Yellowstone's name is historically credited to the Native Americans who lived in and around the park area. The name is basically derived from the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone River has high yellow rock cliffs along its banks in the northern area of the present day park.
The Native American Minnetaree tribe called the river "Mi tsi a da zi," which means "Rock Yellow River." French fur trappers translated this to "Yellow Rock" or "Yellow Stone." Hence Yellowstone was named.
In 1872 Yellowstone National Park was established making it the world's first national park.
Forty-Second Congress of the United States of America;
At the Second Session,
Begun and held at the City of Washington, on Monday, the Fourth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one.
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, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river, and described as follows, to wit, commencing at the junction of Gardiner's river with the Yellowstone river, and running east to the meridian passing ten miles to the eastward of the most eastern point of Yellowstone lake; thence south along said meridian to the parallel of latitude passing ten miles south of the most southern point of Yellowstone lake; thence west along said parallel to the meridian passing fifteen miles west of the most western point of Madison lake; thence north along said meridian to the latitude of the junction of the Yellowstone and Gardiner's rivers; thence east to the place of beginning, is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and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 therefrom.
SECTION 2. That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural conditions. The secretary may in his discreation, grant leases for building purposes for terms not exceeding ten years, of small parcels or ground; at such places in said park as shall require the erection of buildings for the accommodation of visitors; all of the proceeds of said leases, and all other revenues that may be derived from any source connected with said park, to be expended under his direction in the management of the same, and the construction of roads and bridle-paths therein. He shall provide against the wanton destruction of the fish and game found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit. He shall also cause all persons trespassing upon the same after the passage of this act to be removed therefrom, and generally shall be authorized to take all such measures as shall be necessary or proper to fully carry out the objects and purposes of this act.
APPROVED March 1st 1872
U. S. Grant (Signed)
James Gillespie Blaine - Speaker of the House of Representatives
Schuyler Colfax - Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate
George Congdon Gorham - Secretary of the Senate
Ulysses S. Grant (Hiram Ulysses Grant) - President of the United States
The following article is from the book "Greater Yellowstone - The National Park & Adjacent Wildlands" by Rick Reese. This article is published here with the author's permission.
There is a place high astride the Continental Divide in the northern Rocky Mountains of western America where within a few miles of one another the first trickles of the Snake, the Yellowstone and the Green rivers are born. From here everything goes down: to the Columbia, to the Missouri, to the Colorado and on to the sea. During the exploration of the west, this place, where present-day Montana, Idaho and Wyoming converge, was the last major piece to be fitted into the giant puzzle of American geography.
By the time a definitive exploration of the Yellowstone region finally was accomplished in 1871, the remainder of the west was largely settled: the Mormons had been in Utah for more than 20 years, the valleys of the west were being farmed and ranched, John Wesley Powell had explored and mapped the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, the California gold rush had come and gone, and the fires of the Civil War had been cold for half a decade. A few white men had penetrated the region; one, John Colter of the Lewis and Clark expedition, had walked alone through here in search of furs as early as 1807. Intermittently for the next 60 years an occasional trapper, prospector or explorer would make his way into what mountain men and explorers loosely called The Yellowstone, and a few would even chronicle it as did Osborne Russell, who wrote so eloquently of the area in the 1830s. However, by the latter third of the 19th century, the region of the upper Yellowstone was still essentially terra incognita.
In 1860 an able expedition of the Corps of Topographic Engineers under the leadership of Captain William Raynolds made an attempt at an organized exploration of the Yellowstone region, but the expedition failed to penetrate even the outer reaches of the area that today comprises Yellowstone National Park. It was another nine years before three curious adventurers, David E. Folsom, Charles W. Cook, and William Peterson, set out in the autumn from near Helena in Montana Territory to conduct their own exploration. Only upon the return of these three to civilization after nearly a month of plying Yellowstone's inner recesses did a comprehensive understanding of the area begin to emerge.
Armed with the invaluable information of the Cook-Folsom-Peterson expedition and encouraged by their findings and success, another expedition to Yellowstone under the leadership of Henry D. Washburn, Surveyor General of Montana Territory, was launched from Helena in 1870. This group, consisting of a military escort and 19 people including several of considerable wealth and political influence, covered much of the ground that Cook, Folsom and Peterson had seen the year before. In addition, Washburn and his party traveled deep into the southeast portion of Yellowstone nearly circumscribing Yellowstone Lake. Upon their return, various members of the expedition wrote articles about the upper Yellowstone and attracted considerable national attention to the wonders they had seen. One of their number, Nathaniel P. Langford, went forth to deliver a series of lectures including one in January 1871 in Washington, D.C. Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden, head of the U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories, was in the audience. Out of this contact between Langford and Hayden were sown the seeds of the famous Hayden Survey of Yellowstone in 1871, the most productive, definitive and elaborate of all Yellowstone expeditions.
Hayden assembled a large and talented scientific party of geologists, zoologists, botanists and a variety of others including photographer William H. Jackson and artist Thomas Moran. His highly successful expedition gathered hundreds of specimens in addition to producing a wealth of notes, photographs and artistic sketches, and confirmed the wonders of Yellowstone - up to that time largely unverified.
In Washington, Hayden set about compiling his findings in an official report that joined others in urging Congress to set aside the Yellowstone region as America's first national park. That was accomplished just a few short months later when, in March 1872, President Ulysses Grant signed into law an act creating Yellowstone National Park.
In 1872 the vast wilderness of the west was viewed by most Americans as something to be tamed, to be explored, settled, mined, logged, ranched and farmed. For most at that time the west was not valued for its wilderness, but rather for the material treasures that it could yield. It is remarkable that during such an age Yellowstone was set aside as the world's first national park. That such a park could have been created more than a century ago is perhaps the most illustrative indicator of how unique and magnificent the Yellowstone country was perceived to be, even then.
Of the undisturbed ecologically cohesive areas so common in western America in 1872, few remain. Now, at a time when the face of the earth has become so ravaged that few truly natural areas remain, the Yellowstone country assumes a value far greater than the original proponents of the national park ever could have anticipated. Here we find the largest essentially intact ecosystem remaining in the lower 48 states - millions of acres of diverse mountain wilderness relatively untouched by the imprint of man, much the same as it was hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago. Here in Yellowstone National Park and in the surrounding millions of acres of national forest, nearly every species of plant and animal life that John Colter could have seen when he ventured into the area almost 200 years ago continues to flourish.
But Yellowstone National Park is not an island. Geographically, biologically and ecologically it is highly dependent upon millions of acres of adjacent lands, which together with the park itself comprise the "Greater Yellowstone" area. The environmental integrity of Yellowstone Park is dependent upon the careful management of these lands. In most instances the lands around Yellowstone must remain in a relatively natural condition for the biological community of Yellowstone itself to remain viable. Plants and animals do not recognize the politically established park boundary. Some of man's activities on surrounding national Forest, state and private lands, though politically apart from Yellowstone, pose severe threats to the wildlife, water, air, thermal features and other aspects of the park itself.
About the author: Rick Reese served as director of the Yellowstone Institute from 1980 - 1984. He was a principal founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and served two terms as president of that organization. He was a park service climbing ranger in Grand Teton Nation Park for seven seasons and is the author of Montana Mountain Ranges in the Montana Geographic Series.
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