August 4th, 9:18pm
Over a campfire, Ranger Maggie led a program, “The Importance of Words in Early Yellowstone.” While we have social media to share our snapshots, she explained, early explorers had only the power of words to share their Yellowstone experience.
Recorded stories from the Yellowstone region largely came from the first fur trappers and explorers. Although there are 26 native tribes associated with Yellowstone, their stories are absent from European record. William Clark, of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, surmised that Natives were afraid of these geysers, which is now widely believed to be false. More likely is that Natives weren’t telling Europeans about these sacred lands.
French fur trappers and mountain men were the first to explore these lands, with Jim Bridger telling the tallest tales of all - of a mountain made of glass (Obsidian Cliff), and a lake where a fish would be fully cooked on exit. With the Washburn Expedition of 1869 was Truman Everts, who was separated from the party. He was found 37 days later with both frostbite and severe burns, weighing only 50 pounds. His story, “37 Days of Peril,” published in Scribner’s Monthly, was the first to enthrall the nation. Then came the Hayden Expedition in 1871, sent by the US Geological Survey. A team of scientists described their many findings, and painter Thomas Moran captured the landscape. Their descriptions of the region’s thermal features led to Yellowstone being declared the first National Park in 1872.