On This Day: The Grand Canyon and Grand Teton

February 26, 2024

These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress.

The National Park Service describing National Parks in the United States.

February 26th marks the anniversaries of two major U.S. National Parks: The Grand Canyon and Grand Teton National Park.

How did they come to be?

The Grand Canyon

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world,” Pres. Theodore Roosevelt said in 1903 after visiting the Grand Canyon. Years earlier, Sen. Harrison (who later became president) proposed legislation to protect the Grand Canyon, but repeated congressional action failed. One of the challenges? Few lawmakers had seen the site to understand its importance.

John Wesley Powell

  • Civil War veteran & one of the first Grand Canyon explorers.
  • Lost his right arm in battle but ventured into completely unknown & uncharted territory exploring the West.
  • In 1869, 10 men set out on an exploration expedition; only 6 returned, incl. Powell – who spread the word of the wonder of the land & the Colorado River.
  • Well-known for his work as a map maker, scientist, & conservationist.

How It Happened

  • 1882: The first bill to establish the Grand Canyon as a national park was introduced; it took five bills over several decades before Congress approved the measure.
  • 1908: Pres. Roosevelt made the Grand Canyon a national monument.
  • 1919: After congressional action, Pres. Wilson declared the Grand Canyon America’s 15th national park – three yrs after creating the National Park Service.

Grand Teton National Park

The first inhabitants of the Jackson Hole valley date back over 11,000 years when the Normadic paleo-Indians entered the area. In Summer, tribes would come to harvest berries, fish and hunt but would search for warmer weather during the winter.

John Colter

  • Said to be the first Euro-American explorer in Jackson Hole.
  • Served on Lewis and Clark’s expedition “Corps of Discovery” but left in 1806. He then traveled the region in 1807-1808.

Fur trappers soon came to the region for wealth, more expeditions documented the area, then homesteaders arrived in 1884 and wealthy Easterners called “dudes and “dudenes” began “dude ranching” in the 20th century.

How It Happened

  • 1923: A meeting was held in order to discuss the conservation of the valley after tourism and development increased.
  • 1926: John D. Rockefeller Jr. began to purchase private land in the valley and held 35,000 acres.
  • 1929: The original park was created by Congress to protect lakes and the Teton Range.
  • 1943: Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared additional land as Jackson Hole National Monument.
  • 1949: Rockefeller donated the land he had previously purchased to the government to be a part of the national park.
  • 1950: Congress combined the national monument, the Rockefeller lands and the original park to create the modern-day Grand Teton National Park.

Read More:

Major John Wesley Powell

by Sarah Pinkerton, based in Paris