Amazing Photos of Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1948

The Jackson Hole valley of today is a major hub of tourism in the American West: skiers in the winter, national park-goers in the summer and mountain lovers all year round. But its primary tourism draw—long before the word “resort” became associated with the peaceful Wyoming locale—was once its dude ranches. Back then, its cowboy bars served actual cowboys, its main street was paved with dirt and its vast expanses were more populated with bison than with people. In 1948, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the region’s quiet yet dramatic beauty in vivid Technicolor, preserving it—at least on film—for posterity.

For decades the amazing landscape of Jackson Hole has attracted visitors, but well before they arrived for the world-class skiing, or renowned Western art scene, or the national parks, people flocked to Jackson’s dude ranches.

The valley was settled like much of the West, by cowboys and ranchers. There were more bison than there were people in the area. The romantic idea of riding a horse below the stunningly jagged mountain peaks drew the area’s first tourists who came to stay at the region’s dude ranches.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, a LIFE photographer, represented the valley in 1948 when “cowboy” was still a common profession in the valley and tourists visited real working ranches staying for weeks at a time.

Snake River with the Grand Tetons in the background, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Young cowgirl Esther Allen trout fishing in String Lake. Teton Mountains behind.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Exterior of The Cowboy Bar with patrons hanging out outside.
Guests sitting around fireplace and listening to live music at Bearpaw Dude Ranch.Jack Huyler, son of owner, is playing guitar.
Room full of patrons gambling at The Cowboy Bar. Gambling permitted during tourist season.
Broadway, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Highway 189 entering Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Lake and Grand Teton Mountain Range seen from the Ranch owned by Mr. and Mrs. Berol.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Moose feeding in stream.
Entering Jackson Hole from the east along the Blackrock Creek with the Grand Tetons in the background, Wyoming.

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