History of Wyoming - Chapter III
First Inhabitants—Indian Trails—Origin of the Name "Yellowstone"—General Description, Surface, Watercourses, Etc.—Geology—The Geysers—John Coulter—Jim Bridger—Exploring Expeditions—Management of the Park—An animal Sanctuary—Birds and Fish ... 45
    In the northwest corner of the State of Wyoming is situated the Yellowstone National Park, which has justly been called "Nature's Wonderland." Probably no other spot of equal size on this planet presents as much romantic scenery of mountain, lake and plateau, or as interesting natural curiosities as the obsidian clifif and the great geysers, which may have been sending forth their volumes of hot water from the interior of the earth "when the morning stars sang together." The visitor to the park, as he gazes with awe from Inspiration Point down the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or witnesses the action of the geysers in the Firehole Basin, may well be filled with wonder at why American citizens will travel in foreign countries to the neglect of the beauties of their own land.
    For years before the wonders of the Upper Yellowstone region became known to the white man, the country about the park was inhabited by Indian tribes of the Algonquian, Siouan and Shoshonean families. The Blackfeet, an Algonquian tribe, dwelt around the sources of the Yellowstone River. The Crow, a Siouan tribe, lived farther down in the valley of the Yellowstone and eastward to the Big Horn River. The Bannock Indians and another Shoshonean tribe called the Tu-ku-a-ri-ki (Sheepeaters) inhabited the country now embraced within the limits of the Yellowstone National Park. None of these Indians knew much about the wonders of the park, for the reason that their ancestors for generations had a superstitious fear of the geyser region, and brave, indeed, was the red man who would venture into the district where the evil spirits held sway.
    Even in locating their trails, these aboriginal inhabitants studiously avoided close contact with the dreaded geysers. The principal Indian trail was the "Great Bannock," which ran westward from the Mammoth Hot Springs, in the northern part of the park, over the Gallatin Range to Henry Lake. At the Mammoth Hot Springs it was joined by a trail coming up the valley of the.Gardiner River. Another important trail followed the Yellowstone River from the northern boundary of the park to the foot of Yellowstone Lake, where it divided, one branch running along the eastern shore of the lake until it intersected the trail leading to the valleys of the Snake and Wind rivers. The other branch followed the western shore of the lake, crossed the divide, and continued southward to the Jackson's Hole country and the Snake River. From the foot of Yellowstone Lake a trail ran westward along the base of the Continental Divide to the Madison Plateau. Nearly all these trails are now established routes of travel for tourists to the park.
    David Thompson, an English fur trader, who spent part of the winter of 1797-98 among the Mandan Indians, was probably the first man to give the name "Yellowstone" to the river, which in turn gives its name to this land of scenic wonders. The Minnetaree Sioux called the river the "Mi-tsi-a-da-zi," which in their language means "Rock Yellow Water." The French called the river the "Roche Jaune" (sometimes written "Pierre Jaune"), signifying "Yellow Rock," but when or by whom the name was thus first applied is not known. That there is good reason for the adoption of the name is seen in the report of Captain Jones, who visited the Upper Yellowstone in 1873. Says he: "In and about the Grand Canyon the rocks are nearly tinged a brilliant yellow."
    The centtal portion of the park may be described as a "broad, elevated, volcanic plateau, with an average altitude of about eight thousand feet above the sea level." Different names have been given to different parts of this plateau. In the eastern part it is called "Mirror Plateau," in the southeast "Two Ocean Plateau," in the southwest "Pitchstone Plateau," and in the western part "Madison Plateau." At the northeast comer, where the Snowy and Absaroka mountain ranges meet, the surface is broken and the scenery equals any to be found among the Swiss Alps. The Snowy Range extends westward along the northern boundary of the park to the Yellowstone Valley. West of the Yellowstone lie the Gallatin Mountains, which extend to the northwest corner of the park, where Electric Peak, the highest elevation of the range, affords a commanding view of the surrounding country. Besides these mountain ranges, there are many peaks, buttes and hills that have been identified by name, such as Bison Peak, Mount Washburn, Folsom Peak, The Needles, Overlook Mountain, Pyramid Peak, Mount Hancock and Mount Hoyt, the last having been named in honor of one of the territorial governors of Wyoming.
    Over 150 streams of clear mountain spring water flow through the park, the principal ones being the Yellowstone, Lamar, Gardiner, Madison, Gallatin, Snake, Gibbon and Firehole rivers. Obsidian, Soda Butte, Boundary-, Slough and Clear creeks. Along the courses of these streams are numerous cascades and waterfalls, the best known of which are the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, Tower Falls, Osprey Falls, Kepler Cascade, Fairy Falls, Gibbon Falls and the Virginia Cascade. These vary in height from 310 feet at the Lower Yellowstone Falls to 60 feet at the Virginia Cascade.
    Government reports on the park mention forty-four lakes, the largest of which is the Yellowstone and the one having the highest altitude is Gardiner Lake. Yellowstone Lake is about sixty miles in length. At the south end it is divided into two arms, between which is a beautiful headland called "The Promontory." and an arm extending from the west side is called "The Thumb."
    In 1912 Arnold Hague, of the United States Geological Survey, made extended investigations in the Yellowstone National Park, and his report gives many interesting and scientific facts concerning the phenomena of the geysers, the general geological formation, etc. Near the northeast corner of the park he found an extinct volcano, the summit of which has an altitude of 10,000 feet. The rocks of this section he classified as granite, gneiss, schist, etc., belonging to the pre-Cambrian series. Mingled with these rocks in places he found in abundance the volcanic rock known as "Andesite," which has played an important part in the production of the structural features of the mountains in- and about the park.
    Mr. Hague found evidence of glacial action in a huge granite bowlder— 24 feet long, 20 feet wide and 18 feet high above the ground. This bowlder he found in a forest on the brink of the Grand Canyon, and the nearest stone of similar formation, so far as known to geologists, is some forty miles distant. Think of the mighty force that must have been exerted by the great sheet of ice that covered the northwestern part of the United States at the close of the Pleistocene period!
    The number of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, paint pots, etc.. scattered over the park, Mr. Hague estimated at over three thousand. "To which," says he in his report, "should be added the fumaroles and solfatores, from which issue in the aggregate enormous volumes of steam and acid sulphur vapors, by which the number of active vents would easily be doubled. Each of these vents is a center of decomposition of the acid lava."
    There are several well defined geyser basins, the most important of which are the Upper and Lower basins on the Firehole River, which takes its name from these wonderful phenomena of nature; the Norris Basin, near the source of Obsidian Creek; and the Heart Lake Basin, at the north end of that lake in the southern part of the park. Of the large geysers there are sixty-seven. The action of these geysers is far from uniform. The one called "Old Faithful," because of the regularity of its eruptions, throws a column of hot water 150 feet into the air every sixty-five minutes, the eruption lasting about 4>4 minutes. Excelsior Geyser, the greatest in the park, throws water to a height of 300 feet and spouts at intervals varying from one to four hours. Mr. Hague estimated the discharge of this geyser at "forty-four hundred gallons of boiling water per minute."
    Other noted geysers, with the height of column and interval of eruption are: The Giant, 200 feet, once in six days, duration of eruption 1½ hours; the Giantess, 250 feet, every fourteen days, time of eruption twelve hours; the Bee Hive, 220 feet, once every twenty hours, eruption lasts eight minutes; the Grand, 200 feet, once in twenty hours, time of action twenty minutes; the Castle. 100 feet, every twenty-four hours, lasts twenty-five minutes; the Monarch, 125 feet, at intervals of twelve hours, eruption lasts twenty minutes.
    To John Colter must be accorded the distinction of having been the first white man to behold the wonders of what is now the Yellowstone National Park. Colter was a private soldier with the Lewis and Clark expedition. In August, 1806, as the expedition was returning to St. Louis and when near the Mandan villages on the Missouri River, two trappers named Hancock and Dixon, visited the camp and pictured in such glowing language the excitement and profits of a trapper's life, that Colter was induced to ask for his discharge that he might join them on the Yellowstone River. The journal of the expedition for August 15, 1806, contains the following entry. "As he had always performed his duty and his services might be dispensed with, we agreed that he might go, provided none of the rest would ask or expect a similar indulgence. To this they cheerfully answered that they wished Colter every success and would not apply for liberty before we reached St. Louis. We therefore supplied him, as did his comrades also, with powder, lead and a variety of articles which might be useful to him and he left us the next day."
    The following spring Colter passed through the Pryor Gap of the Big Horn Mountains and wandered about on Clark's Fork, the Stinking Water (now the Shoshone River), and it is believed he reached the headwaters of the Green River. On his return he struck the headwaters of the Wind River, which he mistook for the Big Horn, but finally found his way back to the camp of the previous winter. He then decided to return to St. Louis and set out alone in a log canoe. Near the mouth of the Platte River he met Manuel Lisa, who persuaded him to return to the Upper Missouri country. Lisa established a trading post at the mouth of the Big Horn River and Colter again struck into the wilderness to the southward in pursuit of fur-bearing animals. Somewhere on this expedition he came in contact with a band of hostile Indians and wandered many miles out of his way in his efforts to reach the trading post. It was on this occasion that he passed through what is now the Yellowstone National Park. In the spring of 1810 he returned to St. Louis, where he met his old commander. Captain Clark, who outlined the course described in the map of the Lewis and Clark expedition, marking it "Colter's Route in 1807." By this means Colter's wanderings were given official recognition and made a matter of public record.
    From the map mentioned (Colter's description was not accurate in many particulars) the course of this first discoverer can be traced to the west of Yellowstone Lake and into the geyser district. That he saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Tower Falls and Mount Washburn is almost certain. He no doubt followed the Indian trail leading from Yellowstone River to the Big Horn, finally arriving at Lisa's trading post, after he had long been given up as lost.
    Colter's account of the wonders he had seen in the Rocky Mountains was not accepted by the public. Even his friends are said to have tapped their foreheads significantly when referring to the subject, as much as to say: "Poor Colter! He has told that story so often that he probably believes it himself, but his mind is evidently wandering." Others, in a spirit of derision, gave the name of "Colter's Hell" to the region that later explorers were to prove he had graphically and truthfully described.
After Colter, the next man to visit the park region was probably Jim Bridger, the famous scout and frontiersman. Bridger was something of a romancer, and the stories he told of the wonders of the Yellowstone were somewhat "overdrawn," to say the least. One of his stories was that one day, while going through what is now the National Park, he saw an elk quietly grazing within easy rifle range. Taking deliberate aim, he fired his rifle, but much to his astonishment the animal kept on grazing as though it had not even heard the report of the gun. Two or three more shots were fired with no better results, so he determined to investigate. Approaching the elk stealthily he was again surprised when he came to a solid wall of glass, on the opposite side of which was the elk at which he had been shooting. Not only that, but the wall of glass acted as a magnifying lens and the elk was twenty-five miles away. No wonder it did not hear the reports of Bridger's rifle.
    The story was quite likely suggested to Bridger's imagination by his discovery of the obsidian cliff of black volcanic glass, about half way between the Norris Geyser Basin and the Mammoth Hot Springs, though the obsidian is opaque and it would be impossible to see an elk, or any other object through it at any distance. This volcanic glass was used by the aborigines for lance and arrow heads and other weapons, large numbers of which have been found in the vicinity of the park.
    Bridger told some of his wonderful stories to Captain Warner, Capt. W. F. Raynolds, Dr. F. V. Hayden and other early explorers, who received them with the proverbial "grain of salt," though they afterward found that the old scout's narrative contained a large percentage of truth. An editor of one of the leading western newspapers stated in 1879, after the reports of Colter and Bridger had been verified by official explorations, that more than thirty years before he had prepared an article for publication, based upon Bridger's account of the Yellowstone region, but did not publish it because one of his friends advised him that he would "be laughed out of town if he printed any of old Jim Bridger's lies." He afterward apologized to Bridger for lack of confidence in his veracity.
    Capt. W. F. Raynolds of the United States topographical engineers, under orders from the war department, led an expedition from Fort Pierre on the Missouri into Wyoming, His orders were to explore "the country through which flow the principal tributaries of the Yellowstone River, the mountains in which they and the Gallatin and Madison forks of the Missouri have their source," etc. Dr. F. V. Hayden accompanied the expedition as geologist and James Bridger acted as guide. Captain Raynolds made his report in i860, but the Civil war came on the next year, which practically put a stop to further exploration for almost a decade.
    During the war parties of gold seekers penetrated into the mountain ranges in the neighborhood of the park and some accounts of their discoveries were published in the newspapers. In September, 1869, David E. Folsom, William Peterson and C. W. Cook left Diamond City on the Missouri River and spent about a month in the vicinity of the Yellowstone Lake. In the Western Monthly for July, 1871, was published an article from the pen of Mr. Folsom which wielded considerable influence toward the sending of other expeditions into the country about the sources of the Yellowstone.
    What is generally known as the "Washburn-Doane Expedition" was organized in Montana in the summer of 1870 and was provided with a military escort from Fort Ellis by order of Gen. P. H. Sheridan. The leader of this expedition was Gen. Henry D. Washburn, then surveyor-general of Montana. Among those who accompanied him were Nathaniel P. Langford, who wrote an account of the explorations for Scribner's Magazine, and who was afterward the first superintendent of the park; Thomas C. Everts, ex-United States assessor for Montana; Samuel T. Hauser, later governor of Montana; Walter Trumbull, son of United States Senator TnmibuU, who also published an account of the expedition in the Overland Monthly for June, 1871; and Cornelius Hedges, who was the first man to propose setting apart the region as a national park. This party entered the park on August 21, 1870, under the escort of a small detachment of the Second United States Cavalry commanded by Lieut. Gustavus C. Doane, whose name is coupled with that of General Washburn.
    From the heights of Mount Washburn (then unnamed) they saw at a distance the Canyon and Falls of the Yellowstone, the geyser basin on the Firehole River, which was pointed out to them by James Bridger, and then descended into the plateau for a more systematic examination of the natural wonders. On September 9, 1870, Thomas C. Everts became separated from the other members of the expedition and wandered about through the wild region for thirty-seven days before his comrades found him almost dead from hunger and exposure. Mr. Everts, after his recovery, wrote an account of his experiences for Scribner's Magazine, which was widely read and was afterward reproduced by General Chittenden in his "History of Yellowstone National Park." In this history General Chittenden gives the following account of the origin of the national park idea:
    "The members of the party were sitting around the campfire after supper (September 19, 1870), conversing about what they had seen and picturing to themselves the important pleasure resort which so wonderful a region must soon become. The natural impulse to turn the fruits of discovery to their personal profit made its appearance, and it was suggested that it would be a 'profitable speculation' to take up lands around the various objects of interest. The conversation had not gone far in that direction, when one of the party—Cornelius Hedges—interposed and said that private ownership of that region, or any part of it, ought never to be sold by the government, but that it should be set apart and forever held to the unrestricted use of the people. This higher view of the subject found immediate acceptance with the other members of the party. It was agreed that the project should be at once set on foot and pushed vigorously to a finish."
    In 1871 the United States sent two expeditions to the Upper Yellowstone–one under the leadership of Dr. F. V. Hayden and the other under Captains Heap and Barlow of the engineer corps. The reports of this joint expedition aided materially the project brought before Congress set on foot by the Washburn-Doane expedition. In the Helena Herald of November 9, 1870, appeared an article from the pen of Cornelius Hedges, giving reasons why the country about the Yellowstone Lake should be set apart as a national reservation. A little later Nathaniel P. Langford addressed a meeting in Washington, D. C, presided over by James G. Blaine, then speaker of the national house of representatives. In this way the subject was brought to the attention of Congress.
    Mr. Langford and William H. Clagett, member of Congress from Montana, drew up a bill providing for the establishment of the Yellowstone National Park. This bill was introduced in the house on December 18, 1871. by Mr. Clagett, and Senator Pomeroy of Kansas introduced it in the senate. After receiving the approval of the secretary of the interior and Dr. F. V. Hayden, it passed both houses and was approved by President Grant on March 1, 1872. The boundaries of the park, as defined by this act, are as follows:
    "Commencing at the junction of Gardiner's River with the Yellowstone River and running east to the meridian passing ten miles to the eastward of the most eastern point of the Yellowstone Lake; then south along said meridian to the parallel of latitude passing ten miles south of the most southern point of the Yellowstone Lake; thence west along said parallel to the meridian passing fifteen miles west of the most western point of Madison Lake; thence north along said meridian to the latitude of the junction of the Yellowstone and Gardiner's rivers; thence east to the place of beginning."
    Under the boundaries as thus established, the park extends two miles north of the northern boundary of Wyoming, and two miles west of the western boundary, being sixty-two miles long and fifty-four miles wide. The act placed the park under the control of the secretary of the interior, who was given the authority to grant leases, at his discretion, for periods not exceeding ten years, and all buildings erected by the lessees to be located and erected under his direction, the proceeds of such leases to be expended by his authority in the construction of roads, etc.
    The report of the park supervisor, Chester A. Lindsley, for the year 1917 says: "The park was governed by civilian superintendents, assisted by a few scouts, from the time it was set aside until August 10, 1886, when troops of United States Cavalry were detailed to police it, the commanding officer acting as superintendent under direct orders of the secretary of the interior. On October 16, 1916, the troops were withdrawn from the park and a civihan supervisor, with a corps of twenty-five rangers, for patrol and protection work, and a few civilian employees for other duties, were appointed by the secretary of the interior to replace them. Under recent legislation by Congress, troops were returned to the park on June 26, 1917. This action was necessary on account of a clause contained in the sundry civil appropriation act of June 12, 1917, making appropriations for the park for the fiscal year 1918. By virtue of this law, the park supervisor was relieved of so much of the park duties as pertain to 'protection'."
    Park headquarters are located at the Mammoth Hot Springs, five miles inside the park line at the northern entrance. Here are located the water and electric light systems, the telephone exchange, etc. The maintenance and construction of roads, bridges and general improvements in the park are carried on by special appropriation under the war department, an officer of the engineering department being in charge of the work. Automobiles were first admitted on August I, 1915, but did not come into general use as a method of transportation until 1917, when practically all of the transportation of tourists was consolidated under one company–"The Yellowstone Park Transportation Company." During the season from June 20 to September 15, 1917, a total of 13,283 tourists were taken through the park by this company, and 21,915 persons visited the park with their own transportation and camping outfits.
    The Yellowstone Park Hotel Company operates all of the hotels in the park. There are four hotels—the Mammoth Hot Springs, the Upper Basin, the Lake House and the Canyon Hotel. At all of these hotels garages and supply houses are maintained and there are four free automobile camps and shelter houses in the park, placed on the main lines of travel, besides there are six other camping places, where oils and gasoline may be obtained by tourists.
    There are four main entrances to the park—north, east, south and west. The northern entrance may be reached by the Northern Pacific Railway, the west entrance by the Union Pacific, the east entrance by stage from Cody, where it connects with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, and the south entrance can be reached only by automobile or other means of private conveyance. Each year witnesses improvements for the accommodation and comfort of tourists, the number of which is constantly increasing.
    Howard M. Albright, acting director of the National Park Service, in his report to the secretary of the interior for the fiscal year ending June 30. 1917, says: "The killing of wild animals, except predatory animals when absolutely necessary, is strictly forbidden in Yellowstone Park by law. The park is therefore the greatest wild animal sanctuary in the world. We endeavor to refrain from calling it a game sanctuary, because park animals are not game in the popular sense of the term. The park is, however, the great source of game supply for the surrounding territory, and the states of Wyoming and Montana have widely sought to assist in the protection and control of this supply."
    Elk, antelope and both mule and white-tailed deer are numerous in the park. During the winter of 1916-17 more than two hundred tons of alfalfa were fed to these animals by the employees of the park service. Heavy snows drove large numbers of elk and antelope out of the park, in search of a lower altitude. They found shelter from the severe weather in the Jackson's Hole country in Wyoming and near Electric, Mont. It is in such cases that the protective laws of those states, mentioned by Mr. Albright, come into play. The animals were protected by the state game wardens from the thoughtless sportsman and when the weather conditions improved they returned to the park of their own accord. Since 1911 the total number of elk shipped from the park to other states or municipalities, "where their future protection is assured," was 2,263, and on June 9, 1917, there were nearly twenty thousand in the park. A few moose are frequently seen, the tame herd of buffalo numbered 330 in June, 1917, black and cinnamon bears are numerous, and there are 194 known varieties of birds to be found in the park. The United States Fish Commission maintains a branch fish hatchery in the park. It is located on the shore of Yellowstone Lake, near the Lake House. During the season of 1917 a total of 1,773,000 young fish were planted in the lakes and streams of the park. Fishing by visitors is permitted, and Mr. Lindsley says in his report for 1917: "The confining of fishing to the strict letter of the regulations has not been disappointing in its results, as its effects have already been noticed in the additional interest in fishing manifested by travelers; and it has not proven as much of a disappointment to the hotels and camps as was expected, for the reason that tourists have taken an unusual interest in fishing and have caught many fish that have found their way to the tables." The object in planting fish in the waters, for tourists to catch, is "to make the national parks more popular as playgrounds of the people, where amusements can be found in addition to the scenery." The lover of rod and line should therefore be attracted to the Yellowstone National Park, where he can "cast flies" to his heart's content, while at the same time enjoying the picturesque scenery and natural wonders of the park.