Improving Grand Teton’s Most Visited Destination
Inspiring Journeys: A Campaign for Jenny Lake is a $17 million public-private collaboration between Grand Teton National Park and Grand Teton National Park Foundation that will transform Jenny Lake’s trails, bridges, key destinations, and visitor complex. The project will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and create an inviting trail system and captivating experience for the 21st century visitor. Through the project, we aim to educate, inspire, and address resource protection and accessibility, ultimately allowing visitors of varying abilities to connect with the park in meaningful, memorable ways.
Who is the “Jenny” of Jenny Lake?
Originally from England, Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh was a Teton trapper and guide in the early 1860s who married two different Native American women during his lifetime in the valley (one from each side of the range). Leigh served as a guide to wealthy Easterners and also worked on government surveys like Ferdinand V. Hayden’s 1872 geologic expedition to the region. After the expedition, Hayden was so impressed with Leigh’s skills and knowledge of the area that he named two lakes at the base of the Teton Range after the Englishman (Leigh Lake) and his wife, Jenny, a Shoshone woman—thus Jenny Lake. Jenny later contracted small pox and died, as did all of their children, in 1876. Leigh was the only family member to survive. He remarried a woman named Susan Tadpole of the Bannock tribe and continued to live, trap, and guide in the area until nearly the turn of the century.
Current Conditions at Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake, Grand Teton’s most visited destination, hosts more than 1 million people each year—a number that was inconceivable in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps crews built park trails. Over the years, this area has degraded and cumulative damage now threatens fragile habitat and prevents people with limited abilities or wilderness experience from exploring all the area has to offer.
Despite these challenges, Jenny Lake continues to be the place where visitors choose to have on-the-ground interactions with Grand Teton's most fascinating features. The scope of this project provides significant opportunities to improve the Jenny Lake experience and convey the importance of protecting America's wild landscapes to park visitors.
Project Design Renderings
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A fully accessible interpretive plaza—a destination in itself—will offer exhibits, 3-D tactile maps, and interactive features to engage and educate visitors. This welcoming plaza will also provide a comprehensive experience for those with limited time or ability to venture into the backcountry.
Upon arrival at the Jenny Lake area, a fully accessible path system will bring visitors through the plaza and beyond to reveal sweeping Jenny Lake views along with newly created lakeshore overlooks and access points.
This effort will revitalize aging trails, improve circulation, introduce a series of paths and create a trail system that is easy to maintain, yet retains the historic feel that has long characterized the Jenny Lake region. Work includes restoration of trail treads, trail reroutes to avoid sensitive areas, reclamation of habitat, removal of fencing, and construction of bridges.
At its core, Inspiring Journeys is about trails. Significant work will occur on Jenny Lake’s network of backcountry trails to enhance hiking options and reverse years of accumulated trail damage, providing a safer and more inspiring experience for hikers of all abilities.
We believe there is tremendous power in connecting Americans to their national parks. Now, more than ever, park enthusiasts have a tremendous opportunity to model how best to preserve Grand Teton’s natural treasures and our collective heritage through innovative projects funded by public-private partnerships like this campaign for Jenny Lake.
Join us in celebrating Jenny Lake’s timeless ability to inspire and invigorate those who visit its shores. You will be part of a legacy project that enables unforgettable experiences, expands understanding of this extraordinary place, and ultimately awakens a desire to preserve national parks for future generations.