It was on this date back in 1872 that President Grant signed the bill creating Yellowstone National Park.

John Colter, the famous mountain man, was the first Anglo to travel through the area.  In 1807, he returned with fantastic stories of steaming geysers and bubbling cauldrons.  People accused the mountain man of telling tall tales and dubbed the area “Colter’s Hell.”

The key to Yellowstone becoming a national park was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden.  Hayden brought along photographer William Jackson and artist Thomas Moran to make a visual record of the expedition.  Their images provided the first proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of Congress.

Early in 1872, Congress moved to set aside 1,221,773 acres of public land straddling the future states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as America’s first national park.

For a nation bent on settling and exploiting the West, the creation of Yellowstone was surprising.  Many congressmen gave it their support simply because they believed the rugged and isolated region was of little economic value.

Filed under: Old West History

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!