Tag Archive | Grand Teton National Park history

West 2016: Cunningham Cabin

Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016

In Grand Teton National Park, I visited the Cunningham Cabin, which is a homesteader’s cabin that was built sometime between 1888 and 1890.  J. Pierce Cunningham arrived in Jackson Hole from New York in 1885, and spent his first years in the valley trapping.  He got married and then decided to try his hand at homesteading, staking a claim for 160 acres.  The cabin was constructed in the dogtrot style, with two small cabins joined with an open breezeway – it was a style common in the eastern states.

The Cunningham cabin with the mountain view

Unfortunately, ranching was difficult on 160 acres in the West, due to the fact that ranchers had to supplement feed for their cattle in the winter.  They needed enough land to grow enough hay to last the winter, which could be up to 6 months long.  Cunningham purchased an additional 140 acres in 1897 at $1.25 per acre.  In 1918 he increased the size of his ranch again by purchasing 240 acres from a neighbor’s property to the north.  Cunningham had to produce and store 200 tons of hay each winter.

The cabin has a dark side too…  In fall of 1892, two wranglers showed up at the cabin to buy hay for their horses.  Cunningham struck up a deal for them to stay over at the ranch for the winter.  However, rumors began spreading that the men were horse thieves.  A man who claimed to be a U.S. Marshal arrived in April 1893 with three deputies from Idaho, and convinced several local men to join their posse.  The cabin was surrounded and the men were gunned down when they left the cabin.  Although Cunningham wasn’t directly involved, he admitted that he felt that the brands on the men’s horses had been altered.  Interestingly, neither the allegations against the men nor the identify of the supposed U.S. Marshall was ever proven…

The view of the mountains from the cabin window

After World War I, beef prices dropped a lot, and many ranchers were no longer able to make a living. Cunningham and his neighbors proposed a petition for the federal government to purchase the valley’s ranches for inclusion with the new Grand Teton National Park.  He wasn’t successful.  Luckily John D. Rockefeller had fallen in love with the area, and he created the Snake River Land Company to purchase private land and donate it to the park.  Rockefeller ultimately purchased and donated 32,000 acres in the Jackson Hole valley, including Cunningham’s ranch.

To get a close up view of the ranch, you just have to walk a short, flat trail.  The entire loop is 0.3 mile, if you want to explore all the areas where there were once outbuildings, but the remaining cabin is the only structure that remains.  The day that I visited there was a herd of horses on the other side of the fence, so I went to say hello to them too.  They looked so beautiful with their stunning mountain backdrop!

This view! Horses and Mountains!

 

Horses near the Cunningham cabin

 

A juvenile mountain bluebird at the Cunningham cabin

 

This cabin is well worth a quick visit!

That evening in Jackson, Wyoming, we had dinner at King Sushi.  The food was fantastic!  The kids at the next table whose parents were paying no attention to the fact that they were kicking me – not so fantastic!  We also wandered around downtown Jackson for a bit, getting photos at the famous elk antler arch on the main square (each corner of the square has an arch).  We also poked around in some shops, and found lots and lots of taxidermy animals.  The dressed up critters!

 

 

Just. So. Much. Wow

 

Costs and Fees: $30 per vehicle at Grand Teton National Park (free with a National Parks Pass).  Many areas of Grand Teton do not require you to pay the fee.

Distance for the Day: Cody, WY – Jackson, WY (3 hrs, 58 min, 177 miles)

Hotel for the night: Motel 6 – Jackson, WY

 

Grand Teton NP History

Grand Teton National Park is one of the 10 most visited National Parks in the United States – approximately 3,270,076 people visit each year (2016 stats). It is about 310,000 acres, and it is located 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming.  The park protects the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Mountain Range, along with parts of the Jackson Hole valley.  On February 26, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge established the park.

Human habitation within the park boundary goes back about 11,000 years, when hunter-gatherer Paleo-Indians used the land in the summer for food and supplies. In the early 19th century, when white men first arrived, the Shoshone tribes lived there.  It was popular with fur traders between 1810 and 1840, because of the beavers that lived in the rivers there (before they were almost trapped to extinction of course).  Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, which is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,775 feet.  The mountains were named by fur trappers coming through the area, who called them les trois tétons (the three teats), and of course it stuck, and we Americanized the name.

The first view of the Teton Mountains

Geologically, the rocks in the park are some of the oldest in the United States; dated at 2.7 billion years.  The Teton range has several glaciers too, and the park contains the upper main stem of the Snake River, which flows north, and eventually flows into the Columbia River.

The area was isolated for so long that the ecosystem is much better protected than some other areas of the U.S., so some of the same species have been found there since prehistoric times.  Animal species that are found there include bison, moose, elk, mule deer, marmot, pika, Grizzly bear, black bear, osprey, coyote, cutthroat trout, beavers and river otters.  The Teton range is also home to the threatened whitebark pine tree.

Grand Teton National Park is really an outdoor-person’s paradise.  There are over 200 miles of hiking trails, many of them back-country trails.  There are over 1,000 car camping sites.  A paved trail through the park provides easy access to the valley areas by bike or roller blades.  You can boat or float the rivers, fish, mountain climb, and cross country ski or snow shoe in the winter.  There is enough to keep you busy for awhile…

The park has also preserved a lot of the history from the days when homesteaders lived in the valley and built ranches and small communities.  There are several historic buildings throughout the park that you can visit.

Mom Sign Posing

We spent two days there, and we did and saw a lot in those two days!  I will tell you more about my visit coming up!