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Grand Teton National Park; Iconic Images 3

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

From prior images I have seen, I went prepared (prejudiced?) to like Schwabacher best and Oxbow Bend least. I am glad I didn’t let preconception get in the way of reality! Oxbow Bend is a huge, “S-curve” bend in the Snake River just before it reaches Jackson Lake, which creates a large pool in which, when conditions are right, you can frame and reflect the Tetons, and especially Mt. Moran, dramatically. Oxbow is a well-enough known venue that there is a huge, paved parking area from which you can see this.

I am glad I didn’t let preconception get in the way of reality!

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

The Snake River appears to have its headwaters somewhere immediately South of the town of Jackson, just South of the Park, and it empties into Jackson Lake, just North of Oxbow Bend, in the Northern reaches of the Park. The river feeds several lakes in the Park which create part of its essential character and beauty and make it unique from Yellowstone National Park, which was established in 1872. By the early 1900’s, conservationists sought to expand Yellowstone to include the Teton Range. Around 1907, in an effort to regulate water flow for irrigation purposes, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a log dam at the Snake River outlet of Jackson Lake. The dam failed within a couple years the current concrete Jackson Lake Dam was built in 1911. Jackson Lake already naturally existed, but the dam raised the water level nearly 40 feet. Proposed dam construction plans for other lakes in the Teton Range were opposed by Horace Albright (the then Yellowstone NP Superintendent). At the same time, residents of the Jackson Hole area opposed expansion of Yellowstone and sought the establishment of a separate National Park which would include the Teton Range and six lakes at the base of the mountains. President Calvin Coolidge signed the executive order establishing the 96,000-acre Grand Teton National Park on February 26, 1929.

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

The Snake is posted in many areas as dangerous water, requiring an expert ability to kayak, raft, canoe or boat on the river. Oxbow Bend, however, appears as a wide, placid turn in the river that creates a wonderful series of photographic opportunities.

I suspect, however, that most tourists completely miss the magic that is inherent in this scene. During the day, when the sun is high and the wind is up, this is still a spectacular view of the mountain range and an impressive point in the river. And during many times of the year, it is possible that a sharp eye will spot wildlife, including Moose and Bear in the environment.

Oxbow Bend, however, appears as a wide, placid turn in the river that creates a wonderful series of photographic opportunities

But to see the reflection, you must be there early, beginning just before sunrise. We were staying 40 miles from Oxbow and the “best” way there in the pre-dawn hours involved backtracking to the Southwest, through the town of Jackson and then north to Moran Junction on highway U.S. 89. The fastest posted speed in non-daylight hours was 45 mile per hour and there was the constant concern about an elk, mule deer, or even bison suddenly crossing the road. We left the condo at 4:15 a.m., to be there in plenty of time to see the alpenglow which precedes sunrise. While we knew we were not in prime season, we were still surprised to the only photographers there that morning (indeed during most of the morning). And, once you are there, you can travel to the Jackson Lake Dam, or to other areas along the inner park road that will give stunning views of the Teton Range framed by the lake. If you are lucky, you will catch it when the water is still, creating yet another reflection opportunity.

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Alternatively, stop in the Jackson Lake Lodge for an incredible view of a meadow in front of the mountain range.

Oxbow Bend is a photographic scene that is simply not to be missed. Once again, we had to make our images without the benefit of any drama in the skies. And once again, I will say, it was not a bad way to spend a morning. Not a bad way at all!

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards


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4 Responses

  1. I believe (and teach) that one of the keys to unlocking photographic creativity is letting go of all preconceptions. Glad you confirmed that in a way that makes the most impact. I also believe that every scene has one truly great photo in it–finding the composition that presents the strongest possible way of seeing that specific scene is the challenge. I’ve enjoyed your Teton photos, Andy.

    • Thanks, Jim. Your comments and support mean a lot! In keeping with your teaching, and with my legal training that says to put your best argument first, I think the first image on the blog is the one with the potential to be a great photo. Of all the grand scene in front of me, that is the composition I like best.

      Now, on to better vision with my DD. I know I have some work to do and will look forward to your guidance.

  2. absolutely stunning photography! I love off the beaten path topics. I want to just hop on a plane and check it out!

  3. Yummy: Thanks so much for you kind words

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