|Showcasing Native American history, early park structures, and a quiet atmosphere uncommon along Yellowstone’s corridors, the Tower-Roosevelt Area provides visitors with a glimpse into the park’s early history as a major tourist attraction.
The Buffalo Ranch
In an effort to preserve and increase Yellowstone’s dwindling bison population, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch was created during the early 1900s. Twenty-one bison from privately owned area ranches were acquired as the foundation stock for a fifty-year breeding program marked by success. The bison population surged, and with no fear of bison becoming extinct in Yellowstone, the park closed the Buffalo Ranch in the 1950s.
The Buffalo Ranch. NPS Photo
During its hey-day, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch constructed elaborate irrigation ditches to create fertile hay pastures capable of feeding a growing herd. Fences were also erected throughout the ranch to contain the large animals and ensure breeding success. Some of these original fences and ditches are still visible, and two original residences, one bunkhouse, and the ranch’s barn still stand as Nationally Registered Historic Places. Although all the old cabins were replaced in 1993 to make way for modern facilities, the ranch retains a historic flavor. Today, the ranch is home to Yellowstone Institute classes and environmental education programs offered during spring and fall. None of the buildings are open for touring, but visitors are welcome to drive by.
The Tower Ranger Station & Roosevelt National Historic District
The Roosevelt National Historic District encompasses several of the park’s earliest buildings, including the 1920 Roosevelt Lodge, Roosevelt Cabins, and the Tower Ranger Station. The Tower Ranger Station is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places but still serves as an important testimony to the park’s early history; it is an accurate reconstruction of the 1907 Tower Soldier Station.
“Uncle John” Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel was constructed between 1884 and 1893 as one of Yellowstone’s first lodging facilities. The hotel housed hopeful miners headed to nearby Cooke City as well as park guests. Although none of the original buildings currently remain, Xanterra Parks and Resorts uses the hotel building site as the scenic backdrop for its famous Old West cookouts.
The Northeast Entrance Ranger Station
The Northeast Entrance Ranger Station features the same log construction techniques utilized in parks across the nation during the early 1900s. The rustic structure dates back to 1934 and is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
The Bannock Trail
Extending from Idaho’s Snake River Valley to the Midwest plains, the Bannock Trail provided Native Americans with annual access to prosperous buffalo hunts from 1840 to 1876. A significant portion of the trail twisted its way through the Tower-Roosevelt Area, and faint remnants of the historic trail can still be found. From Blacktail Plateau, the trail continued to the Bannock Ford crossing of the Yellowstone River, ascended the Lamar River, and forked at Soda Butte Creek. The best locations to view the trail are near the Blacktail Plateau and the Lamar River.