Yellowstone - History

Yellowstone - History


(Freighter: dp. 12,570; 1. 416'6"; b. 53'0"; dr. 26'3"
(mean); dph. 34'6"; s. 10.0 k.; cgl. 79; a. none)

The first Yellowstone was a steel-hulled, single-screw freighter launched as War Bog on 9 December 1917 by the Moore and Scott Shipbuilding Co. of Oakland, Calif., and was completed in 1918. Inspected by the Navy in the 12th Naval District, with an eye toward utilizing the ship as a depot collier, and assigned Id. No. 2657, the freighter sailed from the west coast to the eastern seaboard, and was taken over by the Navy at Philadelphia for operation with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS). She was commissioned at Cramps' Shipbuilding Co. yard on 21 September 1918, Lt. Comdr. Lawrence Dodd, USNRF, in command.

Soon thereafter, Yellowstone moved to New York where she arrived on the 24th. She underwent repairs at the Morse Drydock and Repair Co. yards, Brooklyn, and suffered damage in a minor sideswiping collision with the British-registry Moorish Prince on 13 October. Shipping to Pier 5, Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, on the morning of the 15th, after repairs from her brush with Moorish Prince, the vessel took on board 6,672 tons of general cargo—including automobiles and locomotives— earmarked for American forces in France, over the next few days. On 27 October, Yellowstone got underway, in convoy, for France, "proceeding under confidential orders on Army transport duty to port of debarkation," St. Nazaire.

The war ended on 11 November while Yellowstone was en route to France and, three days later, the ship arrived at Quiberon Bay. She remained at anchor there until she received onward routing to St. Nazaire. There, she discharged her cargo and began taking on "return" cargo for transport to the United States. That load included "aeroplane parts." After shifting briefly to the St. Nazaire roadstead, Yellowstone departed the French coast, proceeding independently, on 27 November.

On 15 December, and when only two days from New York, Yellowstone sighted a derelict three-masted schooner and altered course to close. She discovered the water logged Joseph P. Cooper of Mobile, Ala., abandoned with her decks and cabin awash and with the forerigging gone and the forecastle smashed in. She looked like she had been adrift from fi to 8 weeks.

After leaving the derelict, Yellowstone continued her Fassage and arrived at Pier 5, Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, N.Y., on the 17th. Shifting to Pier 1 at the end of December, she spent a week at anchor off the Statue of Liberty before returning to Bush Terminal and, later, shifting to the Army docks at Brooklyn. There, from 17 to 25 January, the cargo vessel took on board 5,150 tons of supplies and, on the latter day, got underway for France.

During the crossing, she ran into a heavy gale on 4 February. The ship rolled considerably at the outset shipping water and spray amidships, and laborer heavily in the raging tempest. Five days later, with the storm still giving no signs of abating, Yellowstone's steering gear went out of commission. Soon both auxilary systems—steam and hand-powered—also did likewise. Pumping oil through waste pipes in an attempt to break the force of the waves, Yellowstone wallowed through the storm while her engineers worked mightily to repair the casualty. By the 12th, the situation was well in hand, and the ship was once again able to utilize her steering gear effectively, and Yellowstone anchored at Quiberon Bay at 0953 on 14 February.

The ship's troubles were not over, however, as she grazed the jetty wall while entering the locks at St. At 0545, the engineer officer reported to the captain that two boilers were under water and the steam was cut off. As the ship moored alongside the nearby quay, Yellowstone's crew broke out a tarpaulin and collision mat. Soon thereafter, the freighter, still with way on, nudged into the bridge walk of the lock. By 0630, under tow by a French tug, Yellowstone reached a safe basin, where she dropped both anchors and began to take stock of the situation.

Divers examining the damage reported that a hole, six inches in width, had been opened up in the ship's side, extending from a point 10 feet beneath the waterline and about six feet in length. Drydocked on 11 March, Yellowstone grazed SS Alesia that morning, causing minor damage to that vessel's railings on her promenade and boat decks.

Undocked upon completion of the hull repairs on 6 April, Yellowstone loaded a return cargo of structural iron (ballast), barbed wire, and 6-inch artillery pieces. On 19 April, the ship shifted from St. Nazaire to Brest and got underway the next day for the United States.

Mooring at Pier 3, Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, on 7 May, Yellowstone unloaded through mid-month. At noon on 24 May, a Shipping Board crew reported on board; and, at 1247, Yellowstone was decommissioned. Simultaneously struck from the Navy list and returned to the Shipping Board, Yellowstone's subsequent career

proved to be a short one. On 10 December 1920, she ran hard aground off St. Michael's, in the Azores. Although the ship was listed as "stranded," and a total loss, her entire crew of 15 men was saved.

The Prospecting Era (1863-71)

Gold strikes on the Clearwater, Salmon, Owyhee, and Boise tributaries of Snake River in the opening years of the 1860’s led to establishment of the “Idaho mines,” from which prospectors moved eastward, across the Continental Divide, to yet another goldfield. But the placers on Grasshopper Creek, where the town of Bannack sprang up in 1862-63, were disappointing to many and they continued to search for gold east of the Rocky Mountains.

Among the latter were 40 prospectors who banded together under “Colonel” Walter Washington deLacy to explore the headwaters of Snake River in the late summer of 1863. By the time they reached the forks of Snake River and were within the south boundary of the present park, the party had splintered several times, and another division near that place resulted in Charles Ream leading a group up Lewis River to Shoshone Lake, over the divide to the Firehole River and down that stream to the Madison, while deLacy conducted his party across the Pitchstone Plateau to Shoshone Lake, then over the divide by way of DeLacy and White Creeks into the Lower Geyser Basin, from which they, too, continued down Firehole River to the Madison and out of the Yellowstone region proper.

Two years later deLacy, who was a well-trained civil engineer, prepared a map of the Territory of Montana which was used by the First Legislative Assembly for laying out the original counties, [84] and the discoveries made by the 1863 parties were thus made public knowledge. The principal contribution of deLacy’s map to the geographical knowledge of the Yellowstone region was its essentially correct delineation of the Lewis River headwaters of the Snake. He was the first to show that branch as heading in what is now Shoshone Lake (he did not name the Lake, [85] though he noted its hot spring basin see map 7). Thus, he avoided the mistake made by DeSmet in 1851, and later by the Hayden Survey, in assigning Lewis and Shoshone Lakes to the Madison drainage. This map also indicated the geyser basins of the Firehole River in its label, “Hot Spring Valley.”

It is sometimes claimed that deLacy forfeited his right to consideration as the discoverer of Yellowstone’s thermal features because he did not adequately publish his findings, a line of reasoning which assumes he was too much concerned with prospecting to appreciate the wonderful region he passed through. However, an excerpt from one of his letters which found its way into print in 1869 shows that he understood both the extent and the nature of the thermal areas he saw, for he wrote: “At the head of the South Snake, and also on the south fork of the Madison, there are hundreds of hot springs, many of which are ‘Geysers’.” [86]

The extent of deLacy’s familiarity with the southwestern quarter of what is now Yellowstone National Park is evident in the account he later published from notes made in 1863 (cited in Note 85):

[p. 128] We had not traveled more than three miles next day (September 5th), when we came to the forks of the stream that we had been ascending. One branch came from the northeast [Snake River] and the other from the north [Lewis River], and there were hot springs with cones four or five feet high near the junction. Neither of the streams were large, and it was thought that we would soon reach the divide. It being impracticable to go up either branch, on account of fallen timber, we commenced climbing up the mountain side to the west, where the timber was more open, and after ascending about one thousand feet with much difficulty, reached a large open prairie, apparently on the summit, [p. 129] where there were two small lakes, of a beautiful blue, and small streams flowing in opposite directions. [87] I judged that one of them ran into the North Snake [Henrys Fork]. Here we stopped for dinner.

Here another split of the party took place. Some of the men had noticed veins of quartz, as they supposed, down below, and resolved to return and examine them. This left me about thirteen men to go forward with.

Our friend Brown had been completely disgusted, during the last few days, with his whip-saw, owing to the number of times every day that he had to stop to adjust the pack in going through the woods, and now left that useful implement leaning against a tree, with the remark that “he had packed the damned thing far enough.”

On starting, we kept a northerly course and passed over low undulating ridges, covered with open pine timber [Pitchstone Plateau]. The rocks, where exposed, seem to be vitrified sandstone. We killed two deer this evening which was the first large game shot on the trip. After traveling several miles, we saw an opening beneath us which looked like a valley, and descending the mountain, which was very steep and high, reached a small stream flowing northeasterly [Moose Creek], just about dark, and camped where there was plenty of grass, wood, and water.

In the morning (6th), we descended the stream for about five miles, and to the great surprise of us all, came to the bank of a large lake [Shoshone]. We were all lost in conjectures as to what it could be. Some thought that it must be the Yellowstone Lake, and others that it must flow into the Madison or Gallatin. We finally resolved to go around the southern end, [88] which was not very far from us apparently, and then go around the other side. We then traveled along the lake shore for some three or four miles, when we came to [p. 130] the outlet of the lake, a large stream flowing south into Snake river. Instead of going around the head, as we had thought to do, we had been going around the foot.

One thing puzzled me. The outflowing stream was much larger than either of the forks of the South Snake that we had left before. I afterward found out, however, that it flowed into another lake, now called Lewis Lake, from one of the men who went back at our noon halt.

This party which left us, had returned to the forks, and not finding the quartz, as they expected, ascended the stream coming from the north. They encountered a fire in the woods which gave them some trouble, and found some very high falls in the stream. They passed Lake Lewis, and came to the foot of the large lake, where they found our old camp. Here they went up the west side of the lake to its head, and there found a large number of hot springs [Shoshone Geyser Basin], some of which were geysers, which they saw in action, spouting up the water to a great height, and thence went over to the South Fork of the Fire Hole river, where they again saw our camps, and thence down the Madison river to Virginia City. These facts I obtained afterward at Bannack City, from Mr. Charles Ream, one of the party, and it was thus established conclusively that the large lake was the head of the South Snake, and I was enabled to correct the course of the Madison river, and connect my surveys with it. . . .

To return to our own party. We camped at the mouth of the lake and prospected and hunted for the rest of the [p. 131] day, but without any success. The lake seemed to be about ten or twelve miles long, running northwest and southeast, and to be surrounded by low and thickly wooded hills which came down to the water’s edge. There was a point projecting into the lake on the west side, which hid a large part of the lake from us, although we did not know it them.

On the next day (7th), we went up the eastern side, near the water, passing through scrubby pines, without underbrush. There were many game trails made by the wood buffalo, whose tracks appeared numerous and fresh. We did not see any, and finally, at noon, stopped on a small prairie, for dinner. In the evening we left the lake altogether, and took a northerly course, hoping to cross the divide to some other stream. Our course lay through timber, and over and around fallen logs, but the ground, though undulating, was not rocky, and we found many game trails leading in our direction.

Whenever we could obtain a glimpse of the outside world, we could see high ranges of mountains on every side. We kept on till late, without finding any place to camp, but just at dark arrived at a small dry prairie, where we camped [DeLacy Park]. [89] There was a damp place in the center, where, by digging about three feet, we soon obtained water for both ourselves and animals . . . [p. 132] It rained heavily during the night and also during the next day, and we remained here, as we now had plenty of water and grass.

On the 9th, we continued our journey, and after traveling three miles, descended the mountain side into an open country. In another mile we reached the head of a small stream [White Creek], the water of which was hot, and soon entered a valley or basin, through which the stream meandered, and which was occupied on every side by hot springs. They were so thick and close that we had to dismount and lead our horses, winding in and out between them as we best could. The ground sounded hollow beneath our feet, and we were in great fear of breaking through, and proceeded with great caution. The water of these springs was intensely hot, of a beautiful utramarine blue, some boiling up in the middle, and many of them of very large size, being at least twenty feet in diameter and as deep. There were hundreds of these springs, and in the distance we could see-and hear others, which would eject a column of steam with a loud noise. These were probably geysers, and the boys called them “steamboat springs.” No one in the company had ever seen or heard of anything like this region, and we were all delighted with what we saw. This was what was afterward called the “Lower Geyser Basin” of the Madison, by Prof. Hayden.

We thus went on for several miles, stopping occasionally [p. 133] to admire the beauty, variety, and grandeur of the sight, and at length came to a large stream flowing northerly [Firehole River], near the banks of which were scattering hot springs, and some of which had been hot once, but had now cooled apparently, the water being tepid and muddy, with a strong smell of sulphur.

We “nooned” on the left bank of this stream, and then continued our way north, crossing the river again, by a deep ford, in about three miles, and camped for the evening on the edge of a small prairie, near where a large fork came in the southeast [Gibbon River]. On the left bank of the south fork was a high, perpendicular wall of rock, [90] and we could see the smoke of hot springs up the east fork [Terrace Spring].

We had great discussions in the evening as to where we were, some thinking we were on the North Snake river, and others that we were on the Madison. The map which I had, represented the North Snake river as running around and leading to the northeast of the South Snake, and these streams seemed to run that way. In reality, we were at the forks of the Fire Hole river, a branch of the Madison.

In the morning (September 10th), we continued our journey down the main river, crossing the east fork just above the junction. The weather looked stormy and threatening. The main river was about fifty yards wide, its valley very narrow, with high, rocky hills on either side covered with pine, and the general course westerly. After traveling about five miles, rain came down heavily, and we were forced to go into camp on the river, and at the head of what appeared to be a cañon.

In the evening, during an interval of calm, I went forward on the trail across the mountain to explore. In about one and half miles I came to the foot of the cañon, [p. 134] when I perceived that the country opened out into a large basin [Madison Valley], through which the main river ran.

Unlike the Ream party, which passed down the Madison River after leaving the Yellowstone region, deLacy turned north, crossing the Madison Basin to the pass leading to the West Gallatin River, which he followed down to Spanish Creek.<

One of the men who accompanied deLacy in 1863 returned to the Yellowstone region the following year. He was John C. Davis, a member of James Stuart’s 1864 expedition down the Yellowstone River to prospect the Bighorn and Stinkingwater (Shoshone) Rivers. Upon the breakup of that venture, a remnant of the party worked southward under the leadership of Adam “Horn” Miller. Six of these men eventually reached Jackson’s Hole, from which Davis and two others left for the Yellowstone region. He says, [91] according to the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal:

We came into the park just above the lake, and immediately found ourselves in the midst of the wonders of this enchanted land. The boiling springs and geysers were all around us, and, accustomed as we were to the marvels of Western scenery, we hardly knew what to think of the phenomena. Having visited this place the preceding year I was, however, less surprized than the others. We wandered along the shore for a while, and leaving the lake we went into camp about a mile and a half above the falls. The roaring of the great cataract reached us, but was barely discernible at this distance, and we were among so many wonders that we paid it little attention. After camping I took my gun and started out in the hope of finding an elk for dinner. I went down the bank, and in short time came to the Upper Falls. The full grandeur of the scene did not burst on me at once. Men who have engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle for a frontier existence lose sentiment after a few years but when I realized the stupendous leap of water, I could not help being impressed. I stood gazing at it for a long time, and I remember estimating the height of the falls at only about 200 feet. [92]

I did not then think that I was the first white man to behold one of the greatest wonders of the Western world.

In the afternoon we crossed the river on our ponies. Going below we reached the Grand Canyon, along which we wandered for a short distance. I remember that we crept to the edge and looked over to where the river, a mere silvery thread, was winding its way in silence and darkness 1,200 feet below where we stood. After we crossed we remain in the valley awhile, and then there was again a division of the party. [93] William Armstead and Johnston Shelton, both Scotchmen, returned with me to Virginia City, or Alder Gulch, as it was then called.

We saw plenty of Indian signs, but we fortunately eluded any of these gentry. Shortly afterwards one section of our party were attacked by a hostile gang of Crows, and a man named Harris was killed. The interpreter of the original party was with this company, and he was also captured, but he afterwards made his escape by ingratiating himself with the chief.

When we first reached the volcanic region of the geysers we were much alarmed at the yielding of the ground. Finally we struck a buffalo track, and followed this with some feeling of safety. None of our party thought to give names to anything in the valley. I remember one little incident connected with Pelican Creek, however, which may have suggested its name. We camped on this creek, and noticed several large birds which appeared to be wild geese. I shot one, which managed to fly out some distance in the lake before it fell. I swam out after it, and became very much exhausted before I reached it. It looked as if it might be good to eat so I skinned it, and then the boys concluded it would hardly do. I hung the pelican—for that was what it was—on a tree, and it was found afterward by Miller, who came by with his party. [94]

The editor of the Courier-Journal appended this comment to the Davis account: “It would be remembered that the first public announcement of the valley’s discovery was made after the visit of an exploring party in 1869 (Folsom party). Before this it had been visited by hunters, but there is no account of any visit prior to that of Mr. Davis, and it seems that he and his party are entitled to the honor of its discovery, though they failed to make use of the lucky accident. His story can be vouched for.”

Other prospectors were in the Yellowstone region that summer. Thomas Curry’s discovery of gold at “Curry’s Gulch” (later known as Emigrant Gulch) in the late fall of 1863 brought a well-equipped party under George A. Huston the following spring. But most of the reinforcement thought they could do better and continued up the Yellowstone River and its “East Fork” (now Lamar River). The scanty information available on their adventure comes from two writers who knew many of the participants personally. E. S. Topping says:

. . . Prospecting parties were going out in every direction. One of these consisting of thirty men under the leadership of Austin [George A. Hustin], went to and up the Yellowstone. When they arrived at the east fork of the Yellowstone, they went up that stream to the first creek coming in from the left above Soda Butte creek, up which they went. They made a camp at its head and, as they had seen no signs of Indians, let their horses run loose. The next morning at daylight a band of Arrapahoes swooped in and drove away all their stock but one jackass. It was useless to chase them without horses, and the boys, not being ready to go back, cached their things and, packing the jackass heavily and themselves lightly, went over the divide to Clarke’s Fork and down it to below the mouth of the canyon. Here they found some prospects, but no pay so turned back to their cache, and taking from this the most valuable articles, struck out on their back trail for Virginia City. [95]

Superintendent Norris elaborates somewhat on that in his annual report for 1881:

In the spring of 1864, H. W. Wayant, now a leading citizen of Silver city, Idaho, William Hamilton, and other prospectors, to the number of forty men, with saddle horses, pack train, and outfit, ascended the east side of the Yellowstone from the Gate of the Mountains to Emigrant, Bear and Crevice Gulches, forks of the Yellowstone, East Fork, and Soda Butte thence over the western foothills of Mount Norris to the bluffs upon the south side of Cache Creek, where their horses were all stolen by some unknown Indians, but their only two donkeys would not stampede, and remained with them. Here the party broke up Wyant, Harrison, and ten others, with one jack, and what he could carry, ascended Cache Creek to Crandall Creek, Clarke’s Fork, Heart Mountain, thence by way of Index Peak and the Soda Butte returned to the cache made by the other party of what they could not carry, aided by their donkey, from where set afoot, and hence called Cache Creek.

Norris adds that “Later in the same season George Huston and party ascended the main Fire Hole River, and from the marvelous eruption of the Giantess and other geysers, and the suffocating fumes of brimstone, fearing they were nearing the infernal regions, hastily decamped.” [96]

The Yellowstone region was visited a number of times in 1865. A Montana prospector and mountaineer named George Harvey Bacon is said to have reached the Upper Geyser Basin with a party of Indians, [97] and Jim Bridger passed entirely through the area with three ex-trappers—John Dunn and two others. [98] Another former trapper, James Gemmel, is said to have passed through the Yellowstone region with his daughter, Jeanette (who may have been the first white woman to enter the area), [99] but the most interesting visitor that year was Father Francis Xavier Kuppens, a Belgian priest of the Jesuit Order, who had this recollection to offer 32 years later:

[p. 400] About the years 1865-66 I was stationed at the old Mission of St. Peter’s on the Missouri River near the mouth of Sun River. A great part of that winter [1864-65, according to other records] and spring I spent with the Pigeon [Piegan] Indians roaming from place to place south of Fort Benton, and on the Judith River. It was while leading this nomad life that I first heard of the Yellowstone. Many an evening in the tent of Baptiste Champagne or Chief Big Lake the conversation, what little there was of it, turned on the beauties of that wonderful spot. I do not know that the narrator always adhered strictly to facts, but making allowance for fervid imagination there was sufficient in the tale to excite my curiosity and awaken in me a strong desire to see for myself this enchanted if not enchanting land. In the spring with a small party of Indians hunting buffalo, I persuaded a few young men to show me [p. 401] the wonderland of which they had talked so much. Thus I got my first sight of the Yellowstone. I shall not attempt to describe it, that has been done by many abler pens than mine but you may be sure that before leaving I saw the chief attraction,—the Grand Canon, hot and cold geysers, variegated layers of rock, the Fire Hole, etc. I was very much impressed with the wild grandeur of the scenery, and on my return gave an account of it to Fathers Ravalli and Imoda, then stationed at the old Mission of St. Peter’s. [100]

The effect of Father Kuppens’ visit on the definitive exploration of the Yellowstone region will be considered in Part II.

The hostility of the Sioux Indians, who were determined to prevent a reopening of Bozeman’s emigrant road into Montana Territory, hampered the activity of prospectors in the Yellowstone region during 1866. Only one incursion into the area has been recorded, and that small party, led by George Huston, entered from the west, up the Madison River, passing from the geyser basins to the Mud Volcano by way of the “east fork” (Nez Perce Creek), around the west side of Yellowstone Lake to Heart Lake, then across rough country to the Yellowstone River above its lake. From there they followed the eastern shore to the outlet, descended the river to the great falls and across the Mirror Plateau to the east fork of the Yellowstone (Lamar River), after which they passed down that stream and the Yellowstone to Emigrant Gulch. [101]

How much factual information Huston’s far-ranging party brought back is unknown, for contemporary reportage is lacking but enough was known of the Yellowstone region and its superlative nature to allow the editor of Montana’s first newspaper to compare it with the Yosemite Valley, in these words:

The scenery of the Yosemite Valley, as described by Bowles in his new book, “Across the Continent,” though very grand and peculiar, is not more remarkable than the scenery at the passage of the Yellowstone through the Snowy Range, one hundred miles northeast of this city. The rocks on either side, for a great distance, are equal in height to those of the Yosemite, and the river steals through them with the swiftness and stillness of an imense serpent, leaping into joyous rapids at the point of its release. We should like to have Brierstadt [sic] visit this portion of our Territory. He could make a picture from this piece of scenery surpassing either of his other views of the Rocky Mountains. [102]

The death of John Bozeman at the hands of Indians early in 1867 led Acting Governor Thomas Francis Meagher to raise and arm “territorial volunteers” who built and occupied two posts intended to serve as barriers against incursions of hostile Indians into the settlements of southwestern Montana. These outposts—Fort Elizabeth Meagher, east of the town of Bozeman, and Camp Ida Thoroughman, at the mouth of Shield’s River—effectively screened the northern approach to the Yellowstone region, allowing a resumption of prospecting in that wilderness.

Interest had been sparked anew by the luck of “Uncle” Joe Brown and three others, who worked a river bar at the mouth of Bear Creek during the fall and winter of 1866-67, taking out $8,000 in gold dust and nuggets. “A. Patron,” writing from that place as spring came, publicized their good fortune in a Helena newspaper through his mention that “the bright scales of 22 ounce gold peculiar to this locality have been washing down the Yellowstone in liberal, unmeasured quantities of late, showing that there must be a heavy deposit above.” [103]

Among those attracted to the Bear Creek strike was Lou Anderson, who soon moved on up the Yellowstone with a small party. This search for the lode is of interest because of its legacy of three place-names. According to E. S. Topping, the circumstances which generated the names were these:

Early in the summer of 1867, Lou Anderson . . . with [A. H.] Hubble [George W.] Reese, Caldwell and another man, went up the river on the east side. They found gold in a crevice at the mouth of the first stream above Bear, and named it in consequence, Crevice gulch. Hubble went ahead the next day for a hunt and upon his return he was asked what kind of a stream the next creek was. “It’s a hell roarer, was his reply, and Hell Roaring is its name to this day.

The second day after this he [Hubble] was again ahead, and the same question being asked him, he said. “Twas but a slough.” When the party came to it they found a rushing torrent, and in crossing, a pack horse and his load were swept away, but the name of Slough Creek remains. [104]

Early that summer a notice appeared in the Virginia City newspaper, announcing:

Organized. The expedition to the Yellowstone country mentioned a short time since, is now organized, and it is the purpose of the party to start from the camp on Shield’s river in about two weeks. The expedition will be gone some three weeks and will go up the river as far as Yellowstone Lake. As a number of gentlemen have expressed a desire to join the party, we refer those in Helena to Gen. Thoroughman who will be at that city on Monday, and will give all desired information. Parties here, who have the leisure to make this fascinating jaunt can ascertain particulars from Judge Hosmer or T. C. Everts. [105]

But that proposal, which appears to have originated in Acting Governor Meagher’s interest in the Yellowstone region (of which more will be said in Part II), was vitiated by his death in the Missouri River at Fort Benton on the eve of departure.

However, the mounting interest in the diggings developing along the Yellowstone River was not lost on the unpaid citizen-soldiers lounging around Camp Thoroughman (renamed Camp Green Clay Smith after Meagher’s death), [106] and, though their morale was low with regard to all things military, they were willing enough to accompany Capt. Charley Curtis on a scout up the river. [107]

This expedition was reported in the Virginia City newspaper from information supplied by Dr. James Dunlevy, surgeon for the volunteers, and, though egocentric and couched in hyperbole (possibly an editorial fault), it is yet a very interesting impression, of value for its glimpse of the Mammoth Hot Springs. Here is Dunlevy’s account as rendered by an unidentified “B.G.” [108]

Dr. Dunlevy left Camp Green Clay Smith, near the mouth of the Yellowstone Canyon, about the 12th ult., with a small party, following up the western side of the river for about ninety or one hundred miles, [109] and within a few miles of the lake near the head of this great river traveling through a valley of great extent, richness and beauty, interspersed with scenery of most impressive grandeur and magnitude, unsurpassed in the world. Tall spires of colossal grandeur which in beauty and symmetry are superior to any works of art beetling cliffs of rock, rising from the waters edge thousands of feet in height while wood-crowned mountains, with delightful slopes and vista like parks coursed with purling streams and mountains covered with snows, capped and rising to cone shaped peaks and knife-like edges, or turretted like castles, and rolling away off in beautiful white pyramidal forms, were to be seen on every side. Language is not adequate to convey an idea of the marvelous beauty of the scenery, which is beyond the power of description, and begets a wonderful fascination in the mind of the beholder who reverently gazes at the snow-crowned summits, that seem as if “They were to show How earth may pierce to Heaven and leave vain man below.” In addition to this, Dr. Dunlevy informs us that he discovered several large streams coming in from the western side, that are yet unnamed. When near the end of his journey his attention was called to something resembling steam or smoke, near the crest of a mountain, and observing springs of hot water gushing out of its side, he was induced to attempt to reach it, which he succeeded in accomplishing with very little trouble, there to find something that proved to be the key-stone to the arch of wonders—a boiling hot lake, covering an area of about forty acres! [110] A herd of antelope were quietly licking the salt along the edge, when a shot from his rifle brought one of them down, a sheath-knife soon severed off a ham which was fastened to a lariat and thrown into the lake, and in less than forty minutes it was taken out completely boiled and salted! [111] The party ate of it and represented it as having a peculiar but pleasant flavor. The Doctor supposed the water to contain a large percentage of tincal, the crude property from which borax is manufactured, and has already taken the necessary steps to have it preempted and a company organized to have it thoroughly tested. . . . We have not the space to give an elaborate report of Dr. Dunlevy’s trip, but can only say that it abounded in the rarest scenes and incidents, equalling almost the experience of Captains Speke and Grant, in their effort to discover the source of the Nile and we trust ere long that some select party, well prepared and equipped, will be able to penetrate these wilds and reveal to the world its manifest beauties, existing as they do in all their pristine grandeur. The Doctor deserves credit for the daring, invincible spirit displayed by him in thus far exploring this remote region, which example we trust will be emulated by many others. He was compelled to return to camp as his time was limited, and what matches he had with him became dampened and spoiled. He reports the country filled with game of all kinds, including mountain bison, and reports mining in three different gulches on the eastern side of the river, including Bear and Emigrant gulches.”

Prospectors returning to Yellowstone City (at the mouth of Emigrant Gulch) late in August had some information on the country between Mammoth Hot Springs and Lake Yellowstone, and some of it was forwarded to a Virginia City newspaper by David Weaver, a miner who was laboring in the shafts and drains then being constructed to get at the gold below Emigrant Gulch. He says: [112]

A portion of the Bear Gulch stampeders have returned. They have been to the Lake at the head of Yellowstone and report the greatest wonder of the age. For eight days they traveled thro’ a volcanic country emitting blue flames, living streams of molten brimstone, and almost every variety of minerals known to chemists. The appearance of the country was smooth and rolling, with long level plains intervening. On the summits of these rolling mounds [Crater Hills] were craters from four to eight feet in diameter and everywhere upon the level plains, dotting it like prairie dog holes, were smaller ones, from four to six inches and upwards. The steam and blaze was constantly discharging from these subterranean channels in regular evolutions or exhaustions, like the boilers of our steamboats, and gave the same roaring, whistling sound. As far as the eye could trace, this motion was observed. They were fearful to ascend to the craters lest the thin crust should give way and swallow them. Mr. Hubbel, (one of the party,) who has visited this region before, ventured to approach one of the smaller ones. As he neared its mouth his feet broke through and the blue flame and smoke gushed forth, enveloping him. Dropping upon his body, he crawled to within a couple of feet of the crater and saw that the crust around its edge was like a thin wafer. Lighting a match he extended it to the mouth and instantly it was on fire. [113] The hollow ground resounded beneath their feet as they travelled on, and every moment it seemed liable to break through and bury them in its fiery vaults. The atmosphere was intensely suffocating, and they report that life could not long be sustained there. Not a living thing, bird or beast, was seen in the vicinity. The prospectors have given it the significant name—”Hell!” They declare they have been to that “bad place,” and even seen the “Devil’s horns” but through the interposition of Providence (not to speak profanely) their “souls have been delivered”, and they emphatically aver, if a “straight and narrow” course during their sojourn on the Yellowstone will save them, they will never go there again. On their return, between the Lake and the falls, they encountered four men on four splendid American horses, driving thirty-six large mules, in fine condition, all branded “U.S.” Said individuals wore linen dusters and heavy gold rings on their fingers—travelled southward—understood the country—acted suspiciously, and that’s all that’s known. [114]

Another party of prospectors passed through the Yellowstone region in the fall of 1867, and, though their venturing did not come to the attention of the local newspapers, the diary kept by one of them, A. Bart Henderson, contains the best account of the area to come out of the era of the prospectors. [115] This party entered what is now Yellowstone Park at its southeast corner after coming up Snake River and over Two Ocean Pass, as the trappers had earlier.

[p. 76] Aug. 30th 1867. It was from this camp [near Bridger Lake] that we first looked upon the far-famed Yellowstone Lake, about 15 miles northwest.

We were at a very great loss to know what it was. Capt. Bracey said he would soon settle that question & let us know the facts. He soon had Capt DeLacys map spread on the grass, tracing out the different rivers that he found marked on the map. [116]

The Yellowstone Lake he soon found to be 15 miles long & 5 miles wide. This was all contrary to what we could see with our own eyes . . .

However we all concluded that we was on the Yellow Stone, & in sight of the famous lake.

Henderson’s party moved northward to Yellowstone Lake, where they came upon a lone Englishman—Jack Jones, called by them “John Bull”—who was traveling afoot through the wilderness. He was taken with them as they moved down the eastern shore of the lake. While camped at Sedge Creek, the party made two interesting discoveries: the parasitic worms (Bulbodacnitis scotti) which they found infesting many of the lake trout, and the wave-formed stones they thought to be relics of the Aztec Indians. The Washburn party gave the name “Curiosity Point” to the beach where the latter were found.

A less agreeable discovery, on the following day, of “about 80 barefooted tracks, fresh made” (presumably by Blackfoot Indians), caused the Henderson party to change course abruptly by swimming Yellowstone River a short distance above its Upper Fall. While their supplies and equipage were drying in the sun, Henderson went to view the falls, an experience he described in these words:

I was very much surprised to see the water disappear from sight. [p. 80] I walked out on a rock & made two steps at the same time, one forward, the other backward, for I had unawares as it were, looked down into the depths or bowels of the earth, into which the Yellow plunged as if to cool the infernal region that lay under all this wonderful country of lava & boiling springs. The water fell several feet, struck a reef of rock that projected further than the main rock above. This reef caused the water to fall the remainder of the way in spray. We judged the falls to be 80 or 90 feet high, perhaps higher [Upper Fall is 109 feet].

From the falls of the Yellowstone, Henderson’s party crossed the Washburn Range on a dim Indian trail to Tower Fall, [117] which was recognized by Henderson as “the most beautiful falls I ever saw.” Henderson commented on other important features as his party continued down the river to Emigrant Gulch.

The Yellowstone region was well enough known by the close of 1867 that at least one frontier journalist was led to prophesy its future. Called “a correspondent of the Frontier Index,” but probably editor Legh Freeman himself, [118] an informant writes as follows concerning the country at the headwaters of the Yellowstone:

Two main forks of the Yellowstone—one heading opposite Wind and Green rivers, and the other opposite Henry’s Fork of Snake river, in the same vicinity that the Madison and Gallatin rise—empty into the big lake which has for its outlet the Yellowstone river, and just below the lake the whole river falls over the face of a mountain thousands of feet, the spray rising several hundred. A pebble was timed by a watch in dropping from an overhanging crag of one perpendicular fall, and is said to have required eleven and a half seconds to strike the river below. That beat Niagara Falls all “hollow”. The river at these greatest falls is represented to be half as large as the Missouri at Omaha, and as clear as crystal. The great lake, like all others in these mountains, is thick with salmon trout of from five to forty pounds weight, and where the milky boiling mineral waters from the star bolt geysers intermingle with the pure, clear water from the running streams, elegant fish can be forked up by the boat load. A few years more and the U.P. Railroad will bring thousands of pleasure-seekers, sight-seers, and invalids from every part of the globe, to see this land of surpassing wonders. [119]

While the foregoing account contains some blatant exaggerations, it was at least founded upon truth, and that could not be said of another news item which appeared at nearly the same time. According to this story, which was reprinted from an eastern paper,

Mr. Edward Parsons, just returned from Montana, tells the editor of the Leavenworth Commercial a marvelous story. Last July, himself and four companions, while exploring the headwaters of the Yellowstone, came upon an Indian mound, surmounted by a huge stone. Dislodging this stone and several others, they found themselves in an Indian catacomb, containing the skeletons of thirty warriors. Lying beside the bones were numerous ornaments, among them many twisted circlets of gold. Some of these were of unusual size, weighing one and a half to two pounds. What chiefly attracted attention was a massive basin or kettle that occupied the centre of the apartment. This massive article proved to be pure gold, and was so heavy that the party had great difficulty in removing it from its resting place and bringing it into the upper air. The adventurers were enabled, by means of their axes, to sever the mass into portable pieces, laden with which, the party turned their steps homeward, having themselves to walk the greater part of the way, to give relief to their burdened animals. The whole amount of gold was brought to Helena, and Mr. Edward Parsons calculated that his share of the treasure amounted to about $21,000, the whole bulk being at least $100,000 in value. [120]

In 1868, Legh Freeman continued to publish stories and items about the Yellowstone region. However, his verities were so often obscured by Munchausen details that the effect was to discredit the area’s wonders rather than to expose them. The wildest of these tales was his “Greatest Bear Story Yet”—an outrageous distortion of known facts and current tall tales, of which the following are examples: [121]

I looked up the petrified tree, and out on a petrified limb saw a petrified bird singing a petrified song sticking out his mouth about ten petrified feet. Looking down, I saw that the ground was covered with petrified balls like sycamore balls, and from these a considerable forest was growing up and stretching away to the east.

This is the largest and strangest mountain lake in the world. It being sixty by twenty-five miles in size and surrounded by all manner of large game, including an occasional white buffalo, that is seen to rush down the perpetual snowy peaks that tower above, and plunge up to its sides into the water. It is filled with fish half as large as a man, some of which have a mouth and horns and skin like a catfish and legs like a lizzard. This cross range backs up the waters from the head tributaries of the Yellowstone, and thus the lake is formed and where the water of the lake breaks over the northern face of this cross ridge, there is a perpendicular fall of fifteen hundred feet over one cliff, which is by far the highest fall of any large river, and considering the surrounding scenery, is the most sublime spot on earth.

The foregoing, with the remainder of Freeman’s article, could be consigned to oblivion except that it was so widely read and so influential in creating that reputation for “indulging in flights of fancy when recounting their adventures” with which the prospectors were generally branded. Freeman was almost factual in a later issue, where he compared certain areas of the Sierra Nevada Range with the “Yellowstone Hell,” [122] and less-so, still later, when describing Yellowstone Lake as “so clear and so deep, that by looking into it you can see them making tea in China.” [123] Just before an enraged mob put The Frontier Index out of business by burning its boxcar-office during a riot at Green River City, Wyo., Freeman published a last comment on the Yellowstone region, repeating his prophesy of a year earlier. This followed a reprint of a description of the American Falls, on Snake River, published earlier in the Idaho Statesman, concerning which he remarked:

Ha! Mr. Statesman, you should pass over the divide from the head of Snake river and go through the great volcanic region about the Yellowstone lake, on down to the great Yellowstone Falls, fifteen miles below the lower neck of the lake and view a crystal stream as large as Snake river, as it falls over one perpendicular precipice, where we threw down a pine log, which was 11 1/2 seconds striking the river below. Make your own calculations for rates of velocity of falling bodies and see if the Yellowstone Falls are not about six times as great as Niagara. How are your Shoshone Falls? We will show you a summer resort on the Yellowstone in a few years, at which the gentry of all nations will be recreating. [124]

The era of the prospector extends through 1870, when gold was discovered at the head of the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone (the area around present Cooke City, Mont.). The party which made that strike included A. Bart Henderson, whose diary records the appearance of several place names, and a brief fight with Indians, during their wanderings in the northern and eastern reaches of the present park. Descending Hell Roaring Creek, they turned eastward across the Buffalo Plateau, which received its name from them.

Wyoming Territory, June 21, 1870. Clear & warm. Raised camp early. Followed down the stream east. Here the hills come down on both sides forming a very rough cañon. We turned to the left, crossed a low divide or gap, & came to a beautiful flat, which we gave the name of Buffalo Flat [Buffalo Plateau], as we found thousands of buffalo quietly grazing. This flat is something like 10 miles by 6, with numerous lakes scattered over it, & the finest range in the world. Here we found all manner of wild game—buffalo, elk, blacktail deer, bear & moose. Camped here. [125]

From Buffalo Plateau this party moved north and east, investigating the headwaters of Buffalo and Slough Creeks (discovering both gold and grizzly bears at Lake Abundance) before descending to Clark Fork River. There they made the strike which developed into the New World Mining District, though they did no more than prospect at that time. Instead of settling down, those restless men crossed the mountains south of Pilot and Index Peaks, hoping to do even better. Their odyssey is recorded thus by Henderson:

[p. 92] 22nd [July, 1870] Clear & cold. Raised camp early. Traveled south, came down on a very rough stream [Cache Creek], high lava peaks on both sides. The country soon changes to open rolling hills [with] fine grass [and] game trails running in all directions. Here we camped at the forks for the purpose of prospecting. [126] Found no gold. This days travel was south, thro buffalo, elk & bear—all very tame.

23rd Cloudy & cold. Raised camp early [and] followed down [p. 93] creek in south direction. 8 miles below came to open country on the East Fork [Lamar River] of the Yellowstone.

Here we found thousands of hot or boiling springs. [127] Camped on East Fork, south side. Just opposite camp a small creek empties into river. One mile up this creek is a very singular butte, some 40 feet high, which has been formed by soda water. We gave the cone the name of Soda butte, & the creek the name of Soda Butte Creek.

The prospectors then descended Lamar River to its mouth, doubled back along the Specimen Ridge-Amethyst Mountain divide to Flint Creek, where they descended to Lamar River again. They then moved up that stream to the Little Lamar River, which was ascended to the high country between the drainages of Lamar River, Sunlight Creek, and the North Fork of Shoshone River. It was there, just as they had reached what they recognized as mining country (later the Sunlight Mining District), that they were attacked by Indians who made off with their animals. [128] The result was the abandonment of most of their outfit and a retreat across the northeast corner of the present park toward succor at the Crow Agency (Fort Parker, near present Livingston, Mont.). Their escape was a harrowing experience made worse by dissension, an attack by wolves at the mouth of Miller Creek, [129] and another brush with Indians wherein they followed the rule of “shoot first and ask questions later.” [130]

A story which appeared in the Helena Daily Herald that summer, though a complete phony both in its description of Yellowstone geography and in the central event—the supposed death of 18 Indians at the Falls of the Yellowstone [131]—does expose an attitude which was, by then, common among the prospectors. Despite the fact that Crows killed Crandall and Daugherty, and Arapahos were behind the attack on the Henderson party (this according to James Gourley), the inoffensive “sheep-eater” residents of the Yellowstone region tended to get the blame, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Sunderlee’s statement:

We felt no great uneasiness however, knowing full well that with our improved firearms, we would be enabled to overcome fifty of the sneaking red devils. It is proper here to add, that the “Sheep Eaters” are those of the Snake and Bannack tribes, who would not live with their brethern in peace with the whites but who prefer living remote from all Indians, and civilized beings: foes of their former tribes and of the whites. A body of savages who would gladly welcome death in preference to capture, either by the white man or red man hated and hunted by their former associates, they are compelled to seek asylum in the mountains, where it is so sterile that no game but the wild sheep abound. Here they exist as best they can, which is but little removed from starvation.

That was not true in any respect, but it was so generally believed as to constitute a very real danger for the Shoshoni-Bannock “sheep-eaters” who were living in the Yellowstone region in the old way of pre-horse days. Thus, they willingly accepted Chief Washakie’s invitation to join his Shoshonis on the Wind River Reservation in 1871, and abandoned their Yellowstone home forever.

The body of knowledge concerning the Yellowstone region made available by the explorers, trappers, and prospectors of this period, though extensive, was yet fragmentary and often contradictory, and it did not constitute a comprehensive view of the Yellowstone region and its wonders. Such a picture of the area only materialized out of definitive exploration.

Yellowstone - History

T he Corp of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark were the
first whites to explore the greater Yellowstone region among them was one of the most celebrated hunter and woodsman of that period, John Colter. On the return of the expedition in 1908, Colter returned to the Yellowstone and trap this region and in doing so became the first white visitor to what is now Yellowstone National Park. Upon his return, his "tales" were so unbelievable that no author or mapmaker would publish it for fear of scrutiny amongst their piers.

Colters stories about the wonders and wildlife, led the fur traders to explore the Yellowstone regions. Most of the mountain men during that era were experienced in trapping and survival, they were also illiterate. Fortunately, Osborn Russell was unique, he knew how to trap, read and write and his journals are the earliest accounts of the Yellowstone region.

"There is something in the wild scenery of this valley which I cannot describe: but the impressions made upon my mind while gazing from a high eminence on the surrounding landscape one evening as the sun was gently gliding behind the western mountain and casting its gigantic shadows across the vale were such as time can never efface . For my own part I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor" - Lamar Valley, Osborne Russell 1835

"I sat there in amazement, while my companions came up, and after that, it seemed to me it was 5 minutes before anyone spoke. Language is inadequate to convey a just conception of the grandeur and sublimity of this masterpiece of nature's handiwork" Artist Point - Charles Cook 1869

In the latter part of 1840 the fur trade was coming to an end. The trappers who remained in the region adapted and among them was the distinguished, Jim Bridger. Bridger, a natural born topographer, new the fur trade was over and became a guide, scout and legendary story teller. His knowledge of what is now Yellowstone National Park was unparalleled and he became the first "geographer" of the region and was summoned to guide Capt. W.F Raynolds including Dr. Ferdinand Hayden and the Raynold's Expedition of 1859. Due to the expeditions schedule and uncompromising weather this first organized exploration of the Yellowstone region was unsuccessful.

During the 1850's to 1870, miners inhabited the Yellowstone and in doing so helped to publicize the region however with not much more credibility than their trapper predecessors. In 1863, Walter Delacy and his party set out to prospect through the Yellowstone. Although the party was equipped with prospector tools and no survey equipment, his party made many new discoveries including Shoshone and Lewis Lake he also published the first map of the Yellowstone area. By 1870, gold fever was gone and the great Yellowstone expeditions began.

In 1869, D.E. Folsom, William Peterson and C.W. Cook completed the first successful privately organized Yellowstone expedition. After 36 days, they completed their quest and returned back to Helena, Montana to publish their findings only at first to receive the same response as John Colter and Jim Bridger, that their story was too risky. Eventually their exploits were published by the Western Monthly Magazine of Chicago.

One year after the Folsom-Cook party reported about the wonders of Yellowstone, Gen. Henry D. Washburn organized the next expedition into Yellowstone. His party included Nathaniel P Langford and a military escort led by Gustavus C.Doane. This Party was responsible in the early place names of Yellowstone National Park's most historical sites including Old Faithful,Castle Geyser,Giant Geyser and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This was a successful expedition in terms of their credibility in verifying and naming early historic landmarks. The mission was not without hardship when one of the party members, Truman C. Everts became lost and endured a 37 day ordeal to finally be rescued by Jack Baronett. Upon the return of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, the leaders of the party set out in their own specific ways by lectures and print (no back then). During one of Langford's lectures. Dr. Ferdinand Hayden was in attendance.

Hayden proceeded to capitalize on the current interest in the Yellowstone region by asking Congress for funds for an official expedition into the Yellowstone region. With influential friends seated in Congress at that time, it did not take long before he was granted appropriations for $40,000 for a geographical survey to investigate the Missouri and Yellowstone territories. Hayden assembled his dream team including James Stevenson, Albert Peale, William Jackson and Thomas Moran. The artists and photographer proved to be invaluable to the expedition for their paintings and photographs served as dramatic and effective testimonials in favor of establishing the park. Along with new discoveries and place names the party collected geological, botanical, zoological specimens, sketches, photographs and countless volumes of exploration notes. This collection of data was brought before the public and congress. The bill's chief supporters convinced their colleagues that the region's real value was as a park area, to be preserved in its natural state. On March 1, President Grant signed the bill into law, establishing the Yellowstone region as a public park and setting a major conservation precedent. The Nation had its first national park an area of exceptional beauty was set aside for the enjoyment of generations to come, and a tradition of preserving similar areas was established.

For more information on Yellowstone National Park and
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History of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano

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The area in and around Yellowstone National Park has seen tremendous volcanic activity in its past. Three giant eruptions have occurred between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago. The most recent eruption formed the Yellowstone caldera. Since then, the park has seen roughly 80 mostly non-explosive eruptions. Some of these events were about the size of the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines. The most “recent” of these smaller events occurred in the Pitchstone Plateau, located in the Bechler and Fall River drainages, 70,000 years ago.

So are we do for another volcanic event in the near future? Scientists from the United States Geological Survey say no. They guess that 15 to 20 giant eruptions have occurred along the Yellowstone hotspot in the past 16.5 million years. Looking over data from the past 2.1 million years, large eruptions only occur once every 600,000 to 800,000 years.

When the volcanoes do blow their tops, it’s a cataclysmic event. Scientists estimate that the three caldera-forming eruptions that happened between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago were 6,000, 700, and 2,500 times bigger than Mt. St. Helens’ 1980 eruption in Washington State. Together, the eruptions would have expelled enough ash and lava to fill the Grand Canyon.

Researchers also estimate that volcanic ash covered a significant portion of North America’s western half during these eruptions. Those living within 200 miles of Yellowstone would have been in ash up to mid-calf. Individuals living farther away on the continent would still have been dusted with a few inches of the volcanic debris. With wind-swept sulfur aerosol and extremely light ash particles breezing from continent to continent, the effects were felt around the world, likely resulting in a “notable” temperature decrease around the world.


President Teddy Roosevelt called the stretch of highway between Cody, WY and the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park “the 50 most beautiful miles in America.”

The fifty miles referred to by President Roosevelt, located between Yellowstone and Cody, is known as East Yellowstone or Wapiti Valley. The valley begins at Yellowstone National Park’s east gate and stretches through Shoshone National Forest and Buffalo Bill State Park to Cody, Wyoming. The valley was shaped by the Shoshone River as it flowed out of Yellowstone National Park and is cradled by the strikingly beautiful volcanic rocks of the Absaroka Mountains.

- 1870’s -

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as America’s First National Park by President Ulysses S. Grant, who signed a law declaring that Yellowstone would forever be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonder created by a massive volcanic eruption over 640,000 years ago. Yellowstone currently covers 3,470 square miles in the Northwestern corner of Wyoming. The park is famous for geysers, hot springs, geothermal features such as Old Faithful, and wildlife such as grizzly bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. Yellowstone National Park got its name from its location at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River.

Cody, Wyoming was established in 1896 by wild west showman, William F. Cody, famously known as “Buffalo Bill Cody” or the “The Scout”, along with a group of investors from Buffalo, New York, and George T. Beck and Holger Alger of Sheridan, Wyoming who formed the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company.

The founding fathers of Cody realized the potential for tourism. With Yellowstone National Park only fifty miles away and the town surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, the city would lure tourists from all over the world. William F. Cody brought many dignitaries and heads of state to Cody to hunt during the off-season of the Wild West Show. Cody country had an abundant game and was developing into a sportsman’s paradise. Guiding and outfitting services flourished and guest and dude ranches began springing up to accommodate tourists brought in by the Burlington Railroad.


Previous to the establishment of Cody, Wyoming, Buffalo Bill Cody, a Pony Express Rider, wagon master, stagecoach driver, Civil War soldier and even hotel manager, earned his nickname for his skill while supplying Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. He was about to embark on a career as one of the most illustrious prairie scouts of the Indian Wars.

From 1868 through 1872 he was employed by the U.S. Army as a scout. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872 and was ever after the favorite scout of the Fifth Cavalry. The men of the Fifth considered Buffalo Bill to be “good luck.” He kept them from ambush, he guided them to victory, and his own fame reflected glory on the regiment. Cody considered himself lucky too. He was lucky to have been wounded in action just once, and then it was “only a scalp wound.” But mostly he felt lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

In 1872 he appeared on stage for the first time, playing himself in “Scouts of the Prairie.” Thereafter he continued to act in the winter and scout for the Fifth Calvary in the summer.

In 1883, Buffalo Bill Cody formed an arena show of the Western experience called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. His show toured the United States and Europe for 30 years.

- 1890's -

In 1891, the area now known as the Shoshone National Forest, America’s First National Forest, was part of the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve. The forest was created by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison. The Shoshone National Forest is comprised of 2.4 million acres of varied terrain ranging from sagebrush flats to rugged snow-clad mountains.

The Shoshone has rich biodiversity and is home to numerous streams, lakes, reservoirs, geological finds, and wildlife. The Oregon Trail, the 19th century covered wagon route, passes just South of Shoshone National Forest through South Pass. The forest is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an unbroken expanse of federally protected lands covering an estimated 20 million acres.

The Shoshone National Forest was named after the “Shoshone Indians.” Archaeological evidence in the forest suggests the presence of Indian tribes in the area back at least 8,000 years. The forest provided an ample supply of game, wood, and shelter and the mountainous regions were frequented by the Shoshone and Sioux Indians for spiritual healing and vision quests.

In the early 1800s, the forest was visited by now famous mountain men such as John Colter and Jim Bridger. Colter is the first white man know to have been to both the Yellowstone region and the Shoshone Forest in the period between 1806 and 1808.

- 1900's -

In 1902, the town of Cody was incorporated and Buffalo Bill Cody opened his famous “Hotel in the Rockies,” the Irma, named after his youngest daughter. In the same year, he induced the Burlington Railroad to build a spur into the new town and pioneered a road to the East entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

In 1903, the first Ranger Station built with Federal funds, Wapiti Ranger Station, was established 30 miles West of Cody. The Ranger Station now graces the National Register of Historic Places. The Wapiti Ranger District is bordered by the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the West, the Clark’s Fork Ranger District on the north. Its south and southeastern borders meet with the Wind River and Greybull Ranger districts. The name “Wapiti” comes from the Native American word for “elk."

In 1904, Buffalo Bill Cody built the Pahaska Lodge to serve tourists visiting Yellowstone. The term “Pahaska” meaning “Long Hair” was a name given to Buffalo Bill Cody by Native Americans and popularized in dime novels which made Cody famous. Today, East Yellowstone has a wide variety of accommodations such as dude ranches, guest ranches, lodges, inns, and historic, yet modern, log-cabin mountain resorts. Each property has different opportunities for recreations, scenery, and amenities, however, each provides the same high standard of Western hospitality that Cody had envisioned for this area.

To bolster the economy of the struggling new town, Buffalo Bill Cody persuaded his friend, President Teddy Roosevelt, to establish the Bureau of Reclamation and to build the Shoshone Dam and Reservoir, which was completed in 1910. Officials later renamed it the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir. With the completion of the highest dam in the world at the time, the community was established soundly in the irrigation and electric power fields.

- 1930’s -

Cody continued to grow at a fast pace until World War I. The depression of the 1930s brought growth to a halt, but the area remained stable. By this time Buffalo Bill had passed on and the town was searching for ways to commemorate his life. The Cody Stampede and Rodeo was founded, along with the establishment of the Buffalo Bill Museum and erection of the famous statue of Buffalo Bill called “The Scout.” During this time the gas and oil interests were developed, producing a significant economic benefit to the community.


The series follows the Dutton family, owners of the largest ranch in the United States. The plot revolves around family drama and the bordering Native reservations and national parks. [3]

Main Edit

    as John Dutton, a sixth-generation patriarch of the Dutton family who operate the Yellowstone/Dutton Ranch, the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. As the series progresses, he is continually challenged by those seeking to take control of the ranch's land.
      portrays a young John Dutton in a recurring role.
    • Rhys Alterman portrays a young Kayce in a recurring role.
      portrays a young Beth in a recurring role.
    • Dalton Baker portrays a young Jamie in a recurring role.
    • Kyle Red Silverstein portrays a young Rip Wheeler in guest appearances in the episodes "The Unraveling: Pt. 1" and "Touching Your Enemy."
    • Smith's son, Forrest Smith, portrays a young Lloyd in a guest appearance in the episode "Touching Your Enemy."

    Recurring Edit

      as Mo, Rainwater's driver, and bodyguard. as Governor Lynelle Perry, the Governor of Montana, and John's love interest.
    • Atticus Todd as Ben Waters. as A.G. Stewart, Attorney General of Montana. as Felix Long, Monica's grandfather, and Tate's great-grandfather.
    • Tokala Black Elk as Sam Stands Alone. as Sarah Nguyen, an investigative reporter drawn to John Dutton and his family. as Walker, a former prisoner recruited as a ranch hand at Yellowstone by Rip Wheeler.
    • Luke Peckinpah as Fred Meyers. as Emmett Walsh. as Carl Reynolds.
    • Savonna Spracklin as Alice Wahl.
    • Robert Mirabal as Principle Littlefield. as Melody Prescott.
    • Katherine Cunningham as Christina, an assistant to Jamie Dutton during his political campaign for attorney general, and his love interest. as Father Bob.
    • Morningstar Angeline as Samantha Long, Roberts' wife, and Monica's sister-in-law.
    • Bill Tangradi as Alan Keene. as Bob Schwartz, the CEO at the financial firm Schwartz & Meyer where Beth Dutton is a partner, and Beth's friend and mentor. as Evelyn Dutton, the late wife of John Dutton, and mother to Lee, Jamie, Beth, and Kayce. as Victoria Jenkins, the wife of Dan Jenkins. as Sheriff Donnie Haskell.
    • David Cleveland Brown as Jason, Beth Dutton's assistant. as Travis Wheatly, a horse trader and an acquaintance of John Dutton. as Avery, a former stripper recruited by Rip as a ranch hand at Yellowstone. as Malcolm Beck, a rival businessman and nemesis to John Dutton (season 2). as Teal Beck, Malcolm's brother and business partner (season 2). as Steve Hendon, a livestock agent. as Cassidy Reid, a prosecutor, and former rodeo queen. as Martin, Monica's physical therapist (season 2). as Roarke Morris (season 3). [5]
    • John Emmet Tracy as Ellis Steele (season 3). as Angela Blue Thunder, a tribal lawyer (season 3).
    • Boots Southerland as Wade Morrow (season 3). as Teeter, a tough-talking ranch hand (season 3). as Willa Hayes (season 3). as Mia, a barrel racer and Jimmy's girlfriend (season 3).
    • Hassie Harrison as Laramie (season 3), a barrel racer, Mia's friend and Walker's girlfriend.
    • Maria Julian as receptionist/AG assistant (season 3).
    • Jake Ream as Jake, a wrangler at Yellowstone (seasons 2–3) as Garrett Randall (season 3)

    Guest Edit

      as Lee Dutton ("Daybreak"), John Dutton's oldest son, head of security at Yellowstone, and a sworn agent of the Montana Livestock Commission. as Senator Huntington ("Daybreak"), an ally of Chief Rainwater. as Robert Long ("Daybreak"), a US Army veteran, brother to Monica, and uncle to Tate. as Danny Trudeau ("No Good Horses"). as Emily Sessions ("A Monster Is Among Us"). as Dr. Fielding ("A Monster Is Among Us"). as Dr. Stafford ("A Monster Is Among Us"). as Old Cowboy ("The Unravelling, Pt. 2"). as John Dutton Sr., ("Sins of the Father"), John's father.
    SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
    First airedLast aired
    19June 20, 2018 ( 2018-06-20 ) August 22, 2018 ( 2018-08-22 )
    210June 19, 2019 ( 2019-06-19 ) August 28, 2019 ( 2019-08-28 )
    310June 21, 2020 ( 2020-06-21 ) August 23, 2020 ( 2020-08-23 )

    Season 1 (2018) Edit

    No. in
    TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
    11"Daybreak"Taylor SheridanStory by : Taylor Sheridan & John Linson
    Teleplay by : Taylor Sheridan
    June 20, 2018 ( 2018-06-20 ) 2.83 [6]
    22"Kill the Messenger"Taylor SheridanStory by : Taylor Sheridan & John Linson
    Teleplay by : Taylor Sheridan
    June 27, 2018 ( 2018-06-27 ) 2.07 [7]
    33"No Good Horses"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanJuly 11, 2018 ( 2018-07-11 ) 2.17 [8]
    44"The Long Black Train"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanJuly 18, 2018 ( 2018-07-18 ) 1.89 [9]
    55"Coming Home"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanJuly 25, 2018 ( 2018-07-25 ) 1.95 [10]
    66"The Remembering"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanAugust 1, 2018 ( 2018-08-01 ) 2.10 [11]
    77"A Monster Is Among Us"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanAugust 8, 2018 ( 2018-08-08 ) 2.08 [12]
    88"The Unravelling, Pt. 1"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanAugust 15, 2018 ( 2018-08-15 ) 2.13 [13]
    99"The Unravelling, Pt. 2"Taylor SheridanTaylor SheridanAugust 22, 2018 ( 2018-08-22 ) 2.37 [14]

    Season 2 (2019) Edit

    No. in
    Title [15] Directed byWritten byOriginal air date [15] U.S. viewers
    101"A Thundering"Ed BianchiTaylor Sheridan & John CovenyJune 19, 2019 ( 2019-06-19 ) 2.41 [16]
    112"New Beginnings"Ed BianchiTaylor SheridanJune 26, 2019 ( 2019-06-26 ) 2.21 [17]
    123"The Reek of Desperation"Stephen KayTaylor SheridanJuly 10, 2019 ( 2019-07-10 ) 2.28 [18]
    134"Only Devils Left"Stephen KayBrett Conrad and Taylor SheridanJuly 17, 2019 ( 2019-07-17 ) 2.08 [19]
    145"Touching Your Enemy"John DahlJohn Coveny & Ian McCulloch and Taylor SheridanJuly 24, 2019 ( 2019-07-24 ) 2.18 [20]
    156"Blood the Boy"John DahlBrett Conrad and Taylor SheridanJuly 31, 2019 ( 2019-07-31 ) 2.27 [21]
    167"Resurrection Day"Ben RichardsonJohn Coveny & Ian McCulloch and Taylor SheridanAugust 7, 2019 ( 2019-08-07 ) 2.31 [22]
    178"Behind Us Only Grey"Ben RichardsonBrett Conrad and Taylor SheridanAugust 14, 2019 ( 2019-08-14 ) 2.54 [23]
    189"Enemies by Monday"Guy FerlandTaylor Sheridan and Eric BeckAugust 21, 2019 ( 2019-08-21 ) 2.46 [24]
    1910"Sins of the Father"Stephen KayTaylor Sheridan & Eric BeckAugust 28, 2019 ( 2019-08-28 ) 2.81 [25]

    Season 3 (2020) Edit

    No. in
    Title [15] Directed byWritten by [26] Original air date [15] U.S. viewers
    201"You're the Indian Now"Stephen KayTaylor SheridanJune 21, 2020 ( 2020-06-21 ) 4.23 [27]
    John meets with the Governor and says he will resign as livestock commissioner and decides to name Jamie as his successor. Kayce decides to build a camp for the summer so they can keep an eye on the herd. Monica chastises her students for their lack of interest in the world in which they live. Beth and Chief Rainwater both find out about a new threat in the valley.
    212"Freight Trains and Monsters"Stephen KayTaylor SheridanJune 28, 2020 ( 2020-06-28 ) 3.57 [28]
    Life continues at the summer camp while Jamie begins his new job as Livestock Commissioner. Beth pays a visit to the enigmatic Roarke Morris and learns of his ultimate plans for the valley. Teeter joins the ranch as the new female ranch hand. John reminisces about lives past. Jamie is faced with a problem which could rock the very foundations of his career and future.
    223"An Acceptable Surrender"John DahlTaylor SheridanJuly 5, 2020 ( 2020-07-05 ) 3.73 [29]
    Jamie seeks to fix the problem of Agent Hendon's murderous actions by concocting a story which will save everyone involved while earning Jamie the respect of the ranchers he represents. Ellis Steele approaches Governor Perry and unveils his plans for placing an airport in the middle of the Yellowstone Ranch, pressuring her to invoke eminent domain for the billions of tax revenue the new resort will earn for Montana. Jimmy decides to pursue his dreams of rodeo, while John and Governor Perry discuss saving the ranch by moving Jamie into the position of Interim Attorney General and for Kayce to step in as Livestock Commissioner.
    234"Going Back to Cali"John DahlTaylor SheridanJuly 12, 2020 ( 2020-07-12 ) 3.55 [30]
    Jimmy recuperates from his rodeo accident with a little help from Mia. Beth leaks information to the press about Market Equities' unsecured leasing plans to develop the valley, thus causing their stock prices to plummet. Thomas Rainwater enlists the help of an old adversary to battle Ellis Steele and his horde of developers. Governor Perry pays a visit to the summer camp to convince Kayce to become Livestock Commissioner. Beth reveals to Rip that she cannot bear children. California bikers are taught a lesson they won't soon forget about trespassing on the Dutton Ranch.
    245"Cowboys and Dreamers"
    "Death Follows You" [26]
    Christina VorosTaylor SheridanJuly 19, 2020 ( 2020-07-19 ) 3.69 [31]
    A flashback reveals the origin of Beth's hatred toward Jamie. Thomas Rainwater and John meet to discuss their common enemy and how best to combat them. Kayce, as new Livestock Commissioner, takes a risk to help a local family. Beth continues to come after Roarke by shorting his company's stock while both throw down the gauntlet. Rip and the boys get into an altercation with an old adversary of John Dutton.
    256"All for Nothing"Christina VorosTaylor SheridanJuly 26, 2020 ( 2020-07-26 ) 3.68 [32]
    Wade Morrow and John Dutton confront one another over an old feud. A missing girl on the reservation sparks a massive search, which results in finding the young girl dead and fosters a newfound commitment from Monica for her people. Mia and Laramie shake up the bunkhouse with a little late night buffalo riding. Willa Hays, CEO of Market Equities, makes Jamie a ridiculous offer for 50,000 acres of the Dutton Ranch. Beth confesses to her father what Jamie did at the abortion clinic when they were teenagers, thus creating more schism in the family.
    267"The Beating"Guy FerlandTaylor SheridanAugust 2, 2020 ( 2020-08-02 ) 3.63 [33]
    Cattle thieves send Kayce and his crew on a statewide hunt for the missing livestock. Rip has a terrible horrible no good very bad day with Jimmy and Mia. Beth and Angela Blue Thunder align their common causes against Market Equities. John gives Wade Morrow's son a beating in a local diner. Beth juxtaposes roles and asks Rip to marry her. Jamie discovers a secret which has been kept from him since childhood.
    278"I Killed a Man Today"Guy FerlandTaylor SheridanAugust 9, 2020 ( 2020-08-09 ) 3.83 [34]
    John and Tate enjoy a little horsemanship. Jamie convinces Kayce that Market Equities' offer might be in the family's best interest. Willa Hays and Beth play tug-of-war with each other's companies' stock. Monica departs on a dangerous mission to bring justice to Native women. Beth unsuccessfully attempts to convince John to sell off part of the ranch. Wade Morrow sends a message to John by exacting revenge upon Colby and Teeter.
    289"Meaner Than Evil"Stephen KayTaylor SheridanAugust 16, 2020 ( 2020-08-16 ) 3.99 [35]
    Walker returns to the fold. Beth is ousted from her position at Schwartz & Meyer by Willa Hays, but vows revenge. Jamie confronts his past in the flesh. Wade Morrow meets his Maker, but not before returning something to John Dutton. Walker is forced to prove his loyalty to the brand.
    2910"The World is Purple"Stephen KayTaylor SheridanAugust 23, 2020 ( 2020-08-23 ) 5.16 [36]
    In speaking with his biological father, Jamie realizes certain truths about his life that will set him on a different path. Willa tasks Roarke with playing dirty. Mia confronts Jimmy about his brand and challenges him to return to rodeo. All the players sit down at the negotiating table with John's back clearly against the wall. Angela Blue Thunder admonishes Rainwater for being a slave to the white man's rules and tells him that the land must be retaken by force if necessary. All out war is unleashed on the Dutton family as they are one-by-one targeted for assassination.

    Development Edit

    In 2013, Taylor Sheridan began work on the series, having recently grown tired of acting and begun writing screenplays. Having lived in the rural parts of states such as Texas and Wyoming, Sheridan purposely set the series in Montana and went about writing the first scripts in Livingston. [37]

    On May 3, 2017, it was announced that the Paramount Network had greenlit its first scripted series, Yellowstone. Paramount issued a series order for a first season consisting of ten episodes. The series was set to be written, directed, and executive-produced by Sheridan. Other executive producers were to include John Linson, Art Linson, Harvey Weinstein, and David Glasser. Production companies involved with the series were set to consist of Linson Entertainment and The Weinstein Company. [3]

    On October 12, 2017, it was announced that following reports of sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, his name would be removed from the series' credits as would The Weinstein Company. [38] On January 15, 2018, Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, clarified during the annual Television Critics Association's winter press tour that Yellowstone will not have The Weinstein Company's credits or logo on them, even though that company was involved in production. Furthermore, he stated that their intent is to replace Weinstein Television with the company's new name in the show's credits when available. [39] That same day, it was also announced that the series would premiere on June 20, 2018. [40]

    On July 24, 2018, it was announced that Paramount Network had renewed the series for a second season that was expected to premiere in 2019. [41] On March 21, 2019, it was announced that the second season will premiere on June 19, 2019. [42] On June 19, 2019, the series was renewed by Paramount for a third season, which premiered on June 21, 2020. [5] [1] On February 21, 2020, Paramount Network renewed the series for a fourth season, ahead of the premiere of its third season. [2]

    Casting Edit

    On May 15, 2017, it was announced that Kevin Costner had been cast in the series lead role of John Dutton. [43] In June 2017, it was reported that Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser, Wes Bentley, and Kelly Reilly had joined the cast as series regulars. [44] [45] On July 13, 2017, it was announced that Kelsey Asbille had been cast in a main role. [46] In August 2017, it was reported that Dave Annable, Gil Birmingham, and Jefferson White had been added to the main cast while Wendy Moniz, Gretchen Mol, Jill Hennessy, Patrick St. Esprit, Ian Bohen, Denim Richards, and Golden Brooks were joining the cast in a recurring capacity. [47] [48] [49] [50] In November 2017, it was announced that Michaela Conlin and Josh Lucas had been added to the cast in recurring roles. [51] [52] On December 19, 2017, it was reported that Heather Hemmens was joining the cast in a recurring capacity. [53] On June 13, 2018, it was announced that Barret Swatek had been cast in a recurring role. [54] On September 14, 2018, it was announced that Neal McDonough was joining the cast of season two in a recurring capacity. [55]

    Filming Edit

    Principal photography for the series began in August 2017 at the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana, which stands in as the home of John Dutton. Filming also took place that month near Park City, Utah. The production used all three soundstages at the Utah Film Studios in Park City, which is a total of 45,000 square feet. The building also houses offices, editing, a huge wardrobe department and construction shops. By November 2017, the series had filmed in more than twenty locations in Utah, including the Salt Flats, Promontory Club, and Spanish Fork. Additionally, filming also took place at various locations in Montana. Production was reportedly set to last until December 2017. [56] [57]

    In August 2020, the series announced that filming was completely moved to Montana. An undisclosed production location was rented in Missoula, Montana. [58] Film locations included the Community Medical Center, Ryman Street near the County Courthouse, and a diner on Brooks Street in Missoula, as well as places in nearby Hamilton, Montana. [59]

    Music Edit

    The series' score was composed by Brian Tyler who worked with musicians from the London Philharmonia Orchestra and viola, cello, and violin soloists. On August 17, 2018, the soundtrack for the first season was released by Sony Music. [60]

    On February 28, 2018, a teaser trailer for the series was released, [61] with a full trailer being released on April 26. [62] On June 25, 2018, the series held a screening at Seriesfest, an annual international television festival, at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado. [63] [64] The first season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 4, 2018. [65] In July 2020, the first two seasons of the series began to be carried on NBCUniversal's streaming service Peacock. The third season was released on November 22, 2020. [66] [67]

    Y: 1883 Edit

    A prequel series, titled Y: 1883, is in development following a five-year deal signed by Sheridan with ViacomCBS and MTV Entertainment Group, and is scheduled to premiere in 2021, on Paramount+, once completed. [68] [69]

    6666 Edit

    Another planned spin-off, titled 6666, is set in the present day on the Four Sixes Ranch in Texas. [70] [71]

    Critical response Edit

    The series was met with a mixed response from critics upon its premiere. Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the first season a score of 54 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." [72] On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 53% approval rating, with an average rating of 5.82/10 based on 49 reviews. The website's critical consensus of the first season reads, "'Yellowstone' proves too melodramatic to be taken seriously, diminishing the effects of the talented cast and beautiful backdrops." [73] Season 2 has an approval rating of 88%, based on 8 reviews. [74] Season 3 has an approval rating of 100% based on reviews from 6 critics. [75]

    Ratings Edit

    The two-hour series premiere of Yellowstone averaged 2.8 million viewers in live + same day and became the most-watched original scripted series telecast ever on Paramount Network (or its predecessor Spike). The premiere audience grows to nearly 4 million when the two encore airings of the premiere are factored in. The premiere audience more than doubled that of Paramount Network's first scripted drama series, Waco and more than tripled the debut viewership of Paramount Network's new comedy series, American Woman. [76] It was later reported that the premiere's Live+3 Nielsen ratings revealed that 4.8 million viewers ultimately watched the premiere after delayed viewing was factored in. [77] By the series' third episode, it was reported that the show had become the second-most-watched television series on ad-supported cable to air in 2018, only behind AMC's The Walking Dead. [78]

    The Yellowstone Dutton Ranch is not a real ranch

    In all likelihood, the first thing folks are going to find out when they start digging into the history of Yellowstone's prized Dutton Ranch is that it doesn't really exist. That'll hardly come as a shock to many, because as authentic as the show might feel when it's not indulging in overtly melodramatic shenanigans, it is an entirely fictional tale. As such, there is not now, nor has there ever been, a functioning Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in Montana. Nor has there ever been a real, true-grit styled rancher by the name of John Dutton who could call that ranch his home.

    That's not to say, however, that there isn't any sort of real-world basis for such a ranch, or even such a person. Though Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan has never confirmed as much, it's a safe bet that there's more than a little bit of historical basis for both the man and the land at the center of the Yellowstone fray.

    In terms of the man in the middle of Yellowstone's narrative, John Dutton is most likely a composite character based on a couple of different North American ranching icons. Chief among them are current Montana kingpin Bill Galt, who (like John Dutton) has a penchant for flying around in a helicopter and taking meetings with high-powered politicians. The other is Texas ranching legend W.T. Waggoner, who was every bit as hell bent as John Dutton on keeping his 520,000 acre, North Texas Waggoner Ranch (itself the likely inspiration for Yellowstone's Dutton Ranch) in the family for as long as possible. While it remains to be seen how successful John Dutton will be in that endeavor, Waggoner managed the feat for nearly two centuries.

    Summary of Eruption History

    Yellowstone's volcanism is the most recent in a 17 million-year history of volcanic activity that progressed from southwest to northeast along the Snake River Plain.

    Map showing the path of the Yellowstone hotspot.(Public domain.)

    Hot spot volcanism is responsible for Yellowstone eruptions.

    Yellowstone's volcanism is the most recent in a 17 million-year history of volcanic activity that progressed from southwest to northeast along the Snake River Plain. A track of volcanic complexes can be traced for more than 750 km (450 mi) and marks the surface manifestation of hot spot volcanism where a plume of mantle material rises into the crust, is stored, then erupts. Similar to today's Yellowstone Plateau Volcanic Field, at least six other large volcanic centers along this path generated multiple caldera-forming eruptions. The calderas are no longer visible because they are buried beneath younger basaltic lava flows and sediments that blanket the Snake River Plain. Eruptions from each of the volcanic centers lasted a few million years before crustal movement reoriented the center of magmatic activity. There was a 2.3-million-year hiatus between the last significant caldera-forming event in the adjacent and older Heise Volcanic Field, and the inception of volcanic activity in the modern Yellowstone Plateau.

    Yellowstone Plateau Volcanic Field evolved as three repeat cycle.

    Columnar jointed lava flows from 1.3 million years ago at Narrows of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. (Credit: Brantley, S. R.. Public domain.)

    Three extraordinarily large explosive eruptions in the past 2.1 million years each created a giant caldera within or west of Yellowstone National Park. During these eruptions, enormous volumes of hot, fragmented volcanic rocks spread outward as pyroclastic density currents over vast areas. The hot ash, pumice, and other rock fragments accumulated and welded together to form extensive sheets of hard lava-like rock. In some sections, these welded ash-flow tuffs are more than 400 m thick! These ash-flow sheets—from oldest to youngest, the Huckleberry Ridge, Mesa Falls, and Lava Creek Tuffs—account for more than half the material erupted from Yellowstone in the past 2.1 million years. Because such enormous amounts of magma were erupted during each explosive event, the roof of the magma-storage regions collapsed, and the ground above subsided by many hundreds of meters to form the calderas.

    The Lost History Of Yellowstone

    After 14 summers excavating in Yellowstone National Park, Doug MacDonald has a simple rule of thumb. “Pretty much anywhere you’d want to pitch a tent, there are artifacts,” he says, holding up a 3,000-year-old obsidian projectile point that his team has just dug out of the ground. “Like us, Native Americans liked to camp on flat ground, close to water, with a beautiful view.”

    We’re standing on a rise near the Yellowstone River, or the Elk River as most Native American tribes called it. A thin wet snow is falling in late June, and a few scattered bison are grazing in the sagebrush across the river. Apart from the road running through it, the valley probably looks much as it did 30 centuries ago, when someone chipped away at this small piece of black glassy stone until it was lethally sharp and symmetrical, then fastened it to a straightened shaft of wood and hurled it at bison with a spear-throwing tool, or atlatl.

    Hunted nearly to extinction by white hunters, bison numbered only about two dozen inside Yellowstone in 1902. Today the herd consists of about 4,800. (Andrew Geiger)

    “The big myth about Yellowstone is that it’s a pristine wilderness untouched by humanity,” says MacDonald. “Native Americans were hunting and gathering here for at least 11,000 years. They were pushed out by the government after the park was established. The Army was brought in to keep them out, and the public was told that Native Americans were never here in the first place because they were afraid of the geysers.”

    MacDonald is slim, clean-cut, in his early 50s. Originally from central Maine, he is a professor of anthropology at the University of Montana and the author of a recent book, Before Yellowstone: Native American Archaeology in the National Park. Drawing on his own extensive discoveries in the field, the work of previous archaeologists, the historical record and Native American oral traditions, MacDonald provides an essential account of Yellowstone’s human past. Tobin Roop, chief of cultural resources at Yellowstone, says, “As an archaeologist, working in partnership with the park, MacDonald has really opened up our understanding of the nuances and complexities of the prehistory.”

    Left: For more than 11,000 years, Obsidian Cliff served as an invaluable source of volcanic glass, which Native Americans fashioned into razor-sharp arrowheads and spear tips. Right: Last summer, archaeologist Doug MacDonald (at Yellowstone Lake) and his team unearthed a Nez Perce encampment from 1877, when they fled the U.S. Cavalry. (Andrew Geiger)

    MacDonald sees his work, in part, as a moral necessity. “This is a story that was deliberately covered up and it needs to be told,” he says. “Most visitors to the park have no idea that hunter-gatherers were an integral part of this landscape for thousands of years.”

    In the last three decades, the National Park Service has made substantial efforts to research and explain the Native American history and prehistory of Yellowstone, but the virgin-wilderness myth is still promoted in the brochure that every visitor receives at the park entrance: “When you watch animals in Yellowstone, you glimpse the world as it was before humans.” Asked if he considers that sentence absurd, or offensive to Native Americans, MacDonald answers with a wry smile. “Let’s just say the marketing hasn’t caught up with the research,” he says. “Humans have been in Yellowstone since the time of mammoths and mastodons.”

    The caldera is a vast depression formed by the eruption of volcanic magma. (5W Infographics)

    Shane Doyle, a research associate at Montana State University and a member of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation, burst out laughing when I read him that sentence from the brochure. But his laughter had an edge to it. “The park is a slap in the face to Native people,” he said. “There is almost no mention of the dispossession and violence that happened. We have essentially been erased from the park, and that leads to a lot of hard feelings, although we do love to go to Yellowstone and reminisce about our ancestors living there in a good way.”

    On the road between the Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs is a massive outcrop of dark volcanic rock known as Obsidian Cliff, closed to the public to prevent pilfering. This was the most important source in North America for high-quality obsidian, a type of volcanic glass that forms when lava cools rapidly. It yields the sharpest edge of any natural substance on earth, ten times sharper than a razor blade, and Native Americans prized it for making knives, hide-scraping tools, projectile points for spears and atlatl darts, and, after the invention of the bow and arrow 1,500 years ago, for arrowheads.

    A portable shelter constructed by Shoshone people epitomizes the resourcefulness of hunter-gatherers. (Original archival-image photographer: William Henry Jackson)

    For the first people who explored the high geothermal Yellowstone plateau—the first to see Old Faithful and the other scenic wonders—Obsidian Cliff was a crucial discovery and perhaps the best reason to keep coming back. In that era, after the rapid melting of half-mile-thick glaciers that had covered the landscape, Yellowstone was a daunting place to visit. Winters were longer and harsher than they are today, and summers were wet and soggy with flooded valleys, dangerous rivers and a superabundance of mosquitoes.

    MacDonald made one of the most exciting finds of his career in 2013 on the South Arm of Yellowstone Lake: a broken obsidian projectile point with a flake removed from its base in a telltale fashion. It was a Clovis point, approximately 11,000 years old and made by the earliest visitors to Yellowstone. The Clovis people (named after Clovis, New Mexico, where their distinctive, fluted points were first discovered in 1929) were hardy, fur-clad, highly successful hunters. Their prey included woolly mammoths, mastodons and other animals that would become extinct, including a bison twice the size of our modern species.

    The Clovis point that MacDonald’s team spotted on the beach is one of only two ever found in the park, suggesting that the Clovis people were infrequent visitors. They preferred the lower elevation plains of present-day Wyoming and Montana, where the weather was milder and large herds of megafauna supported them for 1,000 years or more. MacDonald thinks a few bands of Clovis people lived in the valleys below the Yellowstone plateau. They would come up occasionally in the summer to harvest plants and hunt and get more obsidian.

    In the region of Yellowstone Lake, migrating Native Americans hunted bison, deer, elk, bear and rabbit, and foraged for foodstuffs including bitterroot and pine nuts. (Andrew Geiger)

    “Native Americans were the first hard-rock miners in Wyoming and it was arduous work,” says MacDonald. “We’ve found more than 50 quarry sites on Obsidian Cliff, and some of them are chest-deep pits where they dug down to get to the good obsidian, probably using the scapular blade of an elk. Obsidian comes in a cobble [sizable lump]. You have to dig that out of the ground, then break it apart and start knapping the smaller pieces. We found literally millions of obsidian flakes on the cliff, and we see them all over the park, wherever people were sitting in camp making tools.”

    Each obsidian flow has its own distinctive chemical signature, which can be identified by X-ray fluorescence, a technique developed in the 1960s. Artifacts made of Yellowstone obsidian from Obsidian Cliff have been found all over the Rockies and the Great Plains, in Alberta, and as far east as Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario. Clearly it was a valuable commodity and widely traded.

    On the Scioto River south of Columbus, Ohio, archaeologists identified 300 pounds of Yellowstone obsidian in mounds built by the Hopewell people 2,000 years ago. It’s possible the obsidian was traded there by intermediaries, but MacDonald and some other archaeologists believe that groups of Hopewell made the 4,000-mile round trip, by foot and canoe, to bring back the precious stone.

    Left: A 10,000-year-old hunting spear tip made of obsidian. It was produced by knapping, using hard rocks and antlers to break off flakes. Right: For 1,000 years, up until European American contact at Yellowstone, the Shoshone hand-shaped soapstone bowls for cooking and storage. (Andrew Geiger)

    “In 2009, we found a very large ceremonial knife, typical of the Hopewell culture and unlike anything from this region, on a terrace above Yellowstone Lake,” he says. “How did it get there? It’s not far-fetched to think that it was lost by Hopewell people on a trip to Obsidian Cliff. They would have left in early spring and followed the rivers, just like Lewis and Clark, except 2,000 years earlier.”

    Another tantalizing relic, found inside a Hopewell mound in Ohio, is a copper sculpture of a bighorn ram’s horn. Then as now, there were no bighorn sheep in the Midwest or the Great Plains. But if Hopewell people were making epic journeys west to get obsidian, they would have seen bighorns in the Northern Rockies, and the animals were particularly abundant in Yellowstone.

    Twenty miles long and 14 miles wide, Yellowstone Lake is the largest natural high-elevation lake in North America. MacDonald describes the five summers he spent on the remote, roadless southern and eastern shores of the lake with a small crew of graduate students as “the most exciting and also the most frightening experience of my career.” Today we are standing on the northern shore, which is accessible by road. A cold wind is blowing, and the water looks like a choppy sea with spray flying off the whitecaps. “We had to use canoes to get there and load them with all our gear,” he recalls. “The water gets really rough in bad weather, much worse than you see today, and we nearly got swamped a few times. One of our crew got hypothermia. We had to build an illegal fire to save his life. Another time my guys were stalked on the beach by a cougar.”

    The majestic 308-foot Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, as seen from Artist Point. (Andrew Geiger)

    Grizzlies are his biggest fear. MacDonald always carries bear spray in Yellowstone, never walks alone and is careful to make plenty of noise in the woods. One night at the lake, he recalls, he and his crew were eating steaks around a campfire when they saw a young grizzly bear staring at them from 200 yards. That night they heard his roars and barks echoing across the lake they surmised that the bear was frustrated because a bigger grizzly was keeping him away from an elk carcass a quarter-mile distant.

    “The next day he attacked our camp,” says MacDonald. “He peed in my tent, pooped everywhere, destroyed the fire pit, licked the grill, just trashed everything. We stayed up all night making noise, and thankfully it worked. He didn’t come back. I still have that tent and it still reeks of bear pee.”

    They also had trouble from bison and bull elk that occupied their excavation sites and declined to leave. They endured torrential rains and ferocious electric storms. Once they had to evacuate in canoes because of a forest fire. “We all had the feeling that the gods wanted us out of there, and we kept finding amazing stuff. There were basically sites everywhere.”

    Among their discoveries were a 6,000-year-old hearth, a Late Prehistoric stone circle (or tepee base) lying intact under a foot of dirt, and a wide variety of stone tools and projectile points. Excavating a small boulder with obsidian flakes littered around its base, they knew that someone, man or woman, boy or girl, had sat there making tools 3,000 years ago. “I think both genders knapped stone tools, because they were in such constant use and demand,” says MacDonald.

    MacDonald’s team found evidence of continual human occupation on the lakeshore for 9,500 years, starting with the Cody Culture people, whose square-stemmed projectile points and asymmetrical knives were first discovered in Cody, Wyoming. More than 70 Cody points and knives have been found in Yellowstone, with the greatest concentration at the lake. “The climate was getting hotter and drier and it was cool up here in summer. As the bison migrated up to the higher elevations, Cody people almost certainly followed them.”

    With the first organized expedition to Yellowstone in 1869, surveyor David Folsom marveled at “springs filled with mud resembling thick paint, pure white to yellow, pink, red and violet.” (Andrew Geiger)

    Over the following millennia, as the climate warmed, the modern bison evolved and human populations rose in the Great Plains and Rockies. Yellowstone became a favored summer destination, drawing people from hundreds of miles away, and the lakeshore was an ideal place to camp. There is no evidence of conflict among the different tribal groups MacDonald thinks they probably traded and visited with one another.

    The peak of Native American activity in Yellowstone was in the Late Archaic period, 3,000 to 1,500 years ago, but even in the 19th century it was still heavily used, with as many as ten tribes living around the lake, including Crow, Blackfeet, Flathead, Shoshone, Nez Perce and Bannock.

    Today, as sedentary people, we equate “living” in a place with long-term or even permanent settlement. But for hunter-gatherers who follow animal migrations, avoid climate extremes and harvest different plants as they ripen in different areas, the word has a different meaning. They live in a place for part of the year, then leave and come back, generation after generation. One Shoshone group known as the Sheepeaters seldom left the current park boundaries, because they were able to harvest bighorn sheep year-round. But most Native Americans in Yellowstone moved down to lower, warmer elevations in winter, and returned to the high plateau in the spring. A few brave souls returned in late winter to walk on the frozen lake and hunt bears hibernating on the islands.

    The grasslands of Lamar Valley, where archaeologists studying former Native American camps have found evidence of butchered bison. (Andrew Geiger)

    “They were probably getting the spiritual power of the animal, and demonstrating their courage, by entering the dens,” says MacDonald. “People have hunted bears that way in Siberia, Northern Europe, anywhere there’s bears. Some people still do. You can see the videos on YouTube. Young adult males are the only ones stupid enough to do it, and I imagine that was the case here too.”

    When MacDonald was a freshman at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, he studied political economy, international development and finance, and envisioned a career at the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. Then he spent a couple of summers in central Mexico with friends who liked visiting archaeological sites, often traveling on third-class rural “chicken buses” to get there.

    “Some of those sites were amazing, and when I got back to Brown, I started taking archaeology classes,” he says. “One of them was taught by Richard Gould, who is kind of a famous guy, and it was about hunter-gatherers. It made me realize that I didn’t want to spend my life at the World Bank. I wanted to work on the archaeology of hunter-gatherers instead.”

    MacDonald has never killed his own meat and knows little about edible and medicinal plants, but he believes that hunting and gathering is the most successful way of living that humanity has ever devised. “We’re proud of our technological advances, but in historical terms our society has lasted a split second,” he says. “We lived as hunter-gatherers for three million years. We moved around in extended family groups that took care of each other. It was egalitarian because there was no wealth. It was a healthy way for humans to live and we were well adapted for it by evolution.”

    MacDonald’s coworkers include Monte White, who is excavating while Scott Dersam and Bradan Tobin sift soil through screens to recover artifacts. (Andrew Geiger)

    He came to Yellowstone because it’s the ideal place to study the archaeology of hunter-gatherers. It has never been farmed or logged, and most of its archaeological sites are intact. Morally, however, it’s a difficult place for him to work, because he “greatly laments” the removal of hunter-gatherers from the land and wishes they could come back. “There’s an irony to this,” he says. “We kicked Native Americans out of Yellowstone to make a park. Now we’re trying to find out how they lived here.”

    In the oral traditions of the Crow, Shoshone, Blackfeet, Flathead, Bannock, Nez Perce and other tribes with ancient associations to Yellowstone, there is a rich store of material about the country they knew as “land of the geysers,” “land of the burning ground,” “the place of hot water,” “land of vapors” or “many smoke.” Much of this knowledge was gathered into a 2004 book, Restoring a Presence, by Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf, whose research was funded by the National Park Service.

    Archaeological research supports and complements the tribal oral histories, and also reaches back further in time. In the view of Elaine Hale, who was the archaeologist at Yellowstone for 25 years, and has co-written a history of archaeology in the park, MacDonald “dives deeper than the rest.” Asked to elaborate, she says, “He uses a wider range of scientific techniques and equipment, like ground-penetrating radar and pollen analysis. He’s unique in the heart and thoughtfulness he brings to his work. He shares, promotes, communicates. He’s inspired so many students by bringing them to the park, including a lot of Native American students. For prehistoric archaeology in Yellowstone, no one is more well versed, and he’s reframed the whole approach.”

    Left: Archaeologists at the dig consult the Munsell color chart, a reference that standardizes names applied to sediment-layer colors. Soil stratification is used in dating finds. Right: National Park archaeologist Beth Horton tells visitors that Yellowstone’s “roads and trails here were Native American trails thousands of years ago.” (Andrew Geiger)

    It was by measuring the decay of radioactive carbon in charcoal buried in the ground that MacDonald was able to date the lakeshore hearth as 6,000 years old, within an accuracy of 30 years. By testing blood and fat residues on 9,000-year-old stone knives and spear points, he found out that Cody people in Yellowstone primarily hunted bison and bear, but also elk, deer, rabbit and other species.

    Microscopic remains of plants sifted from ancient campsites reveal what Native Americans were gathering thousands of years ago. Camas and bitterroot, both of which contain protein and grow in alpine meadows, were presumably vital to survival. Traces also have been detected of goosefoot, sunflower, sagebrush, wild onion, prickly pear cactus, balsamroot and various grasses, although hundreds of other species were probably gathered as well. In their campfires they were burning pine, spruce, ash, aspen, sagebrush and mistletoe.

    At a site above the Yellowstone River, MacDonald’s crews excavated three stone circles marking the location of tepees. The circles were 400 years old and they inspired MacDonald to imagine a day in the existence of the family who had lived here. “I thought about them in late October, ” he says. “The father, uncle and son are hunting in the hills above the river, the women collecting driftwood from the riverbanks, everyone is nervously watching black storm clouds come over the mountains and realizing that it’s time to hurry home.”

    To Native Americans, says Montana State University’s Shane Doyle, Yellowstone is “spectacularly diverse, with many climates and cultural zones centered in one place.” (Rachel Leathe)

    In MacDonald’s imagining, the father has killed a deer with his bow, and now, with the help of his brother and son, he quickly butchers it. They use large obsidian knives hafted by rabbit cordage to bone handles. The meat, which they pack into leather bags, will provide food to the extended family for a few days, and the hide will be made into leggings for the coming winter. Meanwhile, mother and her baby, grandmother, aunt and daughter walk along the river in a howling wind, followed by three wolf-like dogs. They surprise a rabbit, which daughter shoots with her bow. She skins the animal with an obsidian blade while the baby wails on her mother’s back from the bitter wind and driving snowflakes.

    In the last ten days, this extended family band has raised and lowered its tepee five times. They are moving quickly off the high Yellowstone plateau toward their first winter camp by the river. Now, as the storm rages with full force, they raise the tepee again, father and son tying the poles together at the top while the women adjust the hides. Grandmother and aunt push rocks over the bottom edges of the hides, to block the wind and snow. The entire process takes about an hour. Everyone has cold feet and numb hands except the baby in its cradle board.

    They enter the tepee and manage to get a fire going with the dry willow and sagebrush that the women packed in a bag. They lay down their gear and sleeping hides of bear and bison on the floor of the tepee, which is broad enough to accommodate all six adults and three children. The women unpack the rabbit meat and a variety of wild herbs and vegetables. They will eat well this evening and stay warm as the first winter storm of the year rages outside.

    Four hundred years later, MacDonald’s crew excavated the fire pit in this tepee circle. They found tiny pieces of charcoal from the sagebrush in the fire, pieces of rabbit bone and plants from a stew, a stone scraping tool used to process deer hide into leggings, and a small pile of obsidian flakes. “I imagine that daughter made herself a new arrow point to replace the one she used to kill the rabbit,” says MacDonald. “They kept the fire going all night with sagebrush, and the sparks went up through the intercrossed poles high above them.”

    A particular challenge for archaeologists in Yellowstone is the acidic soil, which has dissolved away most organic material in the archaeological record. They can’t determine what clothing looked like, for example, and they’ve found the remains of only a few human beings. One was a woman buried with a dog 2,000 years ago near the current location of the Fishing Bridge visitor center. When human remains are discovered, the park service calls in elders and council members from the 26 Native American tribes associated with Yellowstone, who decide the best course of action. The woman and her dog were reburied inside the park with a traditional ceremony.

    A tree swallow soars over Yellowstone Lake. Three hundred bird species have been recorded in the park, including 11 types of owls. (Andrew Geiger) Sheepeater Cliff, on the Gardner River, some 6,800 feet above sea level. The Sheepeaters, who were Shoshone, relied on hunting bighorns. (Andrew Geiger)

    MacDonald thinks that the steep, forbidding mountains above the plateau are the real terra incognita for archaeologists. Yellowstone has 40 mountain peaks above 10,000 feet, and we know from Native American testimonies that they were important religious sites. People went there to pray and seek visions by fasting. For shelter from the wind, they built small structures of stacked rocks known as fasting beds. A few of these have been found in Yellowstone, on peaks with panoramic views, and MacDonald is confident that archaeologists will locate more.

    There is no truth to the idea that Native Americans were afraid of the geysers and thermal features. Archaeologists have excavated hundreds of campsites near the geysers, and the Shoshone would soak the horns of bighorn sheep in the bubbling hot springs before reshaping them into beautiful and deadly bows. In general, Yellowstone’s geysers, mud pots, hot springs and fumaroles were regarded as places of great spiritual power. From interviews with Plenty Coups, Hunts to Die and other 19th-century Crow warriors, we know that a famous Crow shaman called the Fringe (born in 1820, he died from smallpox in the 1860s) would come to the big geysers in Yellowstone to heal wounded people and seek visions.

    According to Hunts to Die, in his interview with the photographer-ethnographer Edward Curtis, the spirits in the geysers were afraid of people, rather than the other way around. But if you approached the spouting water in a pure and humble manner, some Native Americans believed, the spirits would reveal themselves and you could harness their powers.

    Muted sunlight, filtering down through a thin layer of clouds, works a kind of magic at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It saturates the colors on the canyon walls—yellows, reds, dark brown, orange, pink, white—and makes them glow with such intensity that the rocks appear to be lit from within. This is my first time seeing this famous canyon with its thundering waterfalls. While I struggle to make visual sense of it—how can the colors glow so brightly in this gray light?—MacDonald tells me about the artist Thomas Moran, whose 1872 painting of this scene, when displayed to legislators in Washington, D.C., was instrumental in getting Yellowstone designated as America’s national park.

    MacDonald and colleagues recently unearthed a spear tip, left, and partially worked obsidian fragment, right, roughly 3,000 years old. (Andrew Geiger)

    But MacDonald’s main reason for bringing me to this famed American vista was to point out that “this was part of the original Crow reservation.” Shane Doyle, the Crow scholar at Montana State, later outlined the history. “The original Crow reservation in 1851 was over 30 million acres, and it included the entire eastern half of what would be Yellowstone. In 1868, prompted by a gold rush, that was reduced to eight million acres, and we lost all our land in Wyoming. We had no conflict with white settlers, we scouted for the U.S. Army, we tried to be allies to the whites, and we got treated like all the other tribes. Our reservation now is about two million acres.”

    In 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed 2.2 million acres of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho into existence as Yellowstone National Park, several different tribal groups were camped around Yellowstone Lake and along the Madison and Yellowstone rivers. The Crow still legally owned a strip of land in Montana along the Yellowstone River. Sheepeaters were hunting and gathering in the more remote areas and managed to stay inside the park for another seven years.

    When the national park proposal was being debated in Washington, there had been little discussion about the “Indian” presence in Yellowstone and none about the land’s cultural importance to the tribes. They belonged on reservations, it was thought, where they could be instructed in English, Christianity, sedentary agriculture, individualism, capitalism and other Euro-American values. The park was created to protect the scenic wonders and wildlife from white hunters, prospectors, loggers and settlers. To encourage tourism, park officials and local promoters played down the presence of Native Americans and circulated the falsehood that they were afraid of the geysers. Anthropologist Matthew Sanger, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, stresses that conflicts with Native Americans were ongoing in the West at that time Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn was in 1876. “Creating a massive park in tribal lands was a distinct political act and it happened under a president who was fervently against Native peoples,” he says. “The park also represents the idea in Western philosophy that people are separate from nature, whereas Native American philosophy sees them as deeply intertwined.” On August 24, 1877, a party of nine visitors from Radersburg, Montana, were camped near Fountain Geyser, having made a glorious tour of the park. At 5 in the morning, as they were preparing breakfast, a group of Nez Perce warriors came into their camp, asking if they had seen soldiers and demanding food. Then more warriors appeared in the distance. The Radersburg party nervously packed up their wagons and started down the Firehole River, where they encountered some 800 Nez Perce and 2,000 horses. The nine tourists, having come to Yellowstone as sightseers, now found themselves in the thick of an armed conflict between the Nez Perce and the U.S. Army.

    Faced with the prospect of becoming farmers on a reservation, these Nez Perce had chosen to flee their homelands in Oregon. They were being pursued by the Army, with skirmishes and battles along the way. Angry young warriors had killed a number of whites. The Nez Perce were hoping to find refuge with the Crows in the buffalo country of Wyoming and Montana, or with Sitting Bull in Canada, where they could continue to live their traditional life of hunting and gathering.

    Left: At the edge of Yellowstone Lake, a white chert flake speaks to the Native presence. Finds there have been scientifically dated to about 1,000 years ago. Right: An obsidian arrow point, left, and a flat chert cutting tool, right, found by archaeologists. The knife would have been used to butcher bison, elk and deer. (Andrew Geiger)

    Contrary to what was reported in the newspapers at the time and has been taught to American schoolchildren ever since, the leader of the Nez Perce flight was not Chief Joseph. Joseph was a simple camp chief who made no military decisions and took charge of the Nez Perce only during their final surrender. As the great procession of warriors, elders, women, children, dogs and horses passed through Yellowstone, they were led by a half-white buffalo hunter known as Poker Joe. Against his instructions, a group of young warriors ended up looting the Radersburg party’s wagons and killing two of the tourists.

    In the park today road signs identify where the Nez Perce went next—across the Yellowstone River in the Hayden Valley, then to Yellowstone Lake, and up over what’s now called Dead Indian Pass in the northeastern corner of the park. Their old friends the Crows turned them away, so the Nez Perce went north toward Canada but were surrounded by the U.S. military in the Bears Paw Mountains of northern Montana. Joseph, the last chief standing, took over and, according to legend, he made a famous surrender speech: “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

    But that was not the end of armed conflict inside the new park. The following year, 1878, a group of Bannock and Shoshone warriors fled into Yellowstone after a violent uprising in Idaho. The same U.S. Cavalry general who had forced the Nez Perce to surrender, Nelson Miles, defeated them within 20 miles of Dead Indian Pass.

    To counteract the bad publicity generated by these two “Indian wars,” as they were described, park officials launched marketing campaigns that sought to erase the history of Native American presence in the park. Starting in 1886, the U.S. Cavalry patrolled the park for 32 years, to make tourists feel safer and discourage Native Americans from hunting and gathering in their old haunts.

    In MacDonald’s opinion, the existence of Yellowstone National Park, and the United States of America, came at a “terrible cost” to Native Americans, and the least we can do today is acknowledge the truth. “When people look at Yellowstone, they should see a landscape rich with Native American history, not a pristine wilderness. They’re driving on roads that were Native American trails. They’re camping where people camped for thousands of years.”

    Springs at Black Sand Basin, where the water in places is boiling hot and the distinctively colored granules are obsidian. (Andrew Geiger)

    MacDonald has no Native American blood, but he regards the people who lived in Yellowstone for 11,000 years as something like ancestors. “We’re all descended from hunter-gatherers who lived in similar ways to the people here,” he says. “They were really successful at surviving in difficult conditions. We know this because we’re alive. If they hadn’t been so resourceful and successful, none of us would be here today.”

    He would like to see more signs and exhibits about the park’s original inhabitants, first and foremost at Obsidian Cliff, but the park service is more concerned about protecting the site from possible looting. Shane Doyle has been advocating for a tepee village inside the park, where tribal college students could teach park visitors about the Native American history. “So far I’ve got nowhere,” Doyle says. “It might take a really long time, but I’m hopeful we’ll get there in the end. Surely, they can’t just keep pretending we were never there.”

    Park Information

    When the first visitors to Yellowstone tried to report what they saw, news magazines responded, “Thank you, but we do not print fiction.” Peppered with colorful hot springs, mudpots, and breathtaking waterfalls, it is easy to understand how one might think it otherworldly. Nothing else on Earth is quite like Yellowstone--and there is something for everyone, from children to grandparents.

    Established in 1872 and located primarily in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park was America's first national park. To this day, Yellowstone remains one of the country's most popular national parks with millions of annual visitors. Yellowstone spans almost 3,500 miles, and extends into parts of Montana and Idaho, making it one of the largest national parks in the US.

    Yellowstone National Park sits on top of a dormant volcano and is home to more geysers and hot springs than any other place on earth. Wonders abound at this truly unique national park, from sites like the Yellowstone Grand Canyon to wildlife like America’s largest buffalo herd, grizzly bears, and wolves. Approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features are at Yellowstone National Park, creating an effect that makes the ground appear to be on fire. The most famous of all the geysers is Old Faithful, one of the most popular and recognized natural wonders in the United States.

    Watch the video: Йеллоустон - священная природа Америки National Geographic