A Nobel Prize, big business and scientific breakthroughs including Covid-19 tests and vaccines were decades in the future when microbiologist Thomas D. Brock began taking samples from Yellowstone Park’s hot springs in the summer of 1964.
As mass production of automobiles increased the demand for better roads, federal highway funds became available to states and “good roads” committees pioneered the identification, improvement and naming of likely tourist routes. Among the first of these, from the Black Hills to Yellowstone, was the Black and Yellow Trail.
Through some of Wyoming’s roughest terrain in 1874, future Gov. William A. Richards surveyed the western boundary of the territory. Felling trees, clambering through canyons, dodging lightning bolts and watching mules flip from cliffs were only a few of the privations he and his party endured.
The National Park Service’s Mission 66, initiated in 1956, modernized facilities, built new ones, built roads and added dozens more parks and historic sites. In Wyoming, architects designed buildings meant to enhance visitors’ experiences while protecting the wonders they came to see. The results recast Americans’ relationships with natural beauty.
Chester A. Arthur, the first president to visit Yellowstone, traveled there in 1883 by stage and horseback from the railroad at Green River through the Shoshone Reservation and Jackson Hole. The trip generated political pressure to preserve the park in its natural state—and to stave off commercial development.
In 1904, when the Old Faithful Inn opened in Yellowstone Park, it was seen as a treasure: rustic and luxurious, breathtaking yet casual. It came to be a symbol of Yellowstone, and its building style, called parkitecture, spread quickly to other national parks, dude ranches, state parks and small museums.
In 1885, long before he was known as the Father of the National Park System, naturalist John Muir first visited Yellowstone. The sojourn matured him as a writer and thinker, gradually articulating the idea that nature was worth protecting not merely for its resources—but for its holistic self.
Wealthy artist, hunter and conservationist A.A. Anderson was named superintendent of the new Yellowstone Forest Reserve in 1902. His love for wildlife habitat clashed with local timber and grazing interests, however, and, after much controversy, he lost his job. Wyoming and the nation might have benefitted if he’d found a way to bridge that gap.
It may seem surprising that a solitary New York socialite would make Yellowstone safer. But Alice Morris’s love of Yellowstone National Park led to her horseback explorations in 1917, when she chronicled the park’s wonders and detailed changes to improve and standardize trail systems that remain in place today.
Begun as a jobs program in the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps—“Roosevelt’s Tree Army”— employed more than 1,000 men in Wyoming building roads, improving parks, fighting fires and boosting local economies. The CCC legacy includes the classic, rustic stone-and-log buildings at Guernsey State Park.