“While my interest in natural history has added very little to my sum of achievement, it has added immeasurably to my sum of enjoyment in life.”
As whitewater rivers flow through mountainous terrain, the fiery sun sets just over the horizon, painting the sky with shades of red, yellow, orange, purple, and pink. Geysers erupt into the painted sky, hot springs bubble, and buffalo roam the valleys of the wild west… Yellowstone personifies the natural wonders and beauty of the western environment.
Happy 149th Birthday, Yellowstone!
On this day, in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone National Park. Sprawling over three states, 2.2 million acres covering lands in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. While Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 149th birthday, the land has been home to a variety of Native American tribes dating back to 1400 BCE. Hunting and gathering, fishing, and living off the lands that surrounded Yellowstone Lake, Madison River, and Yellowstone River. Some of the Native American tribes that inhabited these lands included The Crow, Nez Perce, Bannock, Blackfeet, Flathead, and Shoshone. The oral traditions of these tribes share that they referred to Yellowstone as “land of the geysers, land of the burning ground, the place of hot water, land of vapors, and many smokes.” (Nabokov and Loendorf, 2004).
Explorers from the Washburn and Hayden Expeditions provided environmental data and inspiring information that encouraged Congress to establish laws to protect Yellowstone’s wildlife and natural resources. Early supporters of the Yellowstone National Park Act, which states, “the headwaters of the Yellowstone River… is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale… and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” included explorers, conservationists, environmentalists, and wildlife advocates.
While it may have been Ulysses S. Grant that established the world’s first national park, it was Theodore Roosevelt that prioritized conservation and the protection of wildlife. Known as the “Conservationist President,” Teddy Roosevelt took office in 1901. During his presidency, Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service (USFS) and preserved 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. Approximately 230 million acres of public lands were conserved and protected under the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which was enacted by President Roosevelt himself.
Born October 27, 1858, Theodore Roosevelt grew up with three siblings in New York City. Martha “Mittie” Roosevelt, his mother, was raised on a southern plantation in Georgia and was the quintessential southern lady. His father was a prominent businessman and a philanthropist, Theodore, Sr. Suffering from asthmatic symptoms causing an ill-ridden childhood, Teddy exercised tenaciously and promoted a more strenuous lifestyle throughout his adult life. An advocate for the great outdoors, he enjoyed hiking, riding horses, and swimming. Enrolling at Harvard in 1876, Roosevelt studied natural history, zoology, German, forensics, composition, boxing, and wrestling.
While attending the university, he also fell in love… with Miss Alice Hathaway Lee. They married in 1880. Roosevelt began his public service career after being elected into the New York Assembly in 1882. To recover from the devastating loss of his mother and his wife in 1884, he ventured to the Dakota Badlands.
Roosevelt immersed himself in all things western by fully adapting to the life of a frontiersman and a rancher. He purchased multiple ranches and cattle, hunted grizzlies, and even acted as sheriff for a while. In 1887, a bad winter depleted most of the cattle. Several years had passed since he had arrived out West and after becoming one with nature, the land had helped him heal his broken heart.
Finally, Teddy felt it was time he return to the East where he fell in love with Edith Kermit Carow, a childhood sweetheart. After marrying in 1886, the lovers settled into their new home in Oyster Bay, New York, called Sagamore Hill. The Roosevelt family included his first child, Alice plus five more: Theodore, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin.
Theodore’s love for the Wild West inspired him to become a conservationist, the epitome of a true environmental activist, and an advocate for wildlife.
Now, when you travel to Yellowstone National Park, don’t forget your binoculars so you can observe Yellowstone’s Wildlife from a safe distance! The diversity of wildlife is incredible in this national park and should be undisturbed. With nearly 300 species of birds, 5 different species of amphibians, 16 fish species, 2 different bear species, 6 reptile species, and 67 different kinds of mammals, this national treasure is a true-to-life adventure.
While visiting Yellowstone National Park, be sure to watch the famous geyser, Old Faithful, erupt into the sky. Explore Grand Prismatic Spring and the Upper Geyser Basin. Hike through Lamar Valley, Tower Fall, and see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from the top of the Artist Point Trail. Whitewater raft down Snake River and kayak across Yellowstone Lake. Drive through Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road to observe wildlife in their natural habitats. Relax in Boiling River Hot Springs and other natural hot springs. Horseback ride through the mountains like a real western cowboy.
Today, as we celebrate Yellowstone National Park, we must also acknowledge those who fought so diligently to preserve it… President Grant, President Roosevelt, and the explorers from early expeditions to the West that were among the first to document the need to conserve our natural resources, to name a few. In addition to the past supporters of the parks, let us also acknowledge the park rangers that presently work to preserve these natural wonders every day. Don’t forget to ask about State and National Parks’ amazing Junior Ranger Programs that teach children how to be safe, enjoy, respect, and explore the wilderness around us like real park rangers, who protect our parks for future generations to wander.
Happy Birthday to you, Yellowstone National Park!