yellowstone history

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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

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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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An optimistic prospector questions 1863 mining ‘laws’ in Yellowstone country

Walter Delacy (NPS image)

After gold was discovered near Bannack, Montana, in 1862, prospectors scoured every gully and creek searching for the next bonanza. In 1863, Walter Washington DeLacy led a 40-man expedition that explored the Snake River to its source. The party didn’t find enough “color” for a paying proposition, but they did bring back a wealth of information about the Yellowstone Plateau. DeLacy included that information in his famous 1865 map of the Montana territory. Continue Reading →

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Author wins national award for book about women in Yellowstone

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Elizabeth Watry, author of "Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legacies and Legends of Yellowstone National Park," has been honored with an award for profiles of women who were influential in the park's early days. The WILLA award, named in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather, is sponsored by Women Writing the West. The award represents the best of published literature for women's or girls' stories set in the North American West. Continue Reading →

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Rediscovered manuscript describes 1869 Yellowstone expedition

David Folsom YDSF

Historians generally credit the Folsom-Cook-Peterson expedition as the first serious effort to explore and document the wonders of the upper Yellowstone. Trappers and prospectors had been telling stories for decades about fountains of boiling water, canyons a thousand feet deep, and mountains of glass. At first people discounted such reports as tall tales, but by the late 1860s, it became obvious that there really were wonders in the area. Continue Reading →

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

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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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An October blizzard complicates an 1880 visit to Yellowstone’s Upper Falls

Carrie Strahorn was an adventurous woman who insisted on traveling with her husband Robert (she called him "Pard") as he traveled the country searching for destinations for the Union Pacific Railroad. Carrie wrote newspaper columns about her adventures and eventually collected them in a book, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. Continue Reading →

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The first written description of Yellowstone geysers in 1827

A postcard of Cliff Spring from 1928 based on a photo by Asahel Curtis. (NPS image)

By the early 1800s, trappers were scouring the Rocky Mountains for beaver. Evidence of their travel is sketchy, but we know that trapper brigades reached the Yellowstone plateau by 1826. An anonymous account of a trapper’s adventures in what is now Yellowstone National Park was published in The Philadelphia Gazette and Advertiser. Continue Reading →

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