A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Wyoming’

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Posted by graywacke on January 18, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2077; A Landing A Day blog post number 504.

 Dan –  Getting a little serious with a 1/6, thanks to this OSer landing in . . . WY; 73/66; 5/10; 149.6.  One more OSer, and I’ll be at 150 even . . .

 Here’s my regional landing map:


My local map shows that I landed near the Snake River Valley at the foot of the Teton Range (aka, Jackson Hole):


Obviously, I landed in the Snake River watershed (the relatively small part of the watershed that’s in WY as opposed to ID).  Here’s a more local shot, showing how a drop of water from my landing wends its way to the Snake:


This was my 74th hit for the Snake, which flows to the Columbia (148th hit).

 Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot, looking east.  That’s Dry Creek to the left (north) of my landing:


Now looking west, and zooming back a fair bit, here’s a GE shot showing Jackson Hole and the Tetons:


Turning around once more, now I’m peaking over the crest of the Tetons, looking east at my landing (the yellow push-pin is faintly visible in the distance).


I’ve stumbled on a GE feature that will probably become a regular for my more scenic landings.  When using GE StreetView (which I do practically every landing), I “grab” the little orange dude icon on the right hand side of the GE screen, and put him on a nearby road that shows up blue (i.e., the roads with StreetView coverage).  When I let go of the orange guy, I zoom right down to the road, and up pops StreetView coverage.

 Occasionally, I have missed the blue-highlighted road sufficiently that GE is a little confused, and it gives instead a “ground level view,” close to the road I was aiming for.  When this happens, I just zoom back out, and try again for the road.  But then it hit me:  by putting the orange guy at my landing, I can effectively stand next to my landing and see what one would see if one were standing there.

 So here’s my ground level view, looking east:


Cool, eh?

 As you can tell by the post’s title, I’ve decided not to feature any particular town.  “Jackson Hole” refers to the Snake River Valley at the foot of the Tetons.   The major reason that Jackson Hole is so spectacular is the difference in elevation between the valley and the peaks.  Here’s a GE shot, with a little detail showing the elevation of Grand Teton Mountain, and the elevation of the Snake River:


Untold millions of photos have been taken here, many of which look more or less like this (a GE Panoramio shot by Tom Ringold):

 pano tom ringold

I know all of my readers are dying to know who “Jackson” is.  From the town of Jackson Chamber of Commerce website:

 It was David Jackson [a trapper and fur trader] 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.

By perusing Wiki, I’ve learned that the first white man to see the valley was John Colter, who was a member of the Lewis & Clarke expedition.  Lewis and Clarke never saw the Tetons; Colter returned west a couple of years after the expedition, and entered the valley from the east (along what is now Route 26, see landing map above).  After he crossed Togwotee Pass (about 25 miles east of the Hole), here’s more or less his first view of the Tetons (from Wiki):

 Tetons_from_Togwotee_Pass wiki

I hope that he thought it was staggeringly beautiful (as opposed to thinking, oh, sh__, another mountain range to cross).

Jackson Hole is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  But first, there’s some interesting geology here, and I’m going to do my best to do it justice (as opposed to the innumerable insufferably boring/tedious geologic write-ups that I find everywhere . . .)

 Of course, the geologic story of the Tetons is complex, but here’s the cool part.  Only about 8 or 9 million years ago (right in the midst of the already-existing Rocky Mountains), a north-south fault opened up due to some tensional forces on the earth’s crust.  Some vertical forces were active as well, such that the west side of the fault uplifted, and the east side of the fault slipped downward.  (I tried to get some simplified explanations for the forces involved, but it quickly got over my head . . .)

 The vertical movement on this fault has so far exceeded five miles (about 30,000 feet).  Sounds like a lot, right?  Let’s do a little math.  30,000 feet divided by 8 million years = only 0.0038 feet/year (not even 1/16 of an inch!!).

 Phew.  As dramatic as the Tetons are, a movement of less than 1/16th of an inch per year got the job done.  Amazing what happens when you have millions of years to play with!

 Here’s a simplified cross section showing the 30,000 feet of movement:

 cross section

(Interestingly, this cross section came from the Genesis International Research Association, “devoted to finding the common ground between science & religion.”)

 Anyay, here’s a more complete cross section (from the National Park Service) that more or less shows the same thing:

 NPS cross section

(Note how units 5 and 7 used to line up, and that unit 7 has eroded away during the 8 million years of uplift.)  I’d guess they’re about 30,000 feet apart . . .)

 It is generally accepted that we ain’t done yet – that the Tetons will keep on growing!  There’s research going on to see if the fault moves only during earthquakes, or if it’s also moving very slowing without earthquakes.

 Here’s a picture showing the Teton Fault scarp (a “scarp” is an actual physical cliff that shows where active fault movement has recently occurred):

 carleton college fault scarp

I lifted this from the Carleton College (MN) website.  It’s a quiz question for beginning Earth Science students:  which number shows a fault scarp?  The answer is obviously 2!

 These are the youngest of the Rocky Mountains – not in terms of the age of the rocks (there are some really old rocks, like 2.5 billion-year-old rocks, making up the Tetons) – but rather in terms of how long the mountain peaks themselves have been around. 

 There’s another completely different geology story even closer to my landing!  To make sure you don’t get over-geologied in one fell swoop, I’ll give you a four-day breather.  That’s right, for the first time in A Landing A Day history, I’m going to do a two-part post for the same landing!  But first, some pretty GE Panoramio pictures . . . 

 I’ll start with this summertime shot by Doug Best:

 pano doug best summer

Here’s a winter shot from nearly the same place, by Richard Ryer:

 pano richard ryer winter

And an incredible reflective shot, once again by Doug Best:

 pano doug best

Lovely fence & flowers (with, what else, the Tetons in the background), by Kevin Mikkelsen:

pano kevin mikkelsen

And I’ll close, with this lovely shot of the ass end of a bison, by Aaron Nuffer:

 pano aaron nuffer

That’ll do it.



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