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Things You Never Knew About Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone was there long before man found it, so we can only speculate about the history before our time. In a way, the natural beauty of the area has always ensured that it remains protected and largely untouched. With the right mindset, stepping into the park can feel a lot like going back in time.

A Little History

The area was discovered by trappers early in the 19th century, however the tales they returned with of upside down waterfalls and petrified trees were met with disbelief.

The area was left uncharted until 1863 when a group of prospectors made their way to the area and sparked interest in creating a National Park to protect its unique geographical characteristics.

By 1872 Yellowstone National Park was named the first National Park in the world by Ulysses S. Grant. The 2.2 million acre park is located in three states 96% in Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho.

Significant Terrain

Probably the most well known for its spectacular terrain, Yellowstone is also a significant source of prehistoric obsidian artifacts. The Obsidian Cliff produced artifacts found as far east as Michigan, as far west as Washington and as far south as Kansas. All signs indicating prehistoric quarry activity to mine the resource.

It should be noted that Obsidian Cliff lies within the protected area rigorously patroled by Park enforcement - obsidian collection of any type is not allowed without proper research permits.

Prehistoric Art

There is plenty of art inspired by Yellowstone, but what about the art found within Yellowstone? The region was home to people some 12,000 years ago who left their mark in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs. In fact, it is likely their art was as inspired by the natural beauty of the area, as is the art of today.

Petroglyphs are pecked or carved into the rock and pictographs are stained onto rock using pigments. Their messages vary from biographical images that tell stories to 'No Trespassing' signs often found near natural boundaries. These images provide a rare glimpse into the lives of people who inhabited the region thousands of years ago.

Fort Yellowstone

Once the park became an official National Park, tourists flocked to the area. During the first decade, law and order was kept by local volunteers. However, as more people came, so did more disorder. Soon it was more than local volunteers could handle and the army was called in.

Fort Yellowstone was built in 1891 as permanent housing and offices for the army so they could effectively protect the natural resources in the area from poachers and irresponsible souvenir hunters. This project played a largely influential part in the establishment of the National Park System and helped to jump start general preservation awareness.

Getting Around

To truly experience the park with any sort of historical accuracy, horseback is really the best way to go. The park offers several places to take mounted tours and some of them provide overnight horse adventures into the back country.

If you prefer gears to hooves, the park maintains a historical vehicle collection which displays around 30 vehicles that have all served time roaming the park for one reason or another. The cars have been well preserved, and standing in front of one can almost take you back to the days of their use.

For those who are interested in a modern way to appreciate the majestic beauty and geographical history of the area, why not try Yellowstone from the air?

Nearing Extinction

Perhaps the most important way to enjoy a bit of history is the animal life that can be found at Yellowstone. There are five species of animals that reside in the park who are dangerously low in numbers: bald eagles, lynx, grizzly bears, whooping cranes and gray wolves.

The natural habitat of these animals was once much larger and has since dwindled down to protected lands. A glimpse of one of these animals is rarer than any movie star sighting and give visitors an opportunity to see an animal that may soon only be a part of history.

Enjoy the Park

No doubt there is a lot to see in 2.2 million acres, so planning ahead will make any journey to the park a much more productive one. Whether it is hiking, climbing, white water rafting or camping that brings you to Yellowstone be sure to learn more about the history of the area. Chances are it will help you to appreciate the natural beauty of your trip even more.

Julie is a travel writer based in sunny Los Angeles, opting for a portable career so she can take her work with her wherever she goes. You can find more of her writing on

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