We are most fortunate to have so many beautiful national parks available to us. In particular, in the western United States. Iโ€™ve been blessed to see many of them: Rocky Mountain, Badlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. It is hard, bordering on impossible, to pick a favorite. They all have their amazing beauty. If I had to pick a top three it would be it would be Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. Then again, maybe Capitol Reef, Zion, and Grand Teton? As I mentioned, most difficult.

The Tetons are quite beautiful. When you do some research on the area and the names of some of the mountains, you find out one of the most prominent is named Mount Moran. And it turns out Mount Moran is named after a painter named Thomas Moran.

Some quick background on Moran. Born in 1837 in the United Kingdom, his family moved to the United States when he was seven. Moran was inspired by a British artist named J. M. W. Turner, and was also inspired by his family, especially older brother Edward. Moran eventually became a successful landscape painter. A recent article in Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Spring 2023), describes what then happened: โ€œHis reputation grew, and in 1871 he boldly asked geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden if he could accompany a federal government-sponsored expedition to the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, who natural wonders were not yet widely known outside the 20-plus native American communities that spent time in the area.โ€

Hayden said yes, and the rest is history. Moranโ€™s sketches and watercolors helped make the case to President Ulysses Grant and Congress to establish Yellowstone as the first national park.

Moranโ€™s oil paintings of Yellowstone are amazing. One of the most famous is the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone." Another notable painting of his is "The Three Tetons." It has hung in the Oval Office, most recently by President Obama. There are several books on Moran and his paintings of the West.

The Preservation article goes on to say Moranโ€™s wife Mary was a significant artist in her own right, especially for etchings. Their home in East Hampton, New York, has recently been renovated and is much as it would have been in 1884.

For those interested in visiting, see https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm for planning information.

Doug McCormick is retired from the Air Force after spending 21 years as a space operator. He spent 14 years as a defense contractor supporting Air Force Space Command. He is now a tour guide and has started his own business, American History Tours, LLC, specializing in taking people to see locations associated with significant American history. His email address is doug@historytoursamerica.com.