The sixth day of camp was a culmination that represented the early economy of the state of Wyoming, and frankly, most of the west. Trapping and the fur trade was extremely important to the economy of the early United States, and before that the colonies of Great Britain and now Canada. It even goes further back than that, if you explore the evidence that early hunters and gatherers had killed woolly mammoth 11,000 years ago! Jackson Hole itself became very important when the expedition of Lewis and Clark came through in 1803. John Colter, then with Lewis and Clark, persuaded the local Indian tribes to trap beaver. Beaver top hats were all the rage in the world then, and fortunes could be made trapping them.
According to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, “When other trappers followed Colter’s example, Jackson Hole became one of the prime areas of interest. Most of the famous mountain men that trapped in the West in the early 1800′s traveled the trails that crossed the valley: Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, William Sublette, and David Jackson were among them. They traveled through the area going to and from the annual summer Rendezvous where they traded their beaver pelts and celebrated a successful trapping season. But it was David Jackson who gave his name to the valley when he supposedly spent the winter of 1829 on the shores of Jackson Lake . For the mountain men, a “hole” indicated a high valley that was surrounded by mountains, and William Sublette, who was Jackson ‘s partner in an early fur company, referred to the mountain valley along the Snake River as Jackson ‘s Hole. The mountain men were responsible for many, if not most, of the names in the valley. It was French Canadian trappers who named the three prominent peaks of the area “Les Trois Tetons,” or the three breasts: Grand Teton , Middle Teton, and South Teton. “
The best way to navigate at that time was on the rivers. The tribes of Nez Perce and Shoshone tribes relied upon the fish from the river and were great navigators. The first boats were flat bottomed, wooden, but rubber boats were invented by John Fremont and Horace Day during Fremont’s expedition in 1842-1843. The rubber allowed for flexibility and greater safety on the river. This also allowed for the convergence of trappers nearby at the Rendezvous as mentioned in an earlier blog To Frack or Not To Frack
In the more recent history, recreational white water rafting became popular in the 1940s. This is where my story comes in. I, honestly, have a very healthly fear of moving water. As mentioned, even the gentle sport of tubing almost proved to be a bit much for me ( almost the end/ ). I was slightly apprehensive about riding the Mad River. The Snake River had been called the Mad River since the beginning by white men because they feared it was too treacherous to navigate safely. Comforting!!! At any rate, we all piled in the vans and it was determined that I was definitely sitting in the MIDDLE of the boat. No paddling, no hanging off the side, no riding in the front of the point of the boat for me…that would have been a deal breaker.
When we arrived, we all suited up in our life vests and 14 of us piled in our boat. I got my middle seat and off we went. Our ride was an hour and half and our trip was classified at as two or three rapids. It’s based on the swiftness and depth of the water. Earlier in the season, it’s more vigorous. The paddlers got their practice paddling and our guide did a good job of steering us. Honestly, he took turns turning the boat to get us all wet. I had listened to Todd, one of our head councilors, to wear my wind pants and a jacket, as it could get cold. I was glad by the end, because the water was 57 degrees!
I apologize that I don’t have many of my own photos due to the fear of ruining my digital camera. I did have the disposable with me, and I will scan those once the film gets developed (wow, old school!!!). We saw multiple Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, a Cormorant, a mermot and…..wait for it…….wait…….A BLACK BEAR!!!! We were all so excited. Everyone had said that we would not likely see one, but we did. I mostly saw his little butt as he bounded away, but I saw him. Of course, no camera, no photo.
Please see the links below for my reference points: