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Historical events in Yellowstone National Park, Montana, and Wyoming.

Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, News, Through Early Yellowstone
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First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

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Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

Categories: History, Transportation
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It’s August 1, 1915.
“Hooray! Today we can finally drive our new automobile into Yellowstone National Park.” Something like this must have been shouted between the open-topped cars lined up to pass through the North Entrance Arch on the first day it was legal to “motor” through the park. [Turns out we showed you that arch in our July 28th post.]

It’s true that a man named Henry G. Merry from nearby Horr, Montana had decided thirteen years before, in 1902, to “pilot the car [a Winton] to the fort and talk things over with the commandant,” according to Merry’s son’s account many years later. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.57 AM
You see, the Secretary of the Interior and superintendent Colonel John Pitcher had agreed that year that automobiles must be banned from the park due to the terrible condition of the roads and the danger of frightening the horses. But Merry went anyway—and was told he was under arrest and would have to pay a penalty. However, according to son Edward T. Merry: “When my father asked what the penalty would be, the officer very seriously replied, ‘You will have to take me for a ride in this contraption.’” But soon Merry was ushered out with a warning never to try it again.

Officials knew they would eventually have to improve the roads enough for cars to use them, and eventually this was done. Exactly one hundred years ago today the new era began. Fifty Fords, Buicks, Wintons, Haynes, and others entered the park. Within a year it was obvious that horses and autos were incompatible on the bumpy, narrow roads, and of course, the horses lost the contest.

[My source for this story was The Yellowstone Story, Volume II, by Aubrey L. Haines, pages 264 to 269. The late 1890s Winton touring car is courtesy of Wikipedia commons.]

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Historic Yellowstone buses you can ride

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1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

A 1937 White Model 706 bus on display at Historic Flight Foundation

For me, guidebook editor Beth Chapple, last month was the month of the Yellowstone bus. Not only did I discover that one of my nearby aviation museums has a beautifully restored bus, but Wyoming Office of Tourism sent one over on a week tour of Seattle, to convince people to visit their state!

Historic Flight Foundation keeps famous, well-restored airplanes from 1927 to 1957 in a large hangar at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. But among the planes, including a Grumman F8F Bearcat and a Beechcraft Staggerwing, is a little known secret: they own one of the tour buses built in the 1930s to convey tourists around Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. The museum’s website doesn’t even mention it, but it’s a beauty they’ve had since 2012. The bus was created by the White Motor Company of Cleveland in 1935. Yellowstone Park ordered 27 of the White Model 706s for the 1936 season and there were 98 in use in 1940. In the mid 1960s the remaining buses were sold.

The buses were brought back to Yellowstone in 2007, and now anyone can take a half- or full-day tour of the park in one. It’s a great way to learn from your tour guide and see wildlife.

back of Yellowstone bus

HFF’s 1937 bus has THREE license plates on the back, including Montana’s (not shown).

When the bus visited Seattle, it posed at the city’s most photogenic places, including the Fremont Troll and the Space Needle. Driving the Wyoming Tourism bus was guide Leslie Quinn, according to Beth Shepherd’s post, called “Yellowstone National Park: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” We at Granite Peak Publications know Quinn as the Xanterra interpretive specialist who wrote the latest wonderful review on our Reviews page, which we also feature on the back of the guidebook. There’s something very cheerful about glimpsing one of the historic yellow buses with the retractable canvas top.

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Science for Parks conference report

Categories: History, Science
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I. Insights from the Opening Ceremony

From the evening of March 25th through the 27th, I listened to and attended lectures and brief sessions at “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: the Next Century.” This event was organized on the University of California–Berkeley campus by faculty of their conservation biology and related departments, along with directors of California parks organizations, the National Park Service, the National Geographic Society, and public television station KQED.

March of 2015 marks the centennial of two major San Francisco area events. One was the Panama-Pacific International Exposition—largely sponsored by the railroads—whose Palace of Fine Arts stands in the Marina district of San Francisco to this day. You can read more about the Pan-Pacific Exposition in Alfred Runte’s excellent article, which I linked to in my March 26 blog post.

The other March 1915 event was a national park conference, convening about 75 men at Berkeley by Stephen T. Mather, then assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Mather was soon to become the first director of the National Park Service (in 1916). An emphasis of the conference was two “best ideas” the organizers feel are related: public education and public lands.

As a long-time aficionado of national parks, I couldn’t miss this event. The organizers will produce a book about the entire conference, but I’m sure this will take at least a year. In a few pages there is no way I can sum up all that was discussed and revealed during those intense two days and more of meetings. So I’ve decided to concentrate on a few individual speakers who impressed me greatly. In the next week or two I’ll try to give the essence of what I learned from them.

I had never before connected the National Geographic Society to the national parks. But in his remarks at the opening ceremony, Chris Johns, chief content officer for National Geographic Magazine, told us that not only was the April 1916 issue of his magazine devoted to the then-existing national parks, but that the society donated eighty thousand dollars so that the National Park Service could be set up. Thus, a new division of the Department of the Interior was born.

In the very next year (1917) three scientists investigated California’s redwoods and noted their devastation. This was the beginning of the Save the Redwoods League, which now helps to protect thirteen units of big trees in our third largest state.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis appeared briefly and mentioned that Gary Machlis, Professor of Environmental Sustainability at Clemson University in South Carolina, has recently been appointed to the position of first-ever science adviser to a National Park Service Director. I’ll tell you more about Machlis in a future blog post.

It seems appropriate to close this first post about the conference by listing seven serious concerns facing the national parks—and the world. They were pointed out by steering committee chairman Steve Beissinger as having occurred in the last hundred years. They are: changing climate, storms and fires of greater severity, urban encroachment and pollution, invasions of non-native species, plant and animal extinctions, changing attitudes of a public that is more urbanized, and political pressures of narrow interest groups that have sometimes led to benign neglect of parks.

You can watch the videos of the opening ceremony and all other plenary sessions at: www.parksforscience.berkeley.edu. [NOTE: These videos are still available in the Live Stream category on this website as of September 7, 2015.]

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Science for Parks

Categories: History, Science
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National Park Service arrowhead logoDid you know that about 100 years ago, a series of meetings held in Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the University of California at Berkeley led to the formation of the U.S. National Park Service?

Here’s a belated notice about an interesting summit, “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century,” being held in Berkeley March 25-27. The co-presenters are UC Berkeley, the National Park Service, and National Geographic Society.

Author Janet is attending and promises to share interesting tidbits she learns afterwards. The keynote speaker was E. O. Wilson. During the summit, the sessions will stream live from this page; in a few weeks all the talks will be recorded and available on YouTube.

Historian Alfred Runte wrote a thorough article about the early talks during 1911-1915, the connections with the railroads and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and how they led to our national parks. You can read the article, called “UC Berkeley and the National Parks: A Centennial Retrospective,” on the National Parks Traveler website.

Here’s more from the conference website:

The goal of the summit is to envision and contribute to strategies for science for parks and science using parks for the coming decades by building on the historic linkage between NPS and scientists at leading universities and other organizations around the world. This collaboration will be crucial to nurture the future health of parks and protected areas worldwide and biodiversity conservation. The summit re-dedicates that partnership in a forward-looking way by examining the mission of the National Park Service and its relevancy today, scientific and management implications of this mission in a changing world, social and cultural dimensions for advancing the mission, and the future of science for parks and parks for science.

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Yellowstone Park on the Web

Categories: Bio, History, On the Web, Thermal features
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A United Kingdom website called “The Independent” last week passed on one misleading interpretation and one, to me, amazing coincidence.

Along with a lovely picture of Morning Glory Pool, which I wrote about last December,
their headline, “Yellowstone Park hot spring turned green by good luck coins tossed in by tourists,” seemed to imply that the metal in coins had caused the color of the pool to change. However, they clarified it in their article, explaining that a prodigious amount of tossed-in debris had caused the spring’s temperature to be lowered, allowing the colorful types of bacteria that love heat—but not too much heat—to grow far down into the pool.

The coincidence was that their photo showing the pool
Screen ShotMngGlPlwith Mother 2015-03-14
is one from the June 1940 National Geographic (but uncredited) that I discovered while researching for Yellowstone Treasures. “The Independent” admitted to retouching the image, which looks bluer and generally prettier than it does in my copy of the old magazine. But the real coincidence here is that the woman seated on the right is my mother! She was playing music during summer of 1939 in Old Faithful Inn with the other four women in the picture, who called themselves The Ladies’ Ensemble of Billings (Montana). Margaret Orvis (my mother’s name at that time) played piano with the group for tea in the afternoons. Then she took up the drums to play with them in the evening for dance music.

I doubt that Mother ever knew her picture was in the National Geographic! That was the summer I played hide-and-seek with my sister Joan in the inn.

What goes around comes around.

[Editor’s note: If you are curious, read more of Janet’s memoirs in “Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the Park.”]

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Let’s celebrate March, Women’s History Month, with an excerpt from a Yellowstone story written by Margaret Andrews Allen. In 1885 her family visited Upper Geyser Basin in a horse-driven wagon. Camping near Castle Geyser, they all set out the morning after arrival to see the geysers.

“First, of course, we visit Old Faithful, the Clock of the Valley, hardly varying five minutes in its hourly eruptions. Its low, broad cone of scale-like layers is firm as the solid rock. No thought of danger here. Everything gives us the idea of regularity and order. We are in position, the curtain rises, and the play begins. The eruption is fine, the geyser sending up a solid column of water, with clouds of hot steam, for over a hundred feet. But it is soon over, and we add to our experience by drinking of the hot sulphur water it has left in all the little hollows of the crust. This is merely to add to our experience, for the taste is far from agreeable. This geyser is the great resource of hurried tourists, from its regularity. We met many parties who had seen only this one—and that one alone is well worth seeing. But what one is sure of seldom fascinates. The freaky ones are most sought after and admired.

“We cross the rushing Firehole, and I shall leave it for the guide-book to tell the variety of craters and pools, extinct and active geysers and formations, all the way from Cauliflower to Coral. We come back to our tent already feeling like old residents, ready to initiate ignorant new-comers.

“We have seen various men pass with mysterious bags on long poles, and, on questioning one of our neighbors (a very old resident, for she has been here a month) we find it is merely the family washing. The bag contains soap and clothes, and is to be hung in a boiling spring, when, in a few hours, the dirt will be boiled out. We follow suit, and immediately our bag of clothes is hanging in a lovely little blue pool not far from our tent.

“But we have a ham in our wagon; why should not that be cooked in the same way? The Devil’s Well [Crested Pool] is near, and soon our ham, in a strong sack fastened to a pole, is cheerfully bubbling away. In about two hours it is well done, and lasts us the rest of the journey. Our potatoes are not so successful, for our bag breaks, and down they go to whoever the owner of the well may be, for a perpetual potato-soup.

“At dinner, our neighbor, the Castle, starts an eruption, and immediately the whole valley is in turmoil, rushing hither and thither for a good view. But the geyser changes its mind, the clouds drift up, a drizzling rain begins, and we are settling down for a quiet afternoon in our tent when suddenly, with rumble and roar, the deceitful Castle shoots a column of water into the air and everything is dropped for the show.

Castle Geyser black-and-white photo

“Our neighboring campers are already climbing the sides of the cone, about twenty feet above the road, to have a look inside, and we follow their example. Then stones are thrown in and shot out instantly. I bethink me of our dish-towels, and in they go. In another minute they are fifty feet in the air, and dashed down far on the other side; for a strong wind has risen and driven the water and steam in a great curve to the south. After three such baths they are clean. We have seen the only poetical washing-day in our lives. We wish all were like it. It is not turning the geyser to a base use: it is merely idealizing washing.”

Of course, the thousands of visitors to geyserland today do not use the pools and geysers to wash their clothes and dishes. But think how it must have lightened the load of “woman’s work” for the few days Ms. Allen was in Yellowstone. Times have changed!

Ms. Allen’s entire story will be reproduced in Granite Peak Publications’ upcoming collection, with the working title of Magnificent Playground.

Castle Geyser photo from 1996 by Leslie Kilduff, appears on page 99 of Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition.

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Art for February birthdays

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Moran painting of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Snapshot of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming, 1906, painted by Thomas Moran.

I just took this photo in the De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. (Apologies for the fuzzy quality of photos taken with my iPad.)

It’s appropriate to post this, because painter Thomas Moran’s birthday is coming up. He was born in England on February 12, 1837. Many people think that Artist Point on the canyon rim was the place Moran sat to create his famous paintings, but that was at another spot, now called Moran Point. See this page in the Yellowstone Online Tour to straighten out that fact.

And why do I find myself in San Francisco today? I traveled to the Bay Area to celebrate a few family birthdays, guidebook author Janet Chapple’s among them. Happy February Birthdays!

–editor Beth Chapple

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Time lines

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, On the Web
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Jack Baronett wooden bridge

“Yellowstone Jack” Baronett’s bridge over the Yellowstone River


Inside the guidebook Janet shares many anecdotes about the human history of the Yellowstone area, from prospector Jack Baronett who built a wooden toll bridge in 1871 to tourist Hazel Decker who camped in her car for 52 days to observe Steamboat Geyser. In the road logs she discusses the evidence of prehistoric peoples and the recent discoveries scientists have made at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake using a submersible robot. She compiled a time line of many of the important events in the Yellowstone area and the world in a chapter of Yellowstone Treasures called “Chronology: Yellowstone Since 1800,” which takes readers from the Lewis and Clark expedition up to the present day.

But when she and I were creating the first edition of the book in 2001 it became necessary to cut pages from the manuscript and restrict the time line to the most recent couple of hundred years of human history, even though the geological history of the region goes way back before that. Her Geological Time Line, which you can read right here on this website, extends all the way from Earth’s formation 4.6 billion years ago, through the time the Absaroka Range volcanoes formed 53 to 44 million years ago, to the time 12,000 years ago when glaciers last covered Yellowstone. This last episode was the Pinedale Glaciation, evident throughout the lower Lamar Canyon.

Thanks for spending the time with us,
Editor Beth

Credit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park.

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Pilot Peak, Wyoming

Categories: History, Park environs
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View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

Just outside the Park’s Northeast Entrance are a prominent pair of peaks in the northern Absaroka Range known as Pilot and Index. You can get a great view of them from a short side road off the Beartooth Scenic Byway, which covers the 70 miles (113 km) from Red Lodge, Montana to the entrance. “Pilot, the pointed one, is a glacial horn; four glaciers carved its pyramidal shape” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 195). Read more about the beautiful Beartooth Highway in the guidebook, pages 190-195.

The first ascent of Pilot Peak was on August 12, 1932, by Hollis Mees and Robert McKenzie. They amazingly did the climb without climbing gear. It’s now known as a difficult climb because of the loose rock. You can see footage of Mees and McKenzie’s ascent in this video:

By the way, we have been collecting some interesting Yellowstone videos, mostly of geysers, on our YouTube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF0XW_RT5rtr4vJ3MVoaDoQ/feed

–Beth Chapple, Editor

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