Yellowstone National Park is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho. These traditional uses of Yellowstone lands continued until a little over 200 years ago when the first people of European descent found their way into the park.
In 1872, a country that had not yet seen its first centennial established Yellowstone as the first national park in the world. A new concept was born and with it a new way for people to preserve and protect the best of what they had for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
Native Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. The region was bypassed during the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 19th century. Aside from visits by mountain men during the early-to-mid-19th century, organized exploration did not begin until the late 1860s.
The U.S. Army was commissioned to oversee the park just after its establishment. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the National Park Service, which had been created the previous year.
The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Yellowstone Park is the largest and most famous mega fauna location in the Continental United States.
Grizzly bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk live in the park. The Yellowstone Park bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States.
Forest fires occur in the park each year; in the large forest fires of 1988, nearly one third of the park was burnt. Yellowstone has numerous recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, boating, fishing and sightseeing.
In 1806, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, left to join a group of fur trappers. After splitting up with the other trappers in 1807, Colter passed through a portion of what later became the park, during the winter of 1807–1808.
He observed at least one geothermal area in the northeastern section of the park, near Tower Fall. After surviving wounds he suffered in a battle with members of the Crow and Blackfoot tribes in 1809, he described a place of “fire and brimstone” that most people dismissed as delirium; the supposedly imaginary place was nicknamed “Colter’s Hell”.
The first detailed expedition to the Yellowstone area was the Cook–Folsom–Peterson Expedition of 1869, which consisted of three privately funded explorers. The Folsom party followed the Yellowstone River to Yellowstone Lake.
The members of the Folsom party kept a journal and based on the information it reported, a party of Montana residents organized the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870.
In 1988, Yellowstone Park experienced a devastating fire that burned down 36 percent of the park (793,880 acres). The fires started out as small individual fires but the drought and winds caused the fires to combine into one large fire that burned out of control for several months.
Fighting the fires cost the U.S. over $120 million but it never did stop the fire. It was the snow and moisture that finally brought the fires to an end. Today the Park has much more stringent guidelines to fight forest fires to help protect the Park from such devastation in the future.