Yellowstone National Park history is a treasure trove of information beginning with the creation of the park. The park’s official history of Yellowstone begins in 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the establishment of Yellowstone National Park and made it the first national park in the world.
However, the human history of Yellowstone goes much further back—more than 11,000 years. The human history of Yellowstone was imprinted within the park by Native American peoples who traveled the area and used the lands as hunting grounds, temporary and permanent home bases, and transportation routes. Archaeological digs have discovered ancient hearth pits within the park validating the use of the land by human inhabitants.
Much of the history of Yellowstone was documented by Ferdinand Hayden who led an expedition of geologists, botanists, and zoologists, along with artist Thomas Moran and photographer William H. Jackson in an effort to catalogue the wildlife, geyser basins, Mammoth Hot Springs, waterfalls, mountain ranges, volcano, and limestone formations throughout the 2.2 million acre park.
In addition to its natural features, an important part of Yellowstone National Park history is its link to the U.S. Army. From 1886 to 1918, the care and protection of Yellowstone was assigned to a small contingent of soldiers. To have a base of operations dedicated to the management and administration of the park, Fort Yellowstone was erected at Mammoth Hot Springs. Visitors can now tour the Fort Yellowstone Historic District during vacations in the park.
On April 24, 1903, the northern entrance was the only entrance into the park. Visitors arrived by train, wagon, stagecoach or by horse. To commemorate the park that was created “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” as its engraving reads, the Roosevelt Arch was erected.
The arch is named after the conservationist, promoter of the park system, and frequent visitor to Yellowstone, President Theodore Roosevelt, who attended and gave a commemorate speech in honor of the arch. The arch bears his name. Today, the arch stands as a symbol for visitors and remains a popular attraction for anyone interested in Yellowstone National Park history.
As the popularity of Yellowstone increased and more visitors arrived, additional entrances were opened. There are a total of five main entrances into the park: the north entrance, northeast entrance, and the east, west, and south entrances.
One of the more somber historical facts about Yellowstone involves the five massive fires in 1988, which destroyed or damaged more than 793,000 acres. The damage took a toll on 36 percent of the park’s forests, valleys, and wildlife. The North Fork fire, which was the largest of the group, burned an estimated 410,000 acres on its own. At the time, the park was closed to everyone but emergency personnel for the first time in its history, and though Yellowstone has mostly recovered, visitors can still see the marks of these fires around the park.
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most beloved vacation destinations in the world, and it’s no wonder with such a dedicated employee work force and a focus on the park’s flora and fauna above else. One of the interesting facts about Yellowstone wildlife involves one of the resident species that did not exist in the park in 1994. In 1995 and 1996, the Yellowstone wolves were introduced to the park. Through dedication, care and safety provided to these magnificent animals, there are now more than 300 descendents of the original wolves residing within the park.
The goal of the park when it was created in 1872 was to preserve the natural beauty, resources, and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park, and by learning the historical and ecological facts about Yellowstone, visitors can more deeply appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them whether they’re hiking through the mountains or simply enjoying the campgrounds.