Best of the Tetons

Buffalo Fork Bridge by Harrison Crandall

Scalawags and Bridges ~ The Old Buffalo Fork Bridge:

The Early Link to Jackson Hole on the East Side of the Valley.

Where’s This? Okay, I already gave it away in the title of the post! When I first saw this color postcard, I was puzzled. The size of the river made me initially think it was the Snake River, and if so, the bridge might have been somewhere near Deadman’s Bar. The road on the right might have something to do with what is now called the RKO road. Still, things didn’t add up and the angle looked wrong. In reality, the river is the Buffalo Fork River near Moran Junction.  (I believe this postcard shot was by Sanborne)

With a little help from GTNP’s park historian, I found a book titled “A Community of Scalawags, Renegades, Discharged Soldiers and Predestined Stinkers” written in 1998 by Kenneth L. and Lenore L. Diem published by Grand Teton Natural History Association.

1922 Buffalo River Bridge

For many travelers, making their way to Jackson Hole from the East meant going to what is now the Jackson Lake Dam area (then the town of Moran) and heading south through what is now the Teton Park Road. Even then, reliable river crossings over the Snake was a challenge. Grand Teton National Park was not established until 1929, but people were still traveling to the area from all over. Important note: The current highway connection from Moose Junction to Moran Junction was not opened until sometime in 1957 or 1958. (Note: When I first saw this photo, I thought the cleared area near the center was the actual old road, but after inspecting it more closely, I believe that’s just a trail and the road is above and to the right of the frame.)

This quote from the book explains a lot about the old bridge and the shortcut to the town of Jackson:

“In the meantime, a bridge was constructed across the Buffalo Fork River by Noble Gregor and Captain Smith around 1901. This bridge was located about where the current power lines cross the river, about 1 mile east of the present Moran Entrance to Grand Teton National Park (Fig. 28). Shortly thereafter, Gregory bought out Smith. During high water, Sam Gregory (Noble Gregory, Sr,’s father) would camp in a tent set up next to the bridge and would charge toll for travelers wishing to use his bridge. Under pressure from the Teton National Forest, the bridge was eventually turned over to the forest about 1906 (Gregory, Noble, Sr., no date, Lawrence, W.C. and N. Gregory, Jr. 1977). As such, it became a public bridge and was repaired and improved by Teton National Forest (Rosencrans, 1907).”

Buffalo Fork Bridge by Harrison Crandall

Buffalo Fork Bridge by Harrison R. Crandall – The Park’s First Official Photographer: (I didn’t see a date on this postcard, but Harrison’s daughter, Quita, said he moved to the valley in 1923)

The Old Jackson Hole Road

This is a Harrison Crandall painted postcard showing the Old Jackson Hole Road. The caption on the back reads, “The Old Jackson Hole Road” which follows the east border of the Valley. Fences of the “buck and pole” type such as these are remnants of early days and are still a distinctive feature.” I believe this was taken a few miles north of the current Lost Creek Ranch after exiting the ravine from Triangle X Ranch.

After I saw that first postcard and reading the paragraph in the book, I found the old road heading on north just past Elk Ranch. The road is intact until it falls into the current thread of the river.

Current Satellite Map

This is a screen grab using TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris) showing a satellite view of the area. You can see the old road in the lower left and top along with current Highway 287 near the top. Still, things don’t look much like the old photos. This satellite image helped with plenty of clues.

Circa 1922 Terrain

Circa 1922 Terrain: I took the liberty to “clone” in what I believe the riverbed might have looked like in 1922 and the color photo at the top of the page. It shows the approximate location of the old bridge. It appears the river changed it’s course and cut off the elbow of the early days. But, this mockup gives me a much better idea of what Sanborne and Crandall were seeing between 1922 and 1958 or so.

Once the new highway road was completed, including the new concrete bridge over the Buffalo Fork, the old bridge was torn down and that section of the road was abandoned. I have no idea when the river channel changed. Power lines now cross the river at about the same area the old bridge was located. They make a scenic shot from Sanborne and Crandall’s photo vantage point less desirable. I’ve also seen other postcards taken from the same spot, but I always liked those two the best.

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Comment (1)

  1. Maurice Horn

    Very nice. Will share on Facebook. Thanks

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