At the Center of the World's First National Parks
Rockefeller & Roosevelt's Experiment
Armed ranchers, including Teton County Commissioner Clifford Hansen, left, and actor Wallace Beery, in black hat, trail cattle in protest across the newly created Jackson Hole National Monument, 1943. (AP Photo)
The Birthplace of a Park
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as he appeared before the Senate Oil Investigating Committee in Washington D.C.
Mardy & Olaus on the porch at GVRR
And how GVRR became the last holdout
Until settlers from the East began homesteading in the 1880’s, Indigenous Americans and legendary fur trappers like John Colter and Davey Jackson, were the only residents of the beautiful but harsh terrain of western Wyoming. By the early span of the 20th century, wealthy Easterners enchanted by cinematic ideals of the West flocked to Jackson Hole in search of the fabled “cowboy” experience. Local ranchers struggling to thrive in difficult conditions soon realized that “dude ranching” was both easier and more profitable than traditional cattle ranching. The rise in demand for an “authentic” western adventure led to the golden age of dude ranching and by the 1920’s, in tandem with the development of the National Park, this historically sparse region started to become a sought- after tourist destination.
With the increase in tourism came the requisite surge of development. Lodging cabins, gas stations, taverns and saloons all began to crop up beneath the stunning silhouette of the Tetons. In 1927, John D. Rockefeller Jr. visited the valley and fell in love with it. Over the next two decades, he quietly purchased land in the area, through a local banker named Robert Miller, eventually amassing 35,000 acres. The purpose of the purchase and the identity of the buyer were kept secret. In 1942, Rockefeller informed Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes that he was no longer willing to hold on to the land. A year later, in 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that created the Jackson Hole Monument, which included the Rockefeller lands. This action remains one of the most controversial in the history of the national parks. In protest, armed ranchers, including Teton County Commissioner Cliff Hansen and actor Wallace Beery, trailed cattle across the Monument. (A photograph of this event was taken by the Associated Press in 1943.) The controversy over attempts to extend federal government control in northwestern Wyoming had been ongoing for 30 years. It was finally resolved when Grand Teton National Park was established in its current form in 1950. Despite the welcome uptick in local revenue, ranchers were keen to preserve the valley and control the unnecessary development of wild spaces.
Due to private ownership holdouts, Grand View River Ranch was one of the properties that Rockefeller did not acquire and thus became a rare federal in-held private parcel within the wilds of the iconic national park.
Inholdings in this immediate area have been purchased by entities that have in turn donated them to the federal government for the purpose of continually developing the National Park with a goal to have no private parcels inside the federal borders and preserve the surrounding lands.
Robber Barrons to Cowboys
The vanguard of conservation in the U.S., to poker bets, and historic landslides
The property was originally homesteaded by William Smith in 1910, and he was granted water rights the following year. In 1915, Mr. Smith received the deed to the property. The property was later sold to William Woodward in 1920, and then to John Barnes of Washington DC in 1932. Barnes used the property as a hunting camp.
In 1944, Claude Wham, a cowboy working for the Chambers family on their ranch on Mormon Row, won the property from Barnes in a card game.
After the Slide
1925, Before Slide
A Slide that Moved Rivers
Ownership on both banks
In 1925 a massive land slide dammed the Gros Ventre River and created Slide Lake. The landslide, which was triggered by heavy rainfall and unstable geological conditions, killed six people and destroyed several buildings in the nearby town of Kelly.
This historic geologic event pushed the mighty Gros Ventre River into the property boundary. This bestowed ownership rights on both banks of this Nationally recognized Wild & Scenic River to Grand View River Ranch for nearly a half mile of its flow.
Hover over the image on the left to see how the river moved
Historic Buildings from Across the Valley
Wham disassembled 4 small log cabins and the Lodge from the Bar BC Ranch, one of the original Ranches in the Jackson Hole / Grand Teton National Park area, and reassembled them at their current location. He sold the property to his employers, the Chambers brothers, Roy and Reese, in 1959 due to his divorce.
The Chambers used the property to access their Turpin and Ditch creek grazing allotments. In the early 1960s, the road into the Gros Ventre area was improved and phone lines were constructed, allowing the Chambers to begin operating a dude ranch they called the Flying V.
The property was purchased by the current owners in 1986, who began running the Grand View River Ranch the following year. In the first three years, they built 3 guest Lodges, the barn, the owner's home, and the owner's guest home know as the Crazy 8. The owners lived in one of the lodges for three years before building their home and guest home (known as the Crazy 8 Guest Home).
Over the years, they added a steel bridge over the Gros Ventre River and an arena, and ran the ranch as a family operation embracing the lifestyle of the true West. The daughter and her husband met on the ranch in 1997 and began managing operations in 2000. They were known for having ridden horses to the elementary school in Kelly to pick up his girls from school, and they raised their three daughters on the ranch.
4 Lodge Guest Lodges
The Historic Murie Barn
The homestead house. The GVRR log structures were expertly crafted with high-quality materials to endure the harsh winters of the West. Additionally, all property structures have been meticulously maintained and remain in great condition to continue their legacy.
The original Kelly cabin, the only home to survive the Kelly flood. It belonged to the post mistress.
The rich history of the ranch traces back to its origins as a homestead, followed by an intriguing tale of Claude Wham winning the property in a poker game. It continued to evolve as a privately preserved parcel during the Rockefeller era, when efforts were underway to protect what is now revered as the Grand Teton National Park.
The current owners of the ranch have displayed remarkable commitment to preserving the area’s historical legacy and its treasured buildings. Their proactive approach has involved acquiring and relocating several significant historic structures to the ranch, ensuring their preservation for future generations to appreciate.
Among these cherished buildings is the “Homestead Cabin,” originally known as the J.O. Lodge from the esteemed Bar BC Ranch, constructed in the early 1920s. The Kelly Cabin, one of only three structures that withstood the devastating Kelly Flood of 1927, also finds its place here. Additionally, four cabins were painstakingly moved and restored from the Bar BC Ranch in the 1940s, along with the Homestead Lodge.
Notably, the McReynolds Barn originates from the McReynolds Homestead near Mormon Row, just north of Blacktail Butte. Lastly, the historic Murie Barn, which holds a significant place in history (further detailed in this brochure), was relocated from its original site within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.
These meticulously preserved and relocated structures serve as testaments to the ranch’s dedication to conserving the region’s heritage and embodying the spirit of its storied past.
History of Homesteading
The Muries were tireless crusaders who fought relentlessly to protect wild creatures and places. Their advocacy brought the importance of preserving wilderness to the forefront of public consciousness, and they tirelessly lobbied Congress to ensure the survival of wilderness areas. Despite their passion, the Muries were known for their gentle nature and helped lay the foundation for the modern conservation movement in the United States.
Most of their lives were spent in Wyoming, where they played pivotal roles in starting the Wilderness Society, creating Grand Teton National Park, and establishing the Teton Science School. Olaus, a biologist for the U.S. Biological Survey (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), became known as "Mister Elk" for his extensive research on North America's largest elk herd in Jackson. Despite being a controversial figure, Olaus earned immense respect for his work, which included challenging the survey's predator control policies. Through his research on the elk herd, Olaus realized that predator eradication had disrupted the natural balance, and he advocated for the preservation of entire ecosystems, thus paving the way for his and Mardy's conservation work.
From the 1940s through the 1960s, conservationists gathered at the Murie Ranch, where they debated and discussed environmental policies, including the creation of the Wilderness Act. The National Park Service planned to demolish one of the original barns on the Murie Ranch, but Mardy intervened and donated the barn to the Grand View River Ranch to protect it.
Today, the barn stands as a historical reminder of the foundations of Grand Teton National Park and the tireless efforts of those who built the valley in which the Grand View River Ranch now resides.