By the time the first people came to North America 12,000 years ago, much of Yellowstone was ice free and easily accessible. The park’s archeological record shows that humans have known about Yellowstone for thousands of years, in fact, the evidence indictes that people identified as members of the Clovis culture were here by 10,500 B.C.Historically, the Shoshone, Sheepeaters, Bannock, Crow, Arapahoe, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Flathead, and Nez Perce peoples spent time in Yellowstone. The persistent myth that Native Americans were afraid of the geysers and avoided Yellowstone has repeatedly been shown to be false by the archeological record. While the feelings of early native people are not recorded, the distribution of their sites around the park, and especially around the geyser basins, show that these areas were used frequently.

Archaeologists working in the Northwestern Plains and the northern Rocky Mountains have generally been unable to tie prehistoric archeological sites in Yellowstone to recognized historic tribes. However, the best identification appears to be for the Shoshone who may have come from the Great Basin to the intermountain area of Wyoming and Montana as early as A.D. 1,200.

In the 19th century, the earliest EuroAmerican expeditions to Yellowstone recorded that the Sheepeaters (a band of the Shoshone) were the only year-round residents in what became Yellowstone National Park. The Sheepeaters made their living hunting mountain sheep and were well known for the high quality bows they made from mountain sheep horn. By soaking the horn in the park’s hot waters, the Sheepeaters straightened the horn during the bow-manufacturing process. Some of the park’s early historic wickiups (wooden shelters) were undoubtedly made by these people. Today it is known that many other tribes were drawn to Yellowstone during the warmer months by the rich hunting, fishing, and stone sources for tools.

We are able to identify prehistoric peoples who visited Yellowstone because of the obsidian tools found at archeological sites around the country. Obsidian has trace elements in it that make each source of obsidian chemically unique, just like human fingerprints are unique for individuals. This uniqueness permits identification of the geological source for obsidian artifacts. Yellowstone has several obsidian sources, and tools made from Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far away as Ohio. Conversely, some obsidian tools found in the park are made from obsidian from Idaho and southwestern Montana,
thus leading to the conclusion that these tools were brought into Yellowstone by prehistoric peoples who lived part of the year elsewhere.

Systematic investigations into the archeological record of the area have taken place only in the past few years, but preliminary results show the area that is now included in Yellowstone National Park has attracted people, at least seasonally, to its rich plant and animal resources for thousands of years.


It was 1887, and William James was desperate. He had been expelled from Yellowstone National Park for poaching. In that era there were no laws that required jail time for such an offense. Expulsion and confiscation of killed game were the only penalties for poaching, but the resulting publicity made it hard for James to find a job. Consequently, on the evening of July 4th, James and a comrade planned a robbery just inside the park’s north entrance.In the bars of Gardiner, Montana, it was “common knowledge” that the Army payroll was transferred from the railroad terminus in Gardiner to park headquarters at Fort Yellowstone via stagecoach. James had decided that this robbery would be easy and would set him up for a long time. However, as so often happens, a “hitch” developed. The paymaster and his precious satchel passed by the unsuspecting robbers in a buggy. So, instead of an Army payroll, the stagecoach robbery netted $16 and two exotic coins, which the robbers took from Judge John F. Lacey of Oskaloosa, Iowa. Judge Lacey would not
forget his experience in Yellowstone.

Until the Yellowstone Park Act was passed in 1872, most resource-related laws of the post-Civil War era were designed to promote industry and expedite the exploitation of the nation’s resources. Not only did the Yellowstone Park Act set aside a large tract of land as a “public pleasuring ground,” but it directed the Secretary of the Interior to enact regulations protecting the park from “wanton destruction.” Unfortunately, the law did not provide for enforcement of those regulations.

By 1886 widespread poaching and vandalism of park features resulted in the government sending the U.S. Cavalry to Yellowstone to provide some protection for park resources. Regular patrols were sent into the park in all seasons to stop poaching and provide an authoritarian presence. Felix Burgess (a civilian scout) and Sergeant Troike were on just such a winter patrol in Yellowstone’s backcountry investigating a faint sledge trail that appeared to run from Cooke City to Astringent Creek in Pelican Valley. On the morning of March 13, 1894, Burgess and Troike found and followed a faint snowshoe track. The tracks led to six buffalo scalps suspended in a tree and then to a newly erected cabin on Pelican Creek. The scout and the sergeant shortly heard shots and discovered Ed Howell removing the scalps from five freshly killed bison. Burgess, armed with a pistol, had to cross 200 yards of open meadow without being discovered by the well-armed poacher or his dog. The surprised poacher assured his captors that they would not have taken him if he had seen them coming, and punctuated his sincerity by trying to kill his derelict dog.

On the return trip to Fort Yellowstone with Howell in custody, the patrol came across Emerson Hough, field correspondent for Forest and Stream magazine. Hough was exploring Yellowstone as part of the magazine-sponsored “Yellowstone National Park Game Expedition.” Hough and his editor, George Bird Grinnell, were both ardent conservationists, and Hough was incensed by the story of Howell’s bison killing. While the soldiers stood by, Hough wrote a dispatch about Howell’s poaching for the soldiers to telegraph to Grinnell in New York City when they got back to Fort Yellowstone.

Under the laws of the time, the only punishment that Captain George Anderson (the Fort’s commander) could administer to Howell was confiscation of the bison and expulsion from the park. However, Editor Grinnell published Hough’s dispatch in Forest and Stream, and then he and influential friends went to Washington to lobby for a means to stop such blatant acts.

Less than two weeks after Ed Howell’s capture, Representative John Lacey of Iowa, personally familiar with Yellowstone’s lawlessness and now chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, introduced the Yellowstone Park Protection Bill: “An Act to protect the birds and animals in Yellowstone National Park, and to punish crimes in said park, and for other purposes.” The bill affirmed that Yellowstone National Park was under the “sole and exclusive jurisdiction” of the United States and placed it in the Judicial District of Wyoming. It directed the Secretary of the Interior to protect, “all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonderful objects within said park . . . and to protect the birds and animals of the park from harassment and destruction.” The bill also directed that a magistrate be appointed to hear and act on complaints for violation of the Act, to issue warrants, and to determine whether people charged with felonies should be held for trial in District Court. It set the magistrate’s salary at $1000 per year and directed the Secretary of the Interior to build a jail and an office for the magistrate. The penalty for violating the Act was a fine of up to $1000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years and forfeiture of all equipment (including firearms and means of transportation) used during
the commission of any crime. The Act was signed into law in May. Captain Anderson proclaimed that Howell’s crime was “the most fortunate thing that ever happened to the Park.”

In an ironic ending to this tale, Captain Anderson caught Ed Howell sitting in the barber’s chair at the Mammoth Hotel in July 1894. Howell was subsequently convicted for “returning after expulsion,” making him the first person prosecuted under the Lacey Act.


Yellowstone National Park’s fishing season opens on May 24, 1997. Many anglers anxiously await this annual event; fishing in the park has a reputation that attracts people from around the world. While fishing has always been a popular pastime in Yellowstone, fisheries management has changed dramatically since the early days of the park.Historically, about 40 percent of park waters were barren of fish, including most of the lakes. Native Americans made do with that situation, and there is evidence (projectile points and notched stones used as net weights) that those people used the resources of the Yellowstone Lake area nearly 10,000 years ago. But, in the late 1800s, for many Americans of European heritage, including early park administrators (the U.S. Army Cavalry) and the U.S. Fish Commission (predecessor to today’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), the lack of fish in park waters was unacceptable. Captain Frazier Boutelle, in charge of the park from 1889-1891 commented, ” . . . I hope to see all of these waters so stocked that the pleasure-seeker in the Park can enjoy fine fishing within a few rods of any hotel or camp.”

The goal of park management in that day was to stock as many waters as were reachable. There was little understanding of native fishes, habitat needs, or ecological integrity in aquatic (or any other) systems. There were some notable blunders in those early stocking attempts, including the stocking of warm water fish like perch and bass in the Firehole River drainage. Another stocking target was Yellowstone Lake. Park Administrator Young advised the U.S. Fish Commissioner in 1908, “I believe that it would be better to have Yellowstone Lake stocked with landlocked salmon, which would in time eradicate the wormy trout.” Fortunately, these attempts all failed, and stocking as a management tool
ceased by 1959.

Because of the abundance of cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake, the U.S. Fish Commission established a fish hatchery facility on the lake by 1900 and began to harvest trout eggs for shipment to other waters (mostly outside of Yellowstone). Yellowstone fast gained a reputation as the world’s foremost “cutthroat trout factory.” But, by 1915, some anglers were expressing concern about the decline in the quality of fishing in the park. The excessive take of eggs, the high creel limits (20 fish per day), and the growing number of visitors were taking their toll on the park’s fishery. In what was a typical reaction for the era, managers blamed the “depredations of pelicans, gulls, etc.” for the decline in
fish numbers. It was not until nearly 50 years later that the art of biology had matured enough to require managers to look objectively and scientifically at the real problems of the fishery.

When the National Park Service was established in 1916 it was charged, in part, to “. . . conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein. . . . ” However, it was not until the 1960s that the Park Service moved toward a policy of restoring natural processes in parks in recognition of this mandate. In the case of fisheries this policy shift culminated in the 1970s when Fishing Bridge was closed to fishing (where for more than 50 years anglers had stood elbow to elbow with their rods), anglers were restricted to only 2 fish daily within specific size limits to improve age structure and
reduce annual harvest, and certain waters were closed to fishing entirely or limited to catch-and-release fishing. As a result, native cutthroat trout grew in abundance and size in Yellowstone Lake, to the benefit of dozens of species that prey on the fish, including white pelicans, ospreys, river otters, bald eagles, and grizzly bears.

Today, park managers, anglers, and visitors have renewed concern for the future of the native fishes in Yellowstone. In 1994, non-native lake trout were confirmed to be in Yellowstone Lake, and control efforts have begun to try and prevent these large, predator fish from drastically reducing the Yellowstone cutthroat trout population. Similarly, the native westslope cutthroat trout and the fluvial Arctic grayling are threatened because of increased competition from non-native trout species. Biologists are working to restore these rare species to park waters.

Public attitudes about fish have changed through the years, too. In 1994, researchers found that nearly 200,000 visitors enjoyed watching spawning trout in the Yellowstone River. In and outside Yellowstone National Park, the “wormy cutthroat trout” helps support a multi-million dollar tourism industry that today emphasizes fishing for fun and returning the fish to its watery habitat, maximizing public enjoyment and the natural ecological role of this ever-popular park resource.


It can perhaps be said that interpretation began in Yellowstone thousands of years ago. Prehistoric people knew of and visited this region; they so valued the area’s obsidian rock that tools fashioned of this exquisite volcanic glass were widely traded. No doubt, tales of the steamy land from which the prized tools originated spread along with the trade.In the 1800s, the first Europeans to visit Yellowstone contributed to this long tradition of story telling. Astounded by vistas of boiling springs, erupting geysers, and a spectacular canyon with towering waterfalls, trappers, mountain men, and explorers often resorted to “tall tales” to both describe this exotic place and entertain their audiences. When artist Thomas Moran and photographer William H. Jackson accompanied the Hayden Expedition to the Yellowstone region in 1871, the nation got its first formally documented images of the legendary Yellowstone wonders. Artistry and education combined to help convince Congress to establish Yellowstone as the world’s first national park on March 1, 1872.

During the new park’s early years, vandalism and poaching were rampant. Lacking funds to administer Yellowstone, the Secretary of the Interior sent in the U.S. Army in 1886 to protect Yellowstone’s wildlife and prevent curiosity seekers from taking home souvenirs hacked from geyser formations and other park features. Very soon, soldiers could be found at nearly every major park attraction talking to visitors about the geysers, scenery, and wildlife while enforcing laws both for the safety of people and the preservation of the park. Those who toured Yellowstone by stagecoach were treated to colorful (albeit often inaccurate) stories spun by stagecoach drivers eager to entertain passengers during the long, dusty rides between major destinations.

When the National Park Service was established in 1916, its mission was to both preserve the natural and cultural resources of Yellowstone and to provide for public enjoyment of the park. Early managers quickly recognized the importance of educating park visitors to accomplish both aspects of this mission. A formal education program soon evolved: rustic trailside museums were built, roadside “nature shrines” explaining various phenomena appeared, and publications to aid visitors in exploring the park were widely distributed. By the 1920s, park rangers had begun to specialize in educating visitors about Yellowstone. Rangers offered talks on a variety of natural history topics at campgrounds and lodges, and organized tours were conducted at many of the most famous park attractions. These formal tours, talks, and walks became more widely available in the 1950s and 1960s. The term “interpretation” came into its own as a description of a profession and function grounded in the science of education and research as well as the art of communication.

Yellowstone is no longer remote and untouched by “civilization.” Visitation to Yellowstone has grown steadily and now exceeds 3 million people annually. The task of providing for public enjoyment while protecting Yellowstone’s wonders for the benefit of future generations is more complex and challenging than ever before. At the heart of meeting this challenge is interpretation and education. While still offering visitors some of the traditional experiences associated with Yellowstone, park interpreters seek new ways to bring the park’s compelling stories to a wider and more diverse audience. Some of the most advanced communication technologies available today are bringing Yellowstone’s geysers, hot springs, and wildlife into classrooms around the world. The meaning and value of Yellowstone as well as all National Park Service units must be conveyed to people who may never visit these places but will nonetheless cherish them for what they represent of our collective heritage. As we move into the twenty-first century, the timeless tradition of sharing Yellowstone’s stories will always link people to this special place on the earth.


Yellowstone’s wildlife have long been the subject of public interest and debate. Today’s visitors may not realize that the park has undergone considerable evolution in wildlife management throughout its history.While the Yellowstone Park Act of 1872 provided for the preservation “. . . of all. . . natural curiosities and wonders within . . .,” many early supporters believed that the new park would be operated in the manner of an English game preserve, in which “gentlemanly hunting” was allowed. In the 1880s, George Bird Grinnell, editor of the influential conservation journal Forest and Stream, appealed to his fellow sportsmen to support the idea of preservation because parks would serve as a “reservoir” for game that would seasonally disperse outside and be available for hunters.

In that early era, some commercial hunting and fishing was permitted in Yellowstone to supply the hotels and lodges. But this was not controlled, and poaching was prevalent. Only after some tremendous slaughters of park wildlife (such as in the winter of 1875, when nearly 4,000 elk were killed for their hides in the Mammoth Hot Springs area) did the Secretary of the Interior hire the first gamekeeper, Harry Yount, to protect park wildlife. One of the first white men to spend an entire winter in Yellowstone, he resigned in frustration over the difficulty of trying to do his job alone.

In part because of the poaching and wholesale slaughter of park wildlife, the U.S. Cavalry arrived in Yellowstone in 1886. It was then that the government finally took an active interest in protecting park resources from rampant overuse. Wildlife biology was in its infancy in that era, and ecology was not yet defined. A popular notion of the time that was adopted by the Army and carried on by the National Park Service after 1916 was the characterization of animals as either “good” (deer, elk, antelope, and bison) or “bad” (the various predator species such as wolves, coyotes, and cougars). National programs to eliminate predators were embraced by Yellowstone’s staff, and by the late 1930s the native mountain lion and wolf populations were gone from the park. It was only much later after years of scientific study that the disastrous, long-term effects of such a view of wildlife was recognized.

Efforts were also undertaken to feed the “desirable” animals. Beginning in 1907, the park developed the “Buffalo Ranch” in the Lamar Valley to raise an imported herd of bison brought into the park to augment Yellowstone’s natural bison population, thought to number less than 100 animals. Ranch staff irrigated the valley’s meadows and harvested hay to feed bison, elk, and other grazers. The Buffalo Ranch was also the headquarters for wildlife culling operations, which occurred throughout the 1960s. Again, it was after much scientific study that the manipulation of wildlife in this manner was changed.

Wildlife science first came to Yellowstone when biologist William Rush was hired to study large mammals in 1928. He and his successors struggled to bring more information about wildlife to park managers, but felt hampered by small budgets and their lack of status compared to “real rangers.” Nevertheless, they set into place a program of wildlife research that has grown in staff and funding, particularly since the 1960s. The Leopold Report, credited with sparking a servicewide policy change that culminated in the park ceasing its– by then-controversial– programs to roundup and shoot elk and bison, also strongly recommended the use of biological research in making management decisions. Since the 1970s, issues such as wolf restoration, elk grazing, grizzly bear recovery, and bison management have been accompanied by major research initiatives.

Today the Buffalo Ranch is preserved for its historic values, and it houses the Yellowstone Institute, which sponsors cooperative educational programs about park wildlife and other resources. And today’s park rangers, who helped to restore native wolves to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996, continue to enforce laws against illegal hunting and trapping. They honor one of their own each year by presenting the Harry Yount Memorial Award to a “ranger’s ranger.”


People have been traveling through Yellowstone and interacting with it for more than 10,000 years. The evidence of this interaction between people and nature is not always easy to see. But one type of evidence that is visible are Yellowstone’s historic buildings. There are more than 750 historic structures in Yellowstone, from turn-of-the-century sheds to stately hotels. Historic buildings are evaluated by experts, and those that are of exceptional value nationally are designated National Historic Landmarks. Yellowstone has five National Historic Landmark buildings: the Old Faithful Inn; the museums at Fishing Bridge, Madison, and Norris Geyser Basin; and the Northeast Entrance Station.While these buildings may be less known than Old Faithful Geyser, less sought after than a grizzly bear, and less photographed than a moose, they are an integral part of Yellowstone. The architects of these buildings were inspired by the park’s natural setting, and the buildings were designed to be a part of nature rather than separate from it. Yellowstone’s historic landmark buildings are all a type of architecture called rustic design, which uses native materials in proper scale and avoids rigid, straight lines and over-sophistication. This design gives the visitor the sense that these buildings were constructed by pioneer craftsmen with limited hand tools. The most common native materials used in rustic design structures are logs, stone, and wood shingles. Rustic design became an important early National Park Service design philosophy that was used through World War II.

The Old Faithful Inn is the first building that was constructed in a national park using this architectural style. The enormous log and frame hotel, built in 1903-1904 a short distance away from Old Faithful Geyser, is a masterpiece in gnarled logs, rough-sawn wood, and massive stonework. The architect Robert Reamer, working for the Northern Pacific Railroad, was given the mission of designing a building with an identifiable character. The result was the creation of a special hotel with a sense of place as identifiable as the park itself. The Old Faithful Inn is one of the few remaining log hotels in the United States. Its influence on American architecture, particularly park architecture, is immeasurable.

The Madison (1929), Norris Geyser Basin (1929), and Fishing Bridge (1930-31) museums, designed by Herbert Maier for the American Association of Museums and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation, served as the models for hundreds of state and county park structures built in the West and Midwest during the 1930s Depression work-relief programs. Maier’s belief that any building in a national park was a “necessary evil” forced him to strive hard to make his buildings harmonize with the surrounding landscape. These Yellowstone museums appear to be placed within rather than upon the landscape, with the scale and roughness of the buildings a reflection of the surrounding environment. The buildings seem to have grown of their own accord, with rock walls cropping up out of the earth but strongly tied to it through the horizontal emphasis of the design.

The Northeast Entrance Station, constructed in 1935, is a classic log entrance station. It is the best example of its type of structure remaining today in the entire National Park System and is an excellent example of National Park Service design philosophies. The National Park Service viewed such an entrance station as a way to introduce visitors to the special place they were about to enter. Through the entrance station, the National Park Service hoped to both “invite and deter, encouraging use while discouraging abuse of the park.” The building was not only the physical boundary but also the psychological boundary between the rest of the world and the area set aside as a permanently wild place. While an entrance station was also considered important functionally for collecting fees, counting visitors, and providing the first visitor contact in a national park, it was also considered symbolically important, creating a sense of place and identity.

It can be hard sometimes to see how nature and culture interact, particularly in a place like Yellowstone. We come looking for nature–we usually don’t look to see how nature influences us or how we influence nature. Yellowstone’s special National Historic Landmark buildings can help us see this influence.


The history of the National Park Service ranger does not begin with the creation of America’s first national park in 1872. Rather, the first park rangers appeared in 1905, and it was not until 11 years later that national parks and the national park ranger were unified under one centralized government agency, the National Park Service.In 1872, the concept of setting aside large tracts of land as national parks for the “benefit and enjoyment of the people” was unheard of. Consequently, there was no precedent to suggest a management strategy for such an entity. For a number of years, Yellowstone struggled without any real administration or protection–for either visitors or resources. As a temporary measure, in 1886 Congress authorized the military to take charge and protect and manage Yellowstone and, eventually, other early national parks. Military management was not the most effective or efficient method for overseeing visitor-use areas such as national parks, but it did serve to bring order to the parks at a time when it was desperately needed.

By the early 1900s as the number and popularity of the national parks increased, the weaknesses associated with military management became increasingly evident. Rarely were the commanding officers given clear consistent management goals or provided with sufficient resources to reach these objectives. The men serving in the parks, while able soldiers, were not in the parks voluntarily and were not chosen on the basis of any aptitude or interest in conservation of natural resources. Furthermore, the drain of money and man-power that the military experienced while administering the parks was becoming
unbearable and objectionable both to the military and private sector alike.

Recognition of a problem and a desire to remedy it did not guarantee a rapid solution, but it did set into motion a series of events culminating in the transition of park management from military to civilian hands with the formation of the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. While this date marks the beginning of park ranger history under the management of a centralized civilian agency, for a more complete understanding of the origins of the park ranger one must go back further in time.

The first appearance of the term “ranger” (as it applies to American natural reserve areas) was in 1898 when Congress first allocated funds for the protection of existing National Forest Reserves. From these funds, each forest reserve area was allowed a forest supervisor and a small force of men–first known as “special forest agents” and later simply as “forest rangers” –to protect these reserves.

In the national parks, rangers were first used in 1898 in three California parks. These parks, like all others of the time, were managed by the military, however, soldiers were not available year round in these park areas. The summer of 1898, Inspector J.W. Zevely of the General Land Office was given the mandate to protect these parks without the benefit of the military. He hired a group of men with money intended for a neighboring forest reserve. In the fall when the soldiers returned, most of these men were terminated. The few that remained worked alternately as park scouts when the military was present and
then as forest rangers when the military was absent.

This arrangement continued until 1905 when the National Forest Reserves were transferred to the Department of Agriculture, eliminating the source of funding for hiring these men to protect the parks and necessitating an end to the use of the name, “forest ranger.” As new funding became available, now designated specifically for the national parks, the men in the forest ranger positions began to be referred to as “park rangers.” By 1916, when the National Park Service was formed, most of the national parks were at least partially staffed by park rangers. Within two years after the formation of Service, the parks
were fully staffed by park rangers.

The years following 1916 have been ones of gradual evolution for the role of park ranger. Though the basic mission remains the same, the duties of today’s ranger are significantly different and even more varied than were those of the early day park ranger. Today, the term “park ranger” refers to a wide variety of staff positions, from interpreters (the rangers who give campfire programs, nature walks, and staff the visitor centers) to resource managers (the biologists who study and manage the plant and animal life in parks as well as the geologists, hydrologists, and various other “‘ologists”) to protection rangers (who enforce the regulations and protect both visitors and park resources) to administrative staff. All of these people who work in our nation’s national parks proudly wear the uniform and famous flat hat of the National Park Service ranger.


While National Park Service employees protect both the visitor and the resources of Yellowstone, provide information to the visitor through interpretive programs, and maintain park facilities, the job of serving the visitor’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter is accomplished by park concessioners. These private corporationsare licensed by the federal government to conduct business inside national parks.Prior to 1872 when Yellowstone was established as the first national park, there were already business entrepreneurs operating in the area. In1871, James C. McCartney and Harry Horr opened a hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs for the benefit of invalids who hoped the geothermal waters might help relieve their various afflictions. The qualities of McCartney’s Hotel, as it came to be called, were described by one traveler in 1874 as being “in an inverse ratio to the gorgeous description contained in the advertisements of the Helena and
Virginia [City, Montana Territory] newspapers.” However, this traveler was willing to allow that the hotel was “the last outpost of civilization–that is, the last place where whiskey is sold. . . .”

Following establishment of the park, the federal government controlled and licensed the businesses operating in the park. The early concessioners found Yellowstone a difficult place to do business. With few roads and a short summer season, making a living wasn’t easy. Some concessioners were men of vision, who could see that being good to the park and its patrons was good for business and a recipe for success. Others were unscrupulous scoundrels who attempted to use money and influence to gain leases to the land around all the major attractions in the park with the intent of making the public pay money to
see the sights. Fortunately, these schemes failed.

Through the years, Yellowstone has had some outstanding concessioners, one of whom was Frank Jay Haynes. He received his first concession license in 1881, and he and his son, Jack Ellis Haynes, were Yellowstone’s official photographers until the latter’s death in 1962. Through most of these years the Haynes Photo Shops were a familiar and helpful business along Yellowstone’s roads, and the Haynes Guide, published and updated nearly every year from 1890 to 1966, remains (in many people’s opinion) the best guidebook ever published about Yellowstone National Park.

The hotel operation in Yellowstone has always been the park’s largest concessioner. The first grand hotel, the National Hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs, was constructed in 1883 by the Yellowstone Park Improvement Company. Through a number of bankruptcies, consolidations, and changes, this concession was acquired by the Huntley, Child, and Nichols families, who were all related. By 1936, the company was called the Yellowstone Park Company, and it operated until 1979 when the government purchased all the hotel facilities in the park. Today’s Amfac Parks and Resorts, Inc., leases the hotel facilities from the government and carries on the tradition of providing fine accommodations and transportation to the traveling public.

Hotels alone cannot cater to all the public’s needs, and there have been general stores in Yellowstone since the earliest days. The Klamer store at Old Faithful was a successful business in the early years of this century when Mrs. Klamer decided to sell the store and retire in the spring of 1915. She offered to sell the store to the Child family (owners of the park’s hotels), and, although they declined, they informed one of their trusted employees, Charles Ashworth Hamilton, that he would have their financial backing if he wished to purchase the Klamer store. After discussing the purchase with Mrs. Klamer at Old
Faithful, Hamilton wrote her a check for $5,000 as a down payment. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Klamer, Hamilton had less than $300 in his checking account. Upon conclusion of the deal, he rode as fast as his horse could take him to Mammoth Hot Springs, secured his backing from the Child family, changed horses, and rode all night to the bank in Livingston, Montana, in order to deposit the funds necessary to cover his check. Thus began one of Yellowstone’s most successful business ventures, Hamilton Stores, Inc. Possessing sound business acumen and a knowledge of how to serve the public well, C.A.
Hamilton prospered and bought or built all other general stores in Yellowstone during the ensuing decades, including the purchase (by his heirs) of the Haynes Photo Shops in 1967.

In addition to Amfac Parks and Resorts and Hamilton Stores, many other concessioners serve the public’s needs in Yellowstone today. Yellowstone Park Service Stations have provided motor vehicle fuel and repairs since 1947. Yellowstone Park Medical Services operates a hospital at Lake Village and clinics at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. Many smaller concessioners operate as well, from outfitters offering luxury horsepacking excursions into the park’s backcountry to companies offering snowmobile rentals and snowcoach tours in winter.

The park’s concessioners work hand-in-hand with the National Park Service. While different goals require some discussion on occasion, the ultimate goal of maintaining quality service at reasonable prices to the visitor is shared by all concerned.


July 4th, Independence Day, is one of the most important dates in our nation’s history. Today, Americans celebrate Independence Day with parades, concerts, picnics, fireworks, and other festive events. The communities of the early West were no exception to this tradition. The first known official celebration of Independence Day in the Yellowstone region was held in Livingston, Montana, in 1883, not long after the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad were finished in the area. The first 4th-of-July celebration in Yellowstone National Park occurred in 1887, the year after the U.S. Army arrived in the park to protect and administer it for 30 years until the National Park Service was formed.The Independence Day celebration that year was a simple affair that included the raising of the flag at Camp Sheridan (subsequently replaced by Fort Yellowstone) and a speech by E.C. Waters, later the operator of the Yellowstone Lake Boat Company. “We . . . gather today to pay our kindly respects to the dear old flag,” intoned Waters, “and . . . may it ever be protected in this National Park by as gallant a commander and troops as today are its protectors.” The festivities continued at Gardiner with horse races.

The record is incomplete concerning what festivities occurred in subsequent years, but big celebrations are known to have occurred at Mammoth Hot Springs (site of Fort Yellowstone) in 1901, 1903, 1913, and 1916. It is likely that celebrations of some type occurred at the fort every Independence Day, but often festivities held in nearby Gardiner, Jardine, Cinnabar, Horr, Aldridge, or Cooke City overshadowed those at the fort. Celebrations also occurred in Livingston and Bozeman, and persons from Fort Yellowstone often rode the train north to attend those celebrations.

In 1901, Livingston’s newspaper, the Enterprise, reported that “at Mammoth Hot Springs the celebration was one of the best held” in the region with “a large crowd being present to witness the many novel and interesting features.” Those “features” included horse races, foot races, speeches, and other events. The 1903 celebration at Fort Yellowstone was reported by the Gardiner Wonderland newspaper. The festivities included relay races, horse races, broad jumps, a hammer throw, shotput, wood sawing, tug-of-war, and pie-eating contests. In the ladies’ egg-and-spoon race, there was an even division of prize money “as neither contestant could show any egg at the finish.” After dark fireworks were displayed from the top of Capitol Hill, and a gala ball was held in the hotel with music supplied by the Theodore Thomas orchestra of Chicago. The newspaper also noted that “early in the morning the big Transportation coaches and the teams appeared on the streets fully and handsomely decorated.”

The 1916 Fort Yellowstone celebration was reported to be “an old-fashioned and delightful
celebration.” Newspaper accounts noted that “it was participated in and enjoyed alike by the savages [concession employees] from the camps at Willow Creek and Swan Lake, the swatties [soldiers] from Fort Yellowstone, and the dudes [park visitors] from all over the world. The big event of the day was the baseball game between the hotel [employees] and the soldiers. At noon there was a salute of 48 guns which was heard for miles around.”

Today, the 4th of July in Yellowstone is celebrated in a more low-key fashion. Fireworks are not allowed in national parks, and big, organized events are difficult to conduct when there are as many as 30,000 visitors in the park on a given day in July. Normal park activities such as ranger-led nature walks and campfire programs continue, often with a patriotic theme. For many visitors, it is a family tradition to meet in the park to celebrate our nation’s birthday. For many, the chance to come to Yellowstone and see and smell a geyser’s steamy plume or hike a high-country meadow glowing with wildflowers or catch a brief glimpse of a grizzly bear or wolf or herd of bison is a fine way to celebrate the birth of our nation, a nation that has given the world its best idea, national parks.


In the early 1960s, if you and your family had visited Yellowstone National Park, you probably would have seen bears begging for food along the roadside. In fact, you might have been caught in one of the frequent traffic jams where people were photographing the spectacle of visitors feeding bears. Today in Yellowstone, feeding bears is prohibited, but one of the most frequently asked questions is still, “Where can I see a bear?” Many people do see a bear (from a safe distance) behaving like a wild bear should, and they consider it a thrill of a lifetime.Although Yellowstone was originally designated a national park to protect the area’s geothermal features and scenic wonders, bears quickly became one of the park’s primary attractions. For hundreds of years, bears roamed this area, eating mostly roots, berries, insects, ground squirrels, and pine nuts. In spring, they fed on fish and the carcasses of winterkilled bison or elk. Then humans arrived. As early as 1888, some black bears had lost their wariness of humans and were gathering to feed on garbage piles near park hotels. Within a few years grizzly bears were also frequenting park dumps in search of food. The dumps soon became popular tourist attractions. In 1891, the acting park superintendent reported that bears had become very troublesome at all hotels, camps, and other places in Yellowstone where human food or garbage could be found, and that it might become necessary to occasionally remove bears that became too destructive. In 1910, the first accounts of black bears begging for human food handouts along park roads were reported. By the 1920s roadside “panhandling” by black bears for human food
handouts was common. Similar behavior in grizzly bears was not reported.

As park visitation and the number of bear-human conflicts began to increase, park managers became more concerned with the situation. Between 1931 and 1959, an average of 48 park visitors were injured by bears and an average of 138 cases of bear-caused property damage were reported each year. The high incidence of bear-caused human injuries was thought to be due to changes in bear behavior caused by the availability of human food and garbage. In short, bears were not behaving like wild bears, and the consequences to humans as well as to bears were unacceptable.

In 1970, Yellowstone initiated an intensive bear management program with the objectives of restoring the grizzly bear and black bear populations to subsistence on natural foods and reducing bear-caused human injuries and property damages. As part of the program, regulations that prohibited the feeding of bears were strictly enforced, all garbage cans throughout the park were made bear-proof, and all garbage dumps within the park were closed. The 1970 bear management plan was highly successful in reducing the number of bear-human conflicts occurring in the park. Following implementation of the program, the number of bear-inflicted human injuries and bear-caused property damages in the park
declined significantly. Today, an average of fewer than one bear-inflicted human injury and only 12 bear-caused property damages are reported each year.

Due to high numbers of human-caused grizzly bear mortalities, loss of habitat, and geographic isolation from other grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states, the grizzly bear in the Yellowstone ecosystem was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Since that time, the grizzly bear population has improved. The average annual number of female bears with cubs has nearly doubled, and the average litter size has also increased. The grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone ecosystem is now very close to meeting all of the population requirements set by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service for delisting. A conservation strategy is currently being developed for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. The conservation strategy will detail the habitat and population management and monitoring methods that will be used if and when the population is removed from the threatened species list.

For many generations, people have been fascinated with bears. Nearly every child has some type of “teddy bear” in his or her young life (the teddy bear was created in the early 1900s after a story was written about Theodore Roosevelt–sportsman, conservationist, and President–not shooting a small black bear cub while on a hunting trip). The opportunity that Americans still have in Yellowstone to see grizzly–and black–bears is extraordinary. While it is exciting to see a bear in the park, for many it is enough to just know that there are places left in this nation where wild, free-roaming animals live as they
did before our technologically advanced and highly mobile society displaced them from their original home ranges. Making a place for bears requires some sacrifice, lots of understanding, and a willingness to learn. If we succeed, the fact that the bear can survive and prosper in the greater Yellowstone region will say much about us as a nation.

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