yellowstone history

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Diverse range of historic vehicles have traveled roads of Yellowstone Park

Park County Travel Council Marketing Director Claudia Wade, right, chats with visitors to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo. about a refurbished 1936 tour bus that is used for commercial tours in Yellowstone National Park. (Yellowstone Gate file photo/Ruffin Prevost)

How visitors have traveled in Yellowstone and other national parks has tended to reflect the culture and technology of the times. The National Park Service's collection of historic vehicles in Gardiner, Mont. includes 30 vehicles, ranging from stagecoaches to buses to trucks and even a fire engine. The collection, believed to be one of the largest of any National Park Service Unit, is not available for viewing by the general public, although the Park Service plans to someday exhibit the collection if funding becomes available. Continue Reading →

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An 1880s tale of catching and cooking a fish on same line in Yellowstone

Many Yellowstone Park tourists have described places where an angler can catch a fish and cook it in a nearby hot spring without taking it off the hook, but few report actually doing it. Henry J. Winser described performing the feat in his 1883 guide for tourists. Continue Reading →

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Sale of fixed-up former Yellowstone soldier cabin attracts widespread interest

A cabin formerly used by U.S. Army soldiers in Yellowstone National Park is attracting widespread interest after being listed for sale.

When soldiers from the U.S. Army were assigned to protect the wildlife and resources of Yellowstone National Park in the late 1800s, many stayed in primitive cabins that could hardly be considered glamorous—or even quaint. But now, one of those cabins is up for sale and attracting widespread interest for its historic charms. A cabin formerly used by soldiers in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. was listed for sale online at an asking price of $37,500, drawing more than 15,000 views in just a few days. Continue Reading →

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An Englishman tells of a stagecoach robbery in Yellowstone country

Horse-drawn coaches were the common method for travel in the early days of Yellowstone National Park. (Yellowstone Digital Slide File - click to enlarge)

Before completion of the Nothern Pacific’s transcontinental railroad in 1883, many early Yellowstone visitors often came long distances by stagecoach—and that wasn’t always safe. In 1872 a young Englishman named Sidford Hamp, who had spent the summer working on the second Hayden expedition documenting Yellowstone Park, told about a stagecoach robbery in a letter to his mother. Continue Reading →

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Remembering the first commercial tour guide in Yellowstone Park

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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‘Savage Christmas’ a quirky Yellowstone tradition celebrated each August

Buffalo Bill Cody never celebrated Savage Christmas in Yellowstone. But he did dress as Santa Claus while visiting a group of kids in Arizona during Christmas of 1910. (Buffalo Bill Historical Center - click to enlarge)

Like so many elements of Yellowstone history, the origins of Savage Christmas are shrouded in apocryphal legends and weird juxtapositions of unlikely circumstnces. Still observed today with a Christmas tree, for instance, in the Old Faithful Inn in late August, Savage Christmas has its origins in summer celebrations and parades in the park dating to around World War II, said park historian Lee Whittlesey. But according to (false) popular folklore, Savage Christmas is an annual Yellowstone celebration of Christmas in August that started in the park's unspecificed "early days" when a group of visitors were trapped at the Old Faitful Inn after several inches of snow fell on Aug. 24, making stagecoach travel impossible. (Stagecoach drivers were commonly referred to at the time as "savages.") Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone Park’s first tourists in 1871 seek ‘first blood’

Hunters were among the early visitors to the area that is now Yellowstone National Park. (Yellowstone Park Digital Slide File)

When the Washburn expedition returned from exploring the upper Yellowstone in 1870, they confirmed the rumors of the wonders there. Interest in the area that is now Yellowstone National Park surged when people learned it really did contain a grand canyon, a giant lake, geysers and petrified forests. Washburn and his companions returned to civilization in late summer—too late to mount another expedition to the Yellowstone plateau where blizzards could trap travelers in September. But in 1871—a year before the national park was created—a small group of men set off “to see Wonderland.” Continue Reading →

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Making use of ‘a million billion gallons of hot water’ in Yellowstone in 1872

A postcard by historic Yellowstone National Park photographer Frank Haynes shows Grotto Geyser as it appeared in approximately 1913. (click to enlarge)

A group of professionals and businessmen visited the geysers in 1872—long before the era of hot water heaters. The trip was chronicled by Harry Norton, who published the first Yellowstone travel guide in Virginia City in 1873. Norton called one of his companions, who owned telegraph lines between Deer Lodge and Bozeman, “Prince Telegraph.” Here’s Norton’s description of the Prince’s experiments in geyserland. Continue Reading →

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Angering Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park with a load of dirty laundry in 1877

Today most Yellowstone tourists believe that nature is fragile. They wouldn’t collect a leaf or pick a flower for fear of causing irreparable damage. But early tourists shattered geological features to gather specimens, slaughtered animals for fun, and experimented with geysers. They reported these things without the slightest embarrassment. Continue Reading →

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Colonel Pickett gets a bear in Yellowstone in 1877

After word spread about the magnificent big game in Yellowstone Park, hunters from the eastern United States and Europe began coming to bag a trophy. Even if they were skilled hunters where they came from, they needed someone to guide them in the rugged West. Jack Bean had the perfect credentials for the job. Before hiring out as a guide, Bean had been a trapper, hunter and Indian fighter. In the summer of 1877, the U.S. Army hired Bean to look for Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce Indians along the Madison River and in Yellowstone Park. He returned to Bozeman after locating the Indians and telling the Army they were headed into Yellowstone Park. Bean discovered that a Colonel Pickett wanted to hire him as a hunting guide. In his memoir, Bean tells this tale about the intrepid colonel. Continue Reading →

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