Jackson Lake to Moran Junction
East and south of Jackson Lake, the park road passes Oxbow Bend, where a turnout is almost always filled with folks looking for geese, ducks, moose, and other animals. The oxbow was formed when the meandering river cut off an old loop.
The calm water here is a delightful place for canoes, although the mosquitoes can be a major annoyance in midsummer. Come fall, photographers line the shoulder of the road for classic shots of flaming aspen trees with Grand Teton and Mt. Moran in the background.
Mt. Moran is the massive peak with a flattened summit, a skillet-shaped glacier across its front, and a distinctive black vertical diabase dike that looks like a scar from some ancient battle. It rises 12,605 feet above sea level and is named for Thomas Moran, whose beautiful paintings of Yellowstone helped persuade Congress to set aside that area as the world’s first national park.
At Moran Junction you pass the park’s Buffalo Entrance Station and meet the road to Togwotee Pass and Dubois. A post office and school are the only developments remaining here. The epic Western The Big Trail was filmed nearby in 1930, starring an actor named John Wayne in his first speaking role. (Wayne had never ridden a horse before this.)
An interesting side trip is to head east from Moran on U.S. Highway 26/287 for three miles to Buffalo Valley Road. This narrow and scenic road leads to Turpin Meadow, a major entryway into the Teton Wilderness. It is very pretty, especially in early summer when flowers carpet the fields. Buck-and-rail fences line the road, and the pastures are filled with horses and cattle. Beyond Turpin Meadow, the road turns to gravel and climbs sharply uphill, rejoining the main highway a couple of miles below Togwotee Mountain Lodge.
The Blackrock Ranger Station of Bridger-Teton National Forest is eight miles east of Moran Junction on U.S. Highway 26/287. Nearby is historic Rosie’s Cabin, built early in the 20th century by Rudolph Rosencrans, an Austrian emigrant who was the first forest ranger in this part of the Tetons.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition