Historic Yellowstone You'll Want to Check Out

As the world’s first national park (according to most), Yellowstone is a natural place to explore the history of America and its people. There are eight places in Yellowstone that have been designated as National Historic Landmarks, and thousands more where the past and present are still very much connected. Here are a few famous spots where knowing their history will enhance your visit. 

An Extremely Brief History of Yellowstone 

The “untouched” expanse that we now call “Yellowstone”' was enjoyed, passed through, cultivated and lived on by 27 indigenous tribes for thousands of years before it was established as a national park by Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. The name “Yellowstone” comes from the Yellowstone River, which was named by the Hidatsa (aka Minnetaree) Indians because of the yellow-hued sandstone bluffs near Billings, Montana (not even inside the park). The park was later explored by fur traders, gold seekers, and scientists eager to map the area and describe its unusual features. Yellowstone was first managed by the U.S. Army before being turned over to the newly established National Park Service in 1917.


Roosevelt Arch

Although the grand arch that marks the North Entrance of Yellowstone is known as the Roosevelt Arch because it was dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903, the idea for the structure actually came from a U.S. Army Engineer named Hiram M. Chittenden. Apparently, he was worried that the most important entrance to Yellowstone (at the time) might be too boring. The arch is constructed from tons of volcanic rock called basalt, and it stands about 50 feet high. Encased in the arch’s cornerstone is a time capsule containing newspapers, a Bible, and a picture of President Roosevelt.



Old Faithful Inn

One of the largest log structures in the world, the Old Faithful Inn was completed right around the same time as the Roosevelt Arch, in 1904. The Inn was and is a marvel of modern design, combining natural materials and rustic charm with a grand vision, conceived by architect Robert C. Reamer and funded by the Northern Pacific Railroad. One of the Inn’s most impressive features is the fireplace constructed from 500 tons of rhyolite, a volcanic rock that was quarried nearby. Through Yellowstone’s 150-year history, the Inn has been shaped and impacted by many historic events, including the August 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, the fires of 1988, and even Prohibition. In recent years, the Old Faithful Inn has continually been refreshed and restored so that every new guest can experience the authentic thrill of this unique historic place. 


Fort Laramie

Originally a fur trading fort established in 1834, Fort Laramie eventually became an important stop on the Oregon Trail, the Bozeman Trail and the Pony Express, among other routes. This post provided rest and supplies to thousands of people traveling across the country, making its presence a significant force in the Western expansion of America. Fort Laramie was later purchased by the government and turned into a military post, which was used to launch attacks against Native Americans during the Indian Wars. Today, Fort Laramie is a spot worth visiting to see, feel and understand the incredible history that took place there.



Obsidian Cliff

This strange and beautiful spot near Mammoth Hot Springs is a place where the history of the land and the people collide. It’s estimated that the cliffs were formed about 180,000 years ago when lava erupting from a volcano came into contact with ice from a glacier. Obsidian is a volcanic rock that is like a natural glass, so it’s excellent for making sharp tools. Obsidian tools made by hunter-gatherers from this specific spot have been found far and wide, from Canada to Ohio. 


Well, there you have it: four spots where you can experience the unique beauty of Yellowstone and its history at the same time. Ready to plan your trip? Check out our guide to Yellowstone here.  


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