From White House to Wyoming. The Presidents Who Came to Cody and Yellowstone National Park
CODY, Wyo., October 13, 2020 – Nearly every U.S. president since Ulysses S. Grant has 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 Cody Yellowstone, which includes the town of Cody as well as parts of Yellowstone National Park.
“With our abundant natural beauty and sparsely populated towns, it’s easy to understand why U.S. presidents have frequently chosen Wyoming for escapes from the day-to-day pressures of running the country,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm of the region.
One of those presidents was Chester A. Arthur, who visited Yellowstone National Park in 1883 with a large entourage, 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.
Here are a few other examples of presidential visits to Cody Yellowstone.
- President Calvin Coolidge visited Cody on July 4, 1927 for the opening of the Buffalo Bill Museum, the first of five museums that comprise the Buffalo Bill Center of the West today. He also attended the Cody
Stampede, a July 4 Cody tradition. While in the region, Coolidge ventured into Yellowstone National Park and stayed one night in the private home owned by Harry W. Child, owner of then-concessioner Yellowstone Park Company.
- 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 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 Bill and first lady 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.
- First Lady Melania Trump visited Wyoming in 2019 and rafted the Snake River just outside the southern border of Yellowstone.
- 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.
- 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 “America’s Best Idea.”
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations