Discovering Little Jackson Hole

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If you’ve been to Yellowstone or the areas around Jackson, Wyoming, you’ve seen some of the most beautiful sights in North America. But if you prefer a more personal, less crowded mountain experience, there’s a hidden valley just off the well-worn tourist path only 35 miles south of Jackson Hole. 

Now known as the Upper Hoback Valley – after the Hoback River that runs through it – this hidden treasure is home to migrating deer, elk, pronghorn, as well as raptors and other birds, all of whom peacefully coexist with a resident herd of bison. The valley was pioneer Davey Jackson’s first trapping “hole” back in the 1800s, dubbed Little Jackson Hole after he settled in the much larger Jackson Hole to the north. But while our valley can be called little when you compare its size to its better known neighbour to the north, when it comes to natural beauty, the place is huge. 

Among other things, Little Jackson Hole is home to The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch. This is your base camp to a wonderland of breathtaking vistas, magnificent wildlife, and unspoiled wilderness. A retreat in the middle of what is now a federally-protected icon of Western landscape that will be forever preserved for hunting, fishing, and recreation. 

Little Jackson Hole is where you can take on the famous cutthroat trout challenge known as The Cutt Slam. It’s where we have partnered with the Wyoming Wetlands Society to raise nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans and restore the habitat of native Loons. It’s where in winter you can cross-country ski and snowmobile through pristine snow-covered valleys and mountains and view a winter elk feeding ground. And where in summer you can wind your way through pastureland ablaze with wildflowers and spotted with sagebrush. 

The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch is an advocate for a sustainable future in the West, a lasting legacy to be passed on to future generations. We’re proud of our role in helping to save the Hoback, once listed as one of the nation’s most endangered waterways, by getting Congress to designate it a Wild & Scenic River. We’re also proud of the key role played by our owner in buying up oil and gas leases on a 58,000-acre tract of pristine Hoback Basin land, thus protecting the area from drilling and preserving it for hunting, fishing, and recreation. 

To be sure, there are a lot of things you won’t find anywhere near The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch. There are no t-shirt shops, souvenir stores, movie theatres or strip malls within 40 miles. No Starbucks or Taco Bells. Just peace, quiet, and bountiful beauty. And that’s just the way we intend to keep it. As our owner likes to say, “We have everything Yellowstone National Park has – except the crowds.” 


A Legacy Worth Preserving


It's our humble promise to you to do everything we can to make your visit to the Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch more than just a few days of great fishing or horseback riding or an enjoyable, relaxing mountain retreat. We hope to make it an opportunity for you to rediscover and realign your perspective on our world, our place in it, and our responsibility to preserve its treasures. 

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.
— Henry David Thoureau
 

The History of Little Jackson Hole


The Boots That Came Before Us: 

As an adventurous employee of a Missouri fur trading magnate, Jedediah Smith had an unfortunate encounter with a grizzly bear on his way to finding the mother lode of beaver trapping in what is now Wyoming. More than a few historic accounts give him credit as a pioneer in cosmetic surgery. 

After getting patched up, Smith led a small group of men who, in the frigid February of 1824, reached the Green River-indeed the mother lode of trapping at the time. He sent one of his men back to St. Louis to give their boss the good news then sent several more southwest from the Green, which led to the Bear River and later to Great Salt Lake. Smith took his remaining six men north, up the Green, to Horse Creek and eventually to the headwaters of the Hoback River.

There they found a small Eden of a valley that came to be known as Jackson's Little Hole in deference to Jackson's Big Hole, the large enclosed valley to the northwest where the Hoback flows into the Snake River (now Jackson Hole). Interestingly, this arm of the Hoback connecting these two Holes was shown as Jackson's Fork on many 19th century maps. 

In spite of its idyllic beauty and abundant game, the lure of even better trapping led Jedediah and his men north to claim the larger Jackson's Hole and a valley to the west known as Pierre's Hole, which is now Teton Valley. Fortunately, it was that attraction to bigger and more abundant trapping areas that drew many more fur traders and settlers away from Jackson's Little Hole back then, as it still lures developers away today, leaving "Little Jackson Hole" as breathtakingly beautiful, serene and as rich in wildlife as it was centuries ago.

... a vain and humorless man, Smith had his scalp sewn back on with needle and thread, then grew his hair long to cover the damaged and missing parts.
— Excerpt from James A. Hanson's "Mountain Men of the Hoback"

Jackson Fork Percherons: A Breed Apart.


After just four years of building their prize-winning herd of registered Percheron champions, The Jackson Fork Ranch has initiated a comprehensive Percheron breeding program. 

Coming off back-to-back World Congress Wins in 2010 and 2011 at Calgary’s Six Horse Hitch competition, and earning a coveted finalist position in the North American Classic Series, the move to building a breeding program is a natural and exciting progression toward creating a whole new generation of champion Percherons. 

On New Year’s Day 2013, our Percherons marched in the world-famous Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, pulling a Jackson Fork Ranch wagon custom made for us by Hanson Wagon Works of South Dakota. To be asked to play a part in an event as celebrated and historic as the Rose Parade is a point of tremendous pride for all of us at Jackson Fork Ranch. The nobility and beauty of these animals is awe-inspiring, and we were delighted to be able to share them with the world. 


Seasons at the Ranch


Winter

Everyone knows that 50 miles to the north of the Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch is some of the best winter downhill skiing in the world.

But here is what you may not know: Winter in the Jackson Fork Valley is less expected and a lot more exciting.

The first thing you realize in the winter is that you're in one of the most beautiful, and secluded, alpine valleys anywhere. Now imagine being the only person cross country skiing along gently groomed trails or untouched fresh powder. Or snowmobiling up the valley walls to places where only the elk and wolves roam.

Winter at the Lodge is definitely our best kept secret season. And the one worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime.


Spring

Ok, spring at the Jackson Fork Ranch is short - but amazing. The days get a little warmer. The snowpack starts to shrink. And the wildlife, well, they come alive again. Big time.

Majestic raptors start to fill the sky as they migrate back to their favorite hunting grounds. Pronghorn mingle with the bison as they head back up into the mountains. And elk come to the valley to birth a new generation of glorious beasts.

And the fishing? Well, the locals will tell you that the pre-runoff streams and lakes are filled with some of the hungriest trout you'll ever find. There�s also a good chance the spot you choose to fish will be yours and yours alone.

Depending on our winter, and weather, spring at the Lodge is anywhere from late April to mid-June. Short, we know, but well worth the effort, and an extremely rewarding experience.

 

Summer

Summer at The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch is the season when every living creature , every bird, flower, fish, and wild animal, shakes off their winter sleep and comes alive once again.

It's the season of discovery where everything old is new again and a whole new generation of flora and fauna arrive to a noisy and colorful fanfare welcoming another alpine summer in paradise.

Summer is the season to see our wildlife and flowers at their best. And the long awaited temperate weather makes it an ideal time to get out and hike, ride horses, mountain bike, and, of course, fish.

Yes, summer is a rich time at The Lodge and we promise the rewards for the time and interest you spend enjoying its gifts are spectacular.

Fall

People who know how to travel well know the secrets of their destinations. And fall is the secret season of Little Jackson Hole, the paradise valley home for the Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch.

Wake up every morning to an ever-changing palate of fall colors. A rainbow of muted yellows, golden aspen and silvery willows. Watch as nature lures the elk and pronghorn back into the valley for one last feast before the winter settles in. Gaze upward to see the clear skies filled with raptors soaring above their last easy meals before the snows blanket their hunting grounds.

Experience elk bugling in "surround-sound." The elk rutting season provides a symphony of bugling sounds in the evening hours. During mating season, the male elk typically gathers between 12 - 50 cows for his harem. As the sun-sets behind the Wyomings, it is one of the most awe-inspiring sight and sound experiences that Mother Nature offers.

And the rivers and streams are at their sportsman's peak. Running clear and filled with hungry trout looking to fatten up before their long winter's sleep.


Wildlife: A Legacy Worth Preserving

It was abundant wildlife that brought the first trappers to this remote corner of Wyoming and an abundant diversity of wildlife still draws people here today. 

Along with being home to a thriving group of deer, elk and moose, the Little Jackson Hole Valley provides sanctuary for cougars, lynx, black bear and fox. The recently reintroduced gray wolf is starting to stake its claim to the area adding a natural tension to rival prey as well as a challenge to the bison and elk that flourish at the ranch. 

Like the larger Jackson Hole to the north, the Little Jackson Hole Valley is also home to large herds of elk every winter where they come to forage through the shallower snows. 

Spring brings thousands of songbirds and a revived raptor population to the valley along with the largest pronghorn migration in the world from Yellowstone to the Green River Valley south of the ranch. 

In addition to supporting the exclusive Wyoming Cutt-Slam program to protect our native cutthroat trout, The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch is dedicated to preserving our rich natural environment and protecting the wildlife that have called this paradise home. 

Hiking and riding through the areas surrounding The Lodge offers excellent opportunities to come into contact with any number of the many species found here. If you’d like, we can arrange to have one of our naturalists give you a naturalist tour while you’re here.