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.
By comparison, contemporary photographer Carol M. Highsmith took this photo of the Lower Falls more than a century later in 2015:
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:
Enjoy a tour of the sights of Yellowstone through various formats and time periods below:
- Photographer William Henry Jackson visited Yellowstone several times in the 1870s, documenting the landscape for various surveys. Enjoy these very early photos of the first national park.
- Make your own visit to Yellowstone National Park (or search for your own favorite park!) in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- The national parks of the United States have been a frequent subject for photographer contemporary photographer Carol M. Highsmith.
- See some turn of the 20th century color images of Yellowstone National Park, created using the photochrom process, which is described here.