Humans have been enjoying all that Yellowstone has to offer for over 11,000 years. Indigenous tribes and bands of people lived within the area now known as Yellowstone Park long before its boundaries were ever defined and the land was ever protected by the government. Did you know that Yellowstone is also connected to the Pacific Northwest? The Salish people have oral histories of their ancestors at Yellowstone over 3,000 years ago, however, it wasn’t until 1872 that the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act established Yellowstone as the first ever national park.
According to the National Park Service, The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act says “the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” In an era of expansion, the federal government had the foresight to set aside land deemed too valuable to develop.” On March 1st, 1872, President Grant signed into law the Yellowstone Protection Act, thus setting the precedent that lands could be reserved for the future and protected from the waste and degradation of resources.
What followed was a tumultuous time for the park. Vandals, poachers, and squatters plagued the park’s superintendents. With no real budget or manpower to police the area, Yellowstone Park suffered and was thought unsafe by the public. In addition to these issues, the American government was at war with several Native American tribes. On August 20th, 1886, the US Army took power of Yellowstone park and worked to relive the pressure from poachers whom had all but exterminated certain wildlife.
While this was occurring, 14 other national parks were established. They were independently administered and it soon became clear that the army could not provide the in-depth educational experience many visitors wished for. The parks were managed inconsistently and with a distinct lack of direction. This prompted the creation of the National Park Service in August of 1916.
Today, Yellowstone exists predominantly in Wyoming and also in parts of Montana and Idaho. The park spans an area of over 3,400 square miles. What sets Yellowstone apart is arguable the great variety of naturally occurring features within the park. Yellowstone is home to lakes, canyons, mountain ranges, rivers, the largest supervolcano on the continent, and countless species of fish, plants and wildlife. The bison herd in Yellowstone is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Wolves, elk, and grizzly bears are also found in the park. Yellowstone National Park has one of the largest forests of petrified wood due to the caldera, or volcanic crater, within the park. There are nearly 300 waterfalls in the park, ranging from 15 feet to 308 feet!
The park sits on the Yellowstone Plateau at an elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level. The highest summit on the plateau is Mount Washburn at 10,243 feet. The Washburn Range is one of two mountain ranges that resides completely within the boundaries of the park. In 1870, Mount Washburn got its name from one of the leaders of the first expedition to summit this mountain, Henry D. Washburn. Now Mount Washburn is home to one of three fire lookout towers within the park. Though there are two trails, climbing Mount Washburn is quite popular and the trails can get crowded.
During the same expedition that would later give Mount Washburn its name, Old Faithful also received its moniker. Erupting with clockwork consistency every 44 to 125 minutes, Old Faithful is the most famous geothermal geyser.
Yellowstone National Park is not only the oldest of our national parks, it is also one of the most well-known. Regardless of what your favorite recreational activity is, it is likely that Yellowstone can accomodate your every outdoor wish. Yellowstone is DEFINITELY in our top parks to visit!