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The Visual Wonders of Yellowstone National Park

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While I am usually incapable of picking favorites, I must admit I do have a favorite national park – Yellowstone. I have visited more than twenty times and I never tire of the natural wonders contained in its over 2 million acres. It was the first national park established in the United States, on March 1, 1872 – so today I will belatedly mark its 150th birthday with a historic journey through the park via images in our collections.

William Henry Jackson was one of the most notable early photographers of Yellowstone, as part of the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Jackson took this photo entitled “Great Falls of the Yellowstone” while traveling with the survey. These falls are now known as the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

Great Falls of the Yellowstone. Photo by William Henry Jackson, 1871.

By comparison, contemporary photographer Carol M. Highsmith took this photo of the Lower Falls more than a century later in 2015:

The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in northwestern Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2015 Sept. 14.

I enjoy studying the older photos we have of the park, predating most modern conveniences- and safety rules! Yellowstone is quite famous for its thermal features like geysers, hot springs, mud pots and steam vents, which can be quite dangerous- and sometimes easily damaged. As you can see, visitors to the park in the late 19th and early 20th century were either unaware or unconcerned:

[A group of tourists explore a geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park] Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1903.

The Punch Bowl, Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Photo copyrighted by Keystone View Company, 1918.

Grand Geyser in action, 200 feet high, Upper Basin, Y.N.P. Photo copyrighted by Stereo-Travel Inc., 1912.

Enjoy a tour of the sights of Yellowstone through various formats and time periods below:

Sapphire Pool, Yellowstone National Park. Photchrom by Detroit Photographic Co., 1902.
Riverside Geyser, Yellowstone Park. Photchrom by Detroit Photographic Co., 1905.
Yellowstone National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service. Poster by C. Don Powell, ca. 1938.
Yellowstone vista, with Price family members. Photo by Albert M. Price, ca. 1922.
Tower Creek series. Tower Fall, 156 ft. high from above. Photo by Joshua Crissman, 1876.
The Castle Geyser, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. Chromolithograph by L. Prang & Co., 1874.


The magnificent new Virginia Canyon Road and Virginia Falls, Yellowstone National Park. Photo copyrighted by T.W. Ingersoll, 1905.

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