Little Bits of History

March 1

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 7, 2017

1872: Yellowstone National Park is established. The 3,468 square mile park lies mostly in Wyoming, but also extends into Montana and Idaho. The first US National Park was signed into law on this day by President Ulysses S Grant. It is (arguably) the first national park in the world. Native Americans have lived in the region for at least 11,000 years. There were few others who explored the area until the late 1860s. The newly established Park fell under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior who at the time was Columbus Delano. The US Army was given oversight of the park from 1886 until 1916 and then in 1917 it finally came under the newly created National Park Service. There are more than 1,000 archaeological sites within the park.

The most famous of the features include Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America. Half ot he world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone Park and are fueled by lava flows from this one supervolcano. It is also the headwaters for the Yellowstone River, the feature for which the park was named. The lands were set to be explored earlier in the century, the US Civil War got in the way and so the first official exploration of the region took place in 1896, the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition. The Hayden Geological Survey was done in 1871 with government sponsorship and the report returned helped to convince US Congress to remove the lands from public auction.

Hayden was not the first to believe a public park should be created in order to preserve this unique ecosystem, but he was one of the strongest advocates. He was worried commercial interests could turn the area into another Niagara Falls. Opposition from locals was intense at first but eventually it was found to be a boon to the local economies. There are nearly five million pilgrims who come to see the steaming sulfur beds and the most amazing of all of the features in the Park, Old Faithful. It was the first of the more 1,200 known geysers to be named, although others have since been given the honor.

Old Faithful eruptions have been recorded more than one million times and a formula for both the duration and the intervals and their relationship to each has been described. Anywhere from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling hot water are sprayed into the air to heights of 106 to 185 feet. The blast can last from 1.5 to 5 minutes and the intervals between them are anywhere from 35 to 120 minutes with an average of 66.5 minutes back in 1939 but closer to 90 minutes today. Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles call the Park home as do a range of land formations from mountains to river valleys, forests to grasslands; it is the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in Earth’s northern temperate zone.

AN ACT to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people;

And all persons who shall locate, or settle upon, or occupy the same or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed there from …
Approved March 1, 1872. – all from The Act of Dedication

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