Lest you get the impression that Yellowstone is only about geysers and hot springs, today I’ll show you other views of this magnificent park. The landscape is as varied and beautiful as any I’ve seen; it is a land of superlatives. Its 2.2 million acres is as large as the states of Maryland and Delaware combined with much diverse terrain. Above is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Earliest human habitation of the Yellowstone area is estimated to have begun more than 10,000 years ago. Over 400 human habitation sites have been documented throughout the park. Archaeologists have discovered stone tools including knives, shaping tools, and projectile points. More recent Native American inhabitants have included Blackfoot, Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, and Nez Perce tribes. (Hayden Valley is shown above.)
Yellowstone became a national park in 1872, the world’s first. It has been called “America’s best idea” and was the precursor to the establishment of our current National Park System. Its early management progressed in fits and starts with underfunded and ineffective park administration. The park’s natural resources were abused and development of tourist facilities chaotic. Settlers moved in without permits. In response to this, before National Park Service rangers were organized, the U.S. Army was the official custodian of the park for 30 years. (Above is near Bunsen Peak, south of Mammoth Hot Springs.)
The Army patrolled year round to reduce poaching. They also improved access to the park and constructed public and administrative facilities. An early camp constructed at Mammoth Hot Springs evolved into Fort Yellowstone. Many of the original buildings still exist and are used by the National Park Service. Other historic structures were built to accommodate tourists, including Old Faithful Lodge.