Recent Posts

Researcher examines ancient Yellowstone climate to help predict park’s future

Smoke and sunlight create deep, surreal colors during the 2008 Gunbarrel Fire, which burned along the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park.

Since 1872, Yellowstone National Park has been preserved and protected so that future generations will be able to enjoy the landscapes and wildlife much as they have existed for almost a century and a half. But park managers have little or no control over many factors that influence the park, including one of the most important: changes in the climate. So learning more about how Yellowstone might change as the summers become warmer, longer and drier is a key concern for planners. Cathy Whitlock, a professor of earth sciences at Montana State University-Bozeman, has a few ideas about what the future holds for Yellowstone's climate. And that insight comes from some studious detective work done looking into the past. Continue Reading →

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‘Sidesaddles and Geysers’ offers look at women’s early travels in Yellowstone

A woman feeds a bear during an early visit to Yellowstone National Park.

Any visit to Yellowstone National Park comes with at least some sense of adventure. And packing the car for even a short family trip through the park can be a logistical challenge. But the next time you're flummoxed by packing for a Yellowstone weekend in the RV with the kids, consider Eleanor Corthell. Corthell spent two months in Yellowstone in the summer of 1903. With her seven children. Traveling by horse-drawn wagon. Camping out the entire time. Writing about her trip, Corthell recalled that her husband, a prominent attorney in Laramie, Wy., "offered strenuous objection, of course, to the crazy project, but could only fizz and fume and furnish the wherewithal." Continue Reading →

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Happy Birthday to Yellowstone Park


President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that created Yellowstone National Park on March 1, 1872. The act put the federal government in the business of managing public land for recreation and marked the culmination of the national park idea that had been percolating for some time. There were several rationales for setting aside the area surrounding the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers “for the benefit and instruction of the people.” First was the determination that the area wasn’t good for anything else. The U.S. Geological Survey lead by Ferdinand V. Hayden in the summer of 1871 had determined that the area was not fit for agriculture and it was not likely that there were any mineral deposits worth mining there. Setting the area aside, proponents of the bill said, “would take nothing from the value of the public domain.” Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone history presentation in Cooke City on July 12

The Miner's Saloon is a popular watering hole in Cooke City, Mont., at the northeast border of Yellowstone National Park.

I love Montana’s many small museums and it looks like I’ll get to preview a brand new one next week in Cooke City, at the northeastern edge of Yellowstone National Park. I’ll be presenting my Humanities Montana Program, “Sidesaddles and Geysers,” on Saturday, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Joe’s Campfire next to the Cooke City Community Center. Joe’s Campfire is part of the new Cooke City Museum and honors a park ranger who used to lecture there on nature and history. I’m thrilled to be carrying on Joe’s legacy. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone Lake Hotel reopens after $28.5 million renovation

People gather Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting celebrating completion of a 2-year, $28.5 million renovation of Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

The oldest hotel in the world's first national park had a distinct aroma of fresh paint as summer guests began arriving this week. But the major renovations being wrapped up at Yellowstone Lake Hotel go far beyond new paint, as workers are completing a 2-year, $28.5 million makeover that has focused on restoring the iconic property to its historic elegance. Continue Reading →

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A ‘Dark and Stormy Night’ in Yellowstone Park from 1874


Early Yellowstone National Park visitor the Earl of Dunraven shares a scary tale of a dark and stormy night in 1874, in which "the Demon of the Tempest was abroad in his anger, yelling down the valley, dashing out the water-floods with his hands, laying waste the forest, and filling with dread the hearts of man and beast and every living thing." Continue Reading →

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Montana author shares historic tales of adventurous travels in Yellowstone

Historian and author M. Mark Miller recalls stories from his grandmother about Handkerchief Pool, a now-defunct thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park.

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park typically go home with a story or two to share about wildlife, wilderness or wide-open spaces. But with modern vehicles, hotels and even smartphones and laptops, their experiences are usually a far cry from the frontier adventures of the park’s earliest visitors. Those first tourists entered a park that lacked not only hotels and restaurants, but boardwalks and even roads. For Montana writer and historian M. Mark Miller, who will sign books this weekend and next at Old Faithful Inn, sharing those tales of early travel in Yellowstone is a passionate pursuit that has deep personal roots. M. Mark Miller
Miller recalls hearing stories from his grandmother about her 1909 trip to the park, as well as her recollections of Miller’s great-grandfather’s work surveying the park’s northern boundary in 1882. Continue Reading →

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Historian explores complex history behind founding of town of Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody

Popular legend has William F. "Buffalo Bill" creating the town of Cody, Wyo. as a tourist oasis to help share the wonder of Yellowstone with the world. But the truth is that Cody was founded at the site of a canyon that proved ideal for building a dam that was key to Buffalo Bill's ambitious plan to irrigate 400,000 acres between the Shoshone River and the Bighorn Mountains. Continue Reading →

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Remembering the first commercial tour guide in Yellowstone Park

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Most of the earliest Yellowstone National Park tourists came from Montana because that’s where the access rivers ran. The north entrance via the Yellowstone River was 60 miles from the farm town of Bozeman, and the west entrance via the Madison was 90 miles from the gold rush town of Virginia City. Both rivers flow through rugged canyons that made travel difficult. In fact, the Madison Canyon was so bad that early travelers chose to cross the continental divide twice to avoid it. But that was a small sacrifice. Passage over the Raynolds and Targhee Passes was relatively easy. Besides, traveling this route provided the reward of a stop at Henry’s Lake. Continue Reading →

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