Yellowstone National Park
Scott Gese


Yellowstone Geothermal ImageOne of Many Geothermal Features in Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone National Park area in Wyoming is like nothing you'll ever see.

To start with, for a National Park, it's big. At nearly 3,500 square miles, it reaches into three western states. 96 percent of it is located within the state of Wyoming. Montana and Idaho each get a piece of the remainder.

Yellowstone not only has the distinction of being a one of a kind wilderness recreation area that sits atop a volcanic hot spot, it's also the worlds first National Park. From a land mass viewpoint, this relatively small area contains over 10,000 thermal features including several hot springs and the majority of the worlds gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful.


Did you know that half of the world's geothermal features are in Yellowstone?


Discover for yourself what those who first came upon this area discovered.

The dramatic canyons, clear water lakes and alpine rivers including the headwaters of the Yellowstone river are waiting for you. The park boasts over 290 waterfalls, lush green forests and a vast display of open grasslands where free-ranging herds of bison and elk live and graze in a safe and natural environment.

The park is also home to hundreds of bird, fish, plant and animal species, including grizzly bears, moose, gray wolves, bison, elk and antelope.

The diversity of geological and geothermal features as well as plant and animal species make this National Park a true western treasure.


Bison graze in Yellowstone National ParkBison graze in Yellowstone National Park

In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition led to the discovery of the Yellowstone region


In1808, an explorer named John Colter returned from an expedition to Yellowstone with tales of “fire and brimstone”. Of boiling mud, water shooting up from the ground and steaming hot flowing rivers. His tales were so unbelievable that no author or mapmaker would publish it for fear of the scrutiny they'd receive from their peers.

His accounts were dismissed by most people as delirium. they nicknamed his tale "Colter's Hell".

Even though most people dismissed Colter's stories, there were more than a few trappers and fur traders who believed enough of the tales to explore the Yellowstone regions for themselves. Most of these men were experienced enough at survival that they could easily handle the seasonal harshness of the area. Unfortunately, they were illiterate and unable to adequately convey to others what they had seen to any degree of believability.  

Over the next 40 years, numerous reports from mountain men and trappers told the same fantastic stories as Colter, of boiling mud and steaming rivers, and yet, even though these reports were brought back with some regularity, most continued to dismiss them as myth.

By the 1850's and into 1870, miners began to frequent the Yellowstone region. This helped to publicize the area, however their credibility wasn't any better than their trapper predecessors, so the “myth” of Colters Hell remained in place.

It wasn't until 1869 that the first detailed expedition was sent to the Yellowstone area. This was the Cook–Folsom–Peterson Expedition. It yielded much better results and soon people began to take these stories more seriously.

Eventually, after a succession of more reliable expeditions and a more favorable consensus by the general population, the U.S. Congress established Yellowstone as a National Park, and on March 1, 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law.

Yellowstone was widely held to be the first National Park in the world,


Yellowstone National Park in WyomingYellowstone National Park in Wyoming

It wasn't all smooth sailing


There was considerable local opposition in its early years. Some feared that the regional economy would be unable to thrive if strict federal prohibitions against resource development or settlement within park boundaries remained in the legislation. Others advocated reducing the size of the park so that mining, hunting, and logging activities could be developed. Numerous bills were introduced into Congress by those who sought to remove the federal land-use restrictions.

Nathaniel Langford, the park's first superintendent, served for five years, but was denied a salary, funding, and staff.

He wasn't more than a figurehead and without formal policy or regulations, Langford was unable to enforce the protection of the park. This left Yellowstone vulnerable to poachers, vandals, and others seeking to raid its resources.

The poaching of buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope for hides went unchallenged and as a result, buffalo and mule deer suffered devastating losses to their numbers.

In 1880, things were so out of hand that a gamekeeper was appointed to control poaching and vandalism in the park. He had little success.

Ongoing poaching and destruction of natural resources continued unabated until the U.S. Army arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs in 1886. They built Camp Sheridan and over the next 22 years they worked at constructing other permanent structures.

Eventually the Park Protection Act was passed. In 1900, the Lacy act provided legal support for the officials prosecuting poachers.

On October 31, 1918, the army turned control of Yellowstone over to the National Park Service.

I've only touched on a small portion of the history of this western treasure. Yellowstone must be seen to be truly believed. Pictures, and even words, don't do it justice.

To find out more about Yellowstone National Park, click here.

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