The Official Birth of Yellowstone


Under great pressure from Yellowstone’s private party explorers, Northern Pacific Railroad officials (who saw Yellowstone as a prosperous business venture), and the general public, the U.S. Congress finally gathered funds to send out its own scientific team of explorers. Territorial director of the U.S. Geological Survey Ferdinand V. Hayden was appointed in 1871 to lead photographer William H. Jackson, artist Thomas Moran, and a team of explorers to the area. Their return to Washington later that year confirmed every Yellowstone account dating back to Colter’s first journal reports. Hayden immediately joined the ranks of Washburn, Doane, and Langford in lobbying Congress to preserve Yellowstone from the West’s feverish homesteaders. Finally, in an unprecedented act, Congress passed the Yellowstone Park bill with little issue and turned the matter over to President Ulysses S. Grant. Grant wholeheartedly endorsed the legislation, and Yellowstone National Park was born on March 1, 1872.

Known as the Yellowstone Park Act, the bill reads: “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in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River…is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and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…”

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