From White House to Wyoming. The Presidents Who Came to Call in Yellowstone Country
CODY, Wyo., February 16, 2017 – All but two U.S. presidents since Ulysses S. Grant have visited the state of Wyoming before, during or after their terms in office. Of those presidents, several have ventured to the state’s northwestern region known as Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country, which includes the town of Cody as well as parts of Yellowstone National Park.
“With the abundance of history, culture and outdoor recreational offerings in our corner of the state, it is fitting – and not all that surprising – that so many U.S. presidents have chosen to spend time here for business or pleasure, and sometimes a little of both,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for the region.
Here are a few examples of presidential visits to Yellowstone Country:
· President Calvin Coolidge visited Cody on July 4, 1927 for the opening of the Buffalo Bill Museum, one of five museums that comprise the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
· President Gerald Ford was the most familiar with Yellowstone of all presidents. When he visited in official capacity in 1976, he was returning to the stomping ground he knew as a 23-year-old National Park Service Ranger in 1936. One of his duties as a ranger was to welcome VIPs to the park. He also helped protect park rangers who fed the bears at a garbage-filled feeding truck, which was a regular source of entertainment for park visitors at that time.
· One of the 19th-century presidents who spent the most time in northwestern Wyoming was President Chester A. Arthur. In 1883, he and his large entourage visited Yellowstone Country intent on having an authentic Western experience. Arthur was known to be bit of a dandy, and in a nod to Western style during a two-month vacation during his term, he covered his business suit with knee-length leather leggings. Arthur kept in touch with the outside world and engaged in presidential business by one daily mail courier on horseback who delivered and received Arthur’s messages.
· President Bill and Hillary Clinton took a stroll around Old Faithful Geyser in 1995.
· President Barack Obama and his family visited Yellowstone in 2009 and had lunch in the park’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
· President Jimmy Carter fished in Lake Yellowstone and then returned to the park after his presidency and dined in the employee pub at the park’s Lake Lodge. He even signed the wall of the pub, and his signature is still visible today.
· President George H.W. Bush visited Yellowstone in 1989 to survey the devastation of the 1988 fires. Park officials briefed the president about fire science. Bush also fished in a river near Cody and visited Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill Cody’s hunting lodge.
· Theodore Roosevelt was a big fan of the state, and he made several trips during his presidential tenure and returned to Wyoming to vacation after he left Washington. The robust president was far more of a natural in Western-style clothing and activities than some of his predecessors. He was a frequent visitor to Yellowstone Country, and he made his final visit to the park in 1903 during a two-week vacation. During that trip, he laid the cornerstone for the park’s Roosevelt Arch, bearing the inscription: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Although the arch is in the state of Montana at the northern entrance to Yellowstone, Wyoming celebrates the grand structure too, as most of the park is in Wyoming.
· Years later, Theodore’s fifth cousin Franklin took office, and he also left his mark on Yellowstone Country. Some would argue it wasn’t a positive mark, as it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942. As a result, some 14,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Confinement Site during World War II. Another interesting tidbit about the publicity-conscious president: When he visited the park, he avoided the park hotels, many with multiple floors and no elevators, and instead was a guest of the lodge manager in his single-floor park home, which could better accommodate his wheelchair while at the same time keeping it from public view.
· President Warren Harding visited the park in 1923, shortly before he died. Upon learning of his death, staff in the park named a geyser after him and observed a moment of silence in his honor.
· Although he never visited Yellowstone, the country’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, arguably had the most lasting impact on the region. In 1872, Grant signed the bill that designated Yellowstone as the world’s first national park, a move which is often called the best idea America ever had.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country” because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Center of the West and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.