March Makes Me Think of Our First National Park
When the beginning of March rolls around a lot of people I know start talking about Major League
Baseball’s spring training or the pro football draft or the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Instead I am reminded how fortunate I am to live in a place where people from all over the world
make their way to enjoy the world’s largest concentration of geysers and the valley featuring the
finest wolf watching in the Lower 48 states. In addition to natural features, people take in tours of the
coolest log structure ever built – the Old Faithful Inn – and stop for photos next to a stone arch named
after a U.S. president with the foresight and commitment to set aside public lands.
That’s right. I am talking about the World’s First National Park. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses
S. Grant signed the bill setting aside 3,468.4 square miles (close to 2.2 million acres) to create
Yellowstone National Park. Now, I know a few people in California who argue that the other “Y” park
has a legitimate claim to being the first national park, but these Yosemite Sams lose me with their
convoluted explanations about land grants and such.
Here are a few of my favorite facts about Yellowstone.
- Yellowstone has the largest herd of free-roaming bison in the world.
- The park was named after the Yellowstone River, not the other way around.
- Construction of the Lake Yellowstone Hotel began in 1889 before a second national park even
- The park is home to more than half of the geysers in the world.
- While Old Faithful is arguably the world’s most famous geyser, it is not the most predictable or
- The Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert Reamer and financed by the Northern Pacific
- There are two other “Old Faithful” geysers, one in New Zealand and another at the north end of Napa Valley.
- The park is home to two of the world’s most successful wildlife conservation stories. The bison I mentioned earlier were almost eradicated in the early 1900s, but a program to supplement and protect the herd brought the population back to a healthy status. Check out the Lamar Buffalo Ranch some time and learn the complete story.
- The gray wolf was hunted to extinction in the park last century, and wolves from Canada were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996. The wolf population is now self-sustaining and one of the park’s major tourist draws in the winter.
- There are four named mountain ranges in the park: Gallatin, Red, Washburn and Absaroka.
More than 70 mountain peaks are above 8,000 feet.
- Yellowstone Lake is the largest alpine lake above 7,000 feet. It covers 3,468 square miles with
110 miles of shoreline.
- Yellowstone was a national park for 44 years before the National Park Service was even created.
- Dan Miller is the official cowboy musician of the park.
Okay, I made that last one up. But he should be.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and studying up on the world’s first national park – in Cody, Wyo.