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Rafts guides float down a scenic section of the Snake River with views of the Tetons mountains.

How The Tetons Got Their Name

The Scenic Teton Mountain Range in Jackson Hole

Let’s be real, we’re all here for the Tetons. Their jaw-dropping beauty and incredible recreational opportunities make them a destination for skiers, climbers, boaters, sightseers, weddings, film, and practically any other use you can imagine. Perhaps I’m biased, but the Tetons are the most stunning mountain range in North America. A short, narrow, and high mountain range, the Tetons are a rectangular mountain block about 40 miles long and 10-15 miles wide and are flanked on the east and west by the flat-floored valleys of Jackson Hole and Teton Basin. Unlike most mountain ranges, the Tetons are extra special in the fact that they ride steeply from the valley floor with no foothills, making them a spectacular sight to see with little effort to access an alpine view. So we agree that they’re pretty, but what’s behind their name?

Grand Teton history

The Shoshone are believed to have lived in and around the Teton range for as long as 10,000 years calling the range “Teewinot”, which translates to “many pinnacles”. There is also a belief that the Shoshone called the trio of mountains including the South, Middle, and Grand Teton mountains the “hoary-headed fathers”. However, French explorers saw something different in the mountains when they stumbled upon the range while trudging across the frozen tundra of Western Wyoming. Tired and famished, possibly daydreaming of the comforts of home, they quickly came to name the iconic mountains “Les Trois Tetons’, or “The Three Breasts”. To top it off, they literally named the Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range and the third tallest in Wyoming, “the big tit”. Les Trois Tétons somehow stuck.

Best way to view the Teton Mountains

There’s a lot of great ways to experience the Tetons, from hiking and climbing, to aerial tours, to skiing or riding the tram, but in our opinion you haven’t really experienced the Tetons until you’ve experienced them from the water. Similar to the Tetons, the Snake River is also a piece of history. A major tributary of the Columbia River with headwaters inside Yellowstone and Two Ocean Plateau, various stretches of the Snake River have had at least 15 different names, but the name that stuck was the Snake. The Snake River, which comes from the Snake (Shoshone) Indians, was applied to the river in 1812, making it one of the oldest names in the history of Grand Teton National Park. Meander down Jackson Hole’s iconic Snake River and view the Tetons (or Les Trois Tetons, Teewinot Range or the Hoary Headed Fathers) on a scenic river trip with Dave Hansen Whitewater.

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