parkway in late September, 2013.  “What happened to the water?”, I asked my husband.   Here’s what we saw.

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons

Jackson Lake definitely didn’t look the way I remembered it but it was years since we’d been in the Tetons and my memory isn’t perfect.  And, as we drove on, the views of the Tetons framed in stunning fall foliage were so breathtaking that I forgot my initial impression.

Mt Moran

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons, September, 2013

Teton, a French word meaning teat or breast, was used by French trappers in the early 19th century to describe the peaks in the youngest mountain range of the Rockies.  I’ll let you be the judge.  Nevertheless, the name stuck and today they are called the Grand Tetons.

Grand Tetons, 2013

Grand Tetons, 2013

Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929 to protect the mountains and expanded in 1950 to include the surrounding area amid great controversy and political wrangling during the intervening years.  Today, the park comprises 485 square miles (  Within the area there are over 200 miles of trails to hike, along with opportunities for fly fishing and rafting on the Snake River, not to mention photo opportunities galore.

Jackson Hole, as the valley is called, and the town of Jackson were named for Davey Jackson, a trapper in the area in the 1820’s. The town of Jackson is outside the confines of the park and today has fewer than 10,000 full-time residents.  Hosting 3-4 million tourists each year keeps the town hopping, however.

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson Town Square

Shopping and dining options in Jackson abound.  I was on the hunt for neutral colored clothing suitable for our upcoming African safari and we found an excellent end of the season outdoor clothing sale at Snake River Angler and Scenic River Trips.  The staff was especially knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.  If we ever decide to try our hand at fly fishing, this operation will definitely be our outfitter.  But shopping is seriously hard work for my husband and we were famished by the end of it.  (Look at  Jim holding the shopping bag in the photo above.  Does he look like he’s having fun?)  When we asked for a restaurant recommendation, we got the name of Bubba’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant so off we went to assuage our hunger with delicious and abundant barbecue.

As I reviewed my photos preparing to write this post, I was reminded of my first view of the obviously exceedingly low water level in Jackson Lake.  With a little research I discovered that Jackson Lake Dam was built in 1906 and rebuilt in 1989 to provide water to southern Idaho, 800 miles away.  More water is released as the need increases which was the situation in the summer of 2013.  Idaho is increasing its growth of corn, alfalfa, and hay to feed the cows in its growing dairy industry.  By the time we were there in late September, the water level was anticipated to be at 18% of capacity (Koshmrl, 2013).  Although low levels are not unusual in Jackson Lake, they may become more the norm if this pattern continues.

Mystery solved!



Grand Teton National Park.  Retrieved from

Koshmrl, Mike. (2013) Thirsty Idaho Draining Jackson Lake. Jackson Hole News and Guide.  Retrieved from






Categories: Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Mystery of Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park

  1. We went to Jackson Hole last year—stayed in a nice little condo outside of town and had such a great time. Chris fly fished on the Snake and Green Rivers two days and had a great time with his guide. We had a lot of great day trips, took the required antler arch pictures, hiked and just generally enjoyed our marvelous weather there! Your pictures made me smile and have some happy memories of last year. It is a beautiful area, that is for sure!!

  2. It looks beautiful – never knew before the meaning of Teton either!!

  3. Deb

    Loved seeing the pictures..can’t wait until our trip!

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