The Laurance Rockefeller Preserve is at the very southern end of Grand Teton National Park. It was the JY Ranch when John D Rockefeller Jr purchased most of the land in Jackson Hole. He gave all of it except this parcel to the United Stated to form the Jackson Hole National Monument which later was the basis for the expanded Grand Teton National Park.
The family kept the JY ranch as a retreat. It eventually was owned by Laurance S Rockefeller who over time donated most of the ranch to the National Park. The final section was donated in 2001. The donation came with special preservation and maintenance restrictions, with the vision that the preserve remain a place where visitors can experience a spiritual and emotional connection to the beauty of the lake and the Teton Range.
There were several cabins around the southern end of Phelps Lake and roads leading into them. They have all been removed and the area restored to a more original condition. There is a significant network of hiking trails in this area, more than in any other part of the park.
It is a narrow two lane road to get here, nothing bigger than a car is allowed. The road is frequently closed in the late fall due to bear activity. We tried to get here two years ago when we were here but the bears had the road closed.
The Visitor Center is a short walk from a small parking lot, room for only as many cars as would fit, not many. There was a waiting area for a space to open up with Park Volunteers to help manage this flow and provided information on the Visitors Center and hiking trails. We waited for about 20 minutes. The small parking lot limited the number of visitors at any one time. It is a place for uncrowded reflection and study.
The building is interesting, almost rustic but very refined. It was built to be as green as possible with the minimum possible impact on the surroundings. The views of the Teton Range from here are very different than those further north. This is an area where moose, bear and elk are active and commonly seen.
In the Visitors Center there is a section with several large video screens of natural scenes and accompanying outdoor sounds. The images changed, moved from one screen to another as did the sources of the sounds. Without moving there was a feeling of continuous motion. Where you looked, where you listened was always changing.
At the end of this section was a large mosaic mural.
Getting closer revealed that it was made of other small pictures.
Each a very interesting picture on its own.
And then at the end past some dividing walls, a very tall circular room with benches. Small speakers surrounded you at several levels all the way to the top. Sitting quietly you were immersed in a outdoor soundscape leaving it to your imagination to see what it looks like.
This was a very nice place, very different, very calm.
Laurance Rockefeller envisioned this place to be just as it is. Quiet and uncrowded. Just as it had been for him growing up, a place of discovery. And for us today, a reading room with amazing views, books, maps and a warm fireplace.
This is a place to return to, to follow the trails to the lake and beyond. This is another unexpected special place in Grand Teton National Park.
Roger and Susan