Grand Teton National Park

  Est 1929  

Natives Geology Fauna

Paleo-Indians &
Native Americans

Paleo-Indian presence in what is now Grand Teton National Park dates back more than 11,000 years. Jackson Hole valley climate at that time was colder and more alpine than the semi-arid climate found today, and the first humans were migratory hunter gath- erers spending summer months in Jackson Hole and wintering in the valleys west of the Teton Range. Along the shores of Jackson Lake, fire pits, tools and what are thought to have been fishing weights have been discovered. One of the tools found is of a type associated with the Clovis culture, and tools from this cultural period date back at least 11,500 years. Some of the tools are made of obsidian which chemical analysis indicates came from sources near present-day Teton Pass, south of Grand Teton National Park. Though obsidian was also available north of Jackson Hole,

virtually all the obsidian spear points found are from a source to the south, indicating that the main seasonal migratory route for the Paleo-Indian was from this direction. Elk, which winter on the National Elk Refuge at the southern end of Jackson Hole and northwest into higher altitudes during spring and summer, follow a similar migratory pattern to this day. From 11,000 to about 500 years ago, there is little evidence of change in the migratory patterns amongst the Native American groups in the region and no evidence that indicates any permanent human settlement.

When white American explorers first entered the region in the first decade of the 19th century, they encountered the eastern tribes of the Shoshone people. Most of the Shoshone that lived in the mountain vastness of the greater

Members of the Soshone tribe share a peace pipe with their cowboy guest

Yellowstone region continued to be pedestrian while other groups of Shoshone that resided in lower elevations had limited use of horses.When white American explorers first entered the region in the first decade of the 19th century, they encountered the eastern tribes of the Shoshone people.


Grand Teton National Park has some of the most ancient rocks found in any U.S. National Park. The oldest rocks dated so far are 2,680 ~ 12 million years old, though even older rocks are believed to exist in the park.

Formed during the Archean Eon (4 to 2.5 billion years ago), these metamo- rphic rocks include gneiss, schist and amphibolites. Metamorphic rocks are the most common types found in the northern and southern sections of the Teton Range. 2,545 million years ago, the metamorphic rocks were intruded by igneous granitic rocks, which are now visible in the central Tetons including Grand Teton and the nearby peaks. The light colored granites of the central Teton Range contrast with the darker metamorphic gneiss found on the flanks of Mount Moran to the north. Magma intrusions of diabase

rocks 765 million years ago left dikes that can be seen on the east face of Mount Moran and Middle Teton. Granite and pegmatite intrusions also worked their way into fissures in the older gneiss. Precambrian rocks in Jackson Hole are buried deep under comparatively recent Tertiary volcanic and sedimentary deposits, as well as Pleistocene glacial deposits.

By the close of the Precambrian, the region was intermittently submerged under shallow seas, and for 500 million years various types of sedimentary rocks were formed. During the

Paleozoic (542 to 251 million years ago) sandstone, shale, limestone and dolomite were deposited. Though most of these sedimentary brachiopods and trilobites. Sedimentary deposition continued during the Mesozoic (250-66 million years ago) and the coal seams found in the sedimentary rock strata indicate the region was densely forested during that era. Numerous coal seams of 5 to 10 ft (1.5 to 3.0 m) in thickness are interspersed with siltstone, claystone and other sedimentary rocks. During the late Cretaceous, a volcanic arc west of the region deposited fine grained ash.

A Sample of the Teton Range

Grand Teton

13,770 feet (4,200 m)

Mount Moran

12,605 feet (3,842 m)


12,325 feet (3,757 m)

Mount Owen

12,928 feet (3,940 m)


Sixty-one species of mammals have been recorded in Grand Teton National Park. This includes the gray wolf, which had been extirpated from the region by the early 1900s but migrated into the Grand Teton National Park from adjacent Yellowstone National Park after the species had been reintroduced there. The reestablish- ment of the wolves has ensured that every indigenous mammal species now exists in the park. In addition to gray wolves, another 17 species of carni- vores reside within Grand Teton National Park including grizzlies and the more commonly seen American black bear. Relatively common sight- ings of coyote, river otter, marten and badger and occasional sightings of

mountain lion, lynx and wolverine are reported annually. A number of rodent species exist including yellow-bellied marmot, least chipmunk, muskrat, beaver, Uinta ground squirrel, pika, snowshoe hare, porcupine, and six species of bats.

Of the larger mammals the most common are elk, which exist in the thousands. Their migration route between the National Elk Refuge and Yellowstone National Park is through Grand Teton National Park, so while easily seen anytime of the year, they are most numerous in the spring and fall. Other ungulates include bison and pronghorn the fastest land mammal in the western hemisphere which are

found throughout Jackson Hole as are moose, which tend to stay near waterways and wetlands. Between 100-125 bighorn sheep dwell in the alpine and rocky zones of the peaks.

Over 300 species of birds have been sighted in the park including the calliope hummingbird, the smallest bird species in North America, as well as trumpeter swans, which is North America's largest waterfowl. In addition to trumpeter swans, another 30 species of waterfowl have been recorded including blue-winged teal, common merganser, American wigeon and the colorful but reclusive harlequin duck which is occasionally spotted in Cascade Canyon.