Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Opens to the Public

November 6, 2007

Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve has been conveyed to the National Park Service and is now part of Grand Teton National Park. The Preserve—valued at approximately $160 million—is a remarkably generous gift from Laurance S. Rockefeller to the citizens of the United States and the world. Mr. Rockefeller intended for the Preserve to serve as a catalyst to inspire appreciation and reverence for the beauty and diversity of the natural world, and also foster individual responsibility for conservation stewardship. While exploring the Preserve, visitors will have the opportunity to seek solitude and contemplation while finding new ways to strengthen their connection with nature. The Preserve’s trail system is now open for public access; however, the Preserve Center (building) will not open to the public until the summer of 2008.

Located in the southwestern corner of Grand Teton National Park on the shore of Phelps Lake, the 1,106-acre Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is one of the most pristine, scenic, and wildlife-rich areas of the park. Formerly known as the JY Ranch, the property was part of approximately 35,000 acres of valley lands purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. during the late 1920s and early 1930s for the purpose of protecting and enlarging Grand Teton National Park.

The JY Ranch was originally purchased in 1906 by Lewis Joy and is considered to be the first true dude ranch in Jackson Hole. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the ranch in 1932, intending to include it in a sizeable land donation to the park. Over the years, however, it became a treasured family retreat and remained private property. Laurance inherited the JY from his father, and in the 1990s arranged for the transfer of a significant portion of the ranch—some 2000 acres—to Grand Teton.

Mr. Rockefeller announced his intention to gift the remaining JY lands to the park in a ceremony held at the ranch on May 26, 2001. In remarks made during the event, he expressed his desire for the Preserve to become a place of physical and spiritual renewal, and he stated his hope that the property would serve as a model for achieving balance between preservation and public use. He further declared that it would demonstrate how citizens—working in partnership with their government—can achieve important goals. On behalf of the American people, Vice President Dick Cheney and Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton committed that the U.S. Government would honor the specific wishes and vision of Mr. Rockefeller.

In preparation for transfer of the gift—and at the direction of Mr. Rockefeller—all roads, buildings, utilities and other structures were removed in order to restore the area’s natural landscape and re-establish natural systems. Approximately half of the structures were donated to Grand Teton for reuse as employee housing and related facilities; the remaining buildings were relocated to a new family property outside the park. A portion of this work had begun before Mr. Rockefeller passed away at the age of 94 on July 11, 2004.


With the seasonal closure of the Moose-Wilson Road to vehicles on November 1, visitors may only access the Preserve grounds by hiking or biking on the Moose-Wilson Road to reach the Preserve’s entrance gate and parking area located approximately 1.75 miles north of the Granite Canyon trailhead and about .5 mile south of the Death Canyon turnoff. Those who bicycle in, can lock their bikes to the racks located in the parking lot before setting out to hike the eight miles of established trails to reach Phelps Lake and the surrounding Teton Range. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated hiking trails; and bikes are not allowed on the Preserve’s trails.

The Preserve has adopted the values of "Leave No Trace." Visitors will be required to pack out all trash, and be respectful of wildlife, to minimize impacts to the natural environment. No restroom facilities will be available for use during the fall and winter months; however, these facilities will be available during the summer months.

Although leashed pets are allowed in the company of hikers and bikers on the Moose-Wilson Road, pets are not allowed on the Preserve’s trail system, just as they are not allowed on any other trails within Grand Teton National Park.

Trail maps of the Preserve will be available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose.