It was America’s original “best idea.” Yellowstone National Park was America’s — and the world’s — first national park, established in 1872. It’s a land of abundant wildlife and geothermal wonders. And it’s the destination of American Forests’ third Forestscape. In February 2015, we’ll be taking a getaway to see this iconic landscape in all its winter glory. The park’s best known features — the wildlife that earned it the nickname “Serengeti of North America” and the world’s largest collection of geysers — can be particularly spectacular in winter.
In winter, the dark spots of Yellowstone’s famous bison herds stand out against the pristine white snow like an inverted night sky. Even the park’s star attraction — the wolves — may be easier to spot against the white landscape.
The steam and heat given off by the park’s signature hydrothermal features, from the iconic Old Faithful, to any of the lesser known mudpots or steam vents, are also perhaps best appreciated in the cold of winter.
But wildlife and geysers are also not the only important features here. The forests of Yellowstone were among the reasons it attracted the attention of early conservationists. In fact, this area was not only home to the first national park, but to the first national forest as well. In March 1891, 19 years after Yellowstone National Park was established, Congress gave the president — after much prodding from American Forests and other conservation groups! — the power to create forest reserves. Then-president Benjamin Harrison’s first use of this new power was to create Yellowstone Park Timber Land Reserve, later called Yellowstone National Forest, protecting forests around the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
Today, that land is no longer known as Yellowstone National Forest, but is still a protected part of the Greater Yellowstone Area. Bridger-Teton, Custer, Shoshone and Caribou-Targhee national forests are all on land that comprised that original forest reserve and surround the national park, offering further protection for wildlife that wanders outside the boundaries.
As we stand in the open air of the park in February with snow crunching under our snowshoes or curl up in the Snow Lodge with some hot cocoa after a morning of wildlife viewing by snow coach, we’ll know that this history is all around us.
Stay tuned to Loose Leaf in the coming weeks for more insights into America’s first national park.