Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

M. Lawrence Culver


M. Lawrence Culver


David Rich Lewis


Daniel M. Davis


Historians have long recognized the tendency of communities to embrace tourism when extractive practices like agriculture, mining, and ranching fail as a dominant economic strategy. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a prime example of this phenomenon in the American West. From its origins as a Mormon farming community in the late-nineteenth century, the valley evolved into an extensively developed tourist mecca by the end of the next. While this industry was initially supported by hotel-dwelling auto tourists, by the 1960s wealthy second-home buyers began to descend on Jackson Hole, buying up scenic property and constructing vacation homes. Over the next few decades these neo-natives moved to the valley by the hundreds, initiating dramatic economic, physical, and social consequences which were a direct product of the pace, pattern, and location of development. This thesis explores that relationship, making extensive use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to identify spatial themes of development in an effort to enlighten historical themes of Jackson Hole's rapidly changing landscape. On a basic level, this process presents a local history of tourist development in Jackson Hole between 1967 and 2002, documenting where development occurred and the consequences and controversy that resulted. Its greater contribution, however, is methodological. The use of GIS as a tool of historical research is still in its infancy, and this project suggests another application of the technique involving the spatial integration of historical and contemporary data. Together, these contributions create an informative and inventive examination of Jackson Hole tourism that expands the potential of historical research.




This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on July 28, 2011

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