It all started in 1864, when Congress donated Yosemite Valley to California for preservation as a state park. Eight years later, in 1872, Congress reserved the Yellowstone country in the Wyoming and Montana territories as a public park. Since the territories were not states, they could not take care of the park, thus the National Park Service (in its first incarnation) was established.
Soon Congress followed the Yellowstone precedent with other national parks in the 1890s and early 1900s, including Sequoia, Yosemite ( California returned Yosemite Valley to the federal government), Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Glacier.
Today there are more than 400 National Parks across the United States.
This week is designated as National Parks Week, and to celebrate, all US national parks will be offering free admission on April 22nd and 23rd. What park will you go to?
Way back 145 years ago, Yellowstone was made into the first national park in the US.
Native Americans had lived and hunted in the region that would become Yellowstone for hundreds of years before the first Anglo explorers arrived. Abundant game and mountain streams teaming with fish attracted the Indians to the region, though the awe-inspiring geysers, canyons, and gurgling mud pots also fascinated them.
John Colter, the famous mountain man, was the first Anglo to travel through the area. After journeying with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, Colter joined a party of fur trappers to explore the wilderness. In 1807, he explored part of the Yellowstone plateau and returned with fantastic stories of steaming geysers and bubbling cauldrons. Some doubters accused the mountain man of telling tall tales and jokingly dubbed the area “Colter’s Hell.”
Before the Civil War, only a handful of trappers and hunters ventured into the area, and it remained largely a mystery.
The key to Yellowstone’s future as a national park, though, was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden. Hayden brought along William Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a brilliant landscape artist, to make a visual record of the expedition. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of the U.S. Congress, who in 1872 made it a park.
What do you know about this special place? Take our quiz to see!
How much do you know about Yellowstone National Park?
In honor of the 145th anniversary (technically on Feb. 29th) of Yellowstone being made the first National Park, we wanted to test your knowledge about the historic area.