Vol. 39 (2016)
Research Project Human Dimensions

Tracing the cultural history of upper Snake River guides in Grand Teton National Park

Yolonda Youngs
Department of Global Studies, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID
A view of the Snake River with the Tetons in the background on an overcast day.

Published 2016-12-15


This study traces the development and evolution of Snake River use and management through an in-depth exploration of historic commercial scenic river guiding and concessions on the upper Snake River in Grand Teton National Park (GRTE) from 1950 to the present day. The research is based on a combination of methods including archival research, oral history analysis, historical landscape analysis, and fieldwork. I suggest that a distinct cultural community of river runners and outdoor recreationalists developed in Grand Teton National Park after World War II. In GRTE, a combination of physical, cultural, and technical forces shaped this community’s evolution including the specific geomorphology and dynamic channel patterns of the upper Snake River, the individuals and groups that worked on this river, and changes in boat and gear technology over time. The following paper presents the early results from the first year of this project in 2016 including the work of a graduate student and myself. This study offers connections between the upper Snake River and Grand Teton National Park to broader national trends in the evolution of outdoor recreation and concessions in national parks, the impact of World War II on technological developments for boating, and the cultural history of adventure outdoor recreation and tourism in the United States.


Featured photo by Elton Menefee on Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/AHgCFeg-gXg