In 1872, wonderful Wyoming wasn’t even a state. Yet Americans already revered the region for its grand geologic and hydrothermal gems — and created the world’s first national park to protect it. And, from there, the idea of national parks took off.
Fast forward to 2022, and Yellowstone National Park is turning the big 1-5-0. That means generations of visitors have oohed and aahed over the world’s greatest collection of bubbling hydrothermal features, like geysers. They’ve also reveled in Yellowstone’s towering peaks, deeply carved valleys and all the furry and feathered critters that live there — including magnificent woolly bison and memorable sightings of America’s fiercest carnivores, like roaming grizzly bears, cougars and wolves.
And here’s the clincher: What we experience there today is more or less the same as what our great-grandparents experienced 100 years ago. Yellowstone enables us to see what wildlands are like — as they once were and how they’ll always be — and this makes the national-park concept shine.
A Monumental Idea
The rationale behind claiming Yellowstone as a national park was, funnily enough, based on the landscape being impractical for agriculture and mineral development. And, in the late 1800s, those who came West did so to get rich off the region’s seemingly endless natural resources.
However beautiful, Yellowstone is first and foremost a huge volcanic crater filled with lava. The railroad industry saw it from a different perspective, however — if Yellowstone was even half as magical as everyone was saying, they’d make a fortune bringing people there to see it.
Indeed, protecting Yellowstone’s vast landscape — 96 percent of which is found within Wyoming’s borders — created numerous benefits over the years. It helped kickstart the science of ecology, encouraged conservation of the world’s most beautiful places and inspired generations of Americans to fall in love with the untamed world. Learn more about 150 years at Yellowstone at nps.gov/yell.
Yellowstone’s Sustainability Efforts
Whether you’re here for a day or a week, there are numerous ways you can help keep it pristine and be a responsible traveler, like carpooling, properly sorting your waste and following park signage. Learn all about Yellowstone’s sustainability efforts.
Want more Yellowstone National Park inspiration? Explore Yellowstone trip ideas.