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The United States Congress Established Yellowstone National Park in 1872.  

What was it like here, the year before?

This is an artistic series (early hand-colored photographs) of what it may have been like  in  1871, the year before Yellowstone became a National Park.


What was it like one year before Yellowstone National Park was designated?  The Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 explored the region of northwestern Wyoming that later became Yellowstone National Park in 1872.


If we let our imagination run wild, we can only imagine what was seen during the first federally funded, geological survey to explore and further document features in the region - which eventually became Yellowstone National Park.


Nathaniel P. Langford, the first park superintendent and a member of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition which explored the park in 1870 and 1871. 


This old photographic image may once have been part of the fascinating daily record of Ferdinand Hayden’s historic 1871 scientific expedition through Utah, Idaho, and Montana Territories to the Yellowstone Basin.


The early expeditions through (what we now call) Yellowstone quickly led Congress to establish Yellowstone as the world’s first national park. There were so many early scientific discoveries, the expedition is famous for producing the earliest on-site images of Yellowstone, by its guest artist, Thomas Moran and photographer, William Henry Jackson.

These bears observed the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and certainly saw one of the most breathtaking sight inside Yellowstone Park.   They viewed Lower Falls plunging steeply into the canyon.

Black bear and her cub, standing above (what we now call) Artists Point in Yellowstone National Park. They are admiring the beautiful grand canyon of Yellowstone and upper falls.



  • Two bear cubs playing in Yellowstone Lake.

  • A Native American Playing a Welcome Song for a New Born "red dog" Bison Calf.

  • Native American Tipi Village (also tepee or teepee) - Near what we now call Old Faithful.

  • A Young Bear Cub Pushing his Mom towards Hot Springs.

  • A Mother and Young Bear Holding Hands (paws).

  • Young Bears Playing in a Canoe.

  • An Adult Grizzly Bear is Teaching Cubs how to Catch Fish





The 1871 U.S. Geological Survey expedition led by Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden provided the opportunity for Moran to travel to the Yellowstone region. A respected painter, engraver, and illustrator by this time, Moran quickly realized how this journey would be an amazing experience.  What he did not realize is how his work would change American history.


Yellowstone National Park is a national park located in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.


Act Establishing Yellowstone National Park (1872)  Forty-Second Congress of the United States of America;  At the Second Session,  Begun and held at the City of Washington, on Monday, the Fourth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one.


AN ACT to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park.    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, and described as follows, to wit, commencing at the junction of Gardiner's river with the Yellowstone river, and running east to the meridian passing ten miles to the eastward of the most eastern point of Yellowstone lake; thence south along said meridian to the parallel of latitude passing ten miles south of the most southern point of Yellowstone lake; thence west along said parallel to the meridian passing fifteen miles west of the most western point of Madison lake; thence north along said meridian to the latitude of the junction of Yellowstone and Gardiner's rivers; thence east to the place of beginning, is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate or settle upon or occupy the same, or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed therefrom.



SEC 2. That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition. The Secretary may in his discretion, grant leases for building purposes for terms not exceeding ten years, of small parcels of ground, at such places in said park as shall require the erection of buildings for the accommodation of visitors; all of the proceeds of said leases, and all other revenues that may be derived from any source connected with said park, to be expended under his direction in the management of the same, and the construction of roads and bridle- paths therein. He shall provide against the wanton destruction of the fish and game found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit. He shall also cause all persons trespassing upon the same after the passage of this act to be removed therefrom, and generally shall be authorized to take all such measures as shall be necessary or proper to fully carry out the objects and purposes of this act.


Under this appropriation Hayden was, May 1, 1871, reappointed United States geologist from July 1, 1871, at a salary of $4,000 per year (had been $3,000) and permitted to select his own assistants "who will be entirely subject to your orders." He was to complete "the season's work about the sources of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers."



Representative Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts, was chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and had shown his interest in this survey as evidenced by the following in Hayden's Preliminary Report for 1871 (p. 96):



"Our little bark * * * was named by Mr. Stevenson in compliment to Miss Anna L. Dawes, the amiable daughter of Hon. H. L. Dawes. My whole party were glad to manifest, by this slight tribute, their gratitude to this distinguished statesman, whose generous sympathy and aid had contributed so much toward securing the appropriation which enable them to explore this marvelous region."

Chester M. Dawes, a general assistant in the party, was a son of Representative Dawes, is the present recollection of Mr. W. H. Jackson, the only living survivor of the party.



I have had a talk with George B. Chittenden of East River, Conn., who was in the Hayden survey from 1873 to 1877. He tells me Hayden had a remarkable personality and the capacity to arouse in his subordinates the utmost loyalty and the most enthusiastic effort. He tells me that once, while talking about the campfire, Hayden jumped up with enthusiasm, exclaiming, "Geology is like the Bible, a sermon in every verse." He never carried a gun, even in the wilds, saying he often ran away from trouble, when, if he had had a gun, he would have stayed and been in trouble. He was fearless, going anywhere. Once, in the Black Hills, he was captured by Indians who found him carrying a bag of stones. Believing him insane, and treating the demented always with consideration, he was released by them unharmed. He was called by the Indians "the man who picks up stones running." Forty-four genera and species of various organisms were named for him "from a living moth to a fossil dinosaur." He had been a surgeon in the Civil War and 1865 to 1872 was professor of geology at the University of Pennsylvania. After that he gave full time to his Government survey. He was born in 1829 and died in 1887.



In his preliminary report on the 1871 expedition Professor Hayden refers to his contact with Jim Bridger as guide of the expedition to the Lower Yellowstone under General Warren in 1856 and his wonderful tales "that sharpened the curiosity of the whole party." In 1860 he had been a member of the Raynolds expedition as geologist. He said that the Langford articles in Scribner's had called the attention of the whole country "to that remarkable region." The Washburn expedition led to the Hayden exploration, just as the Folsom expedition led to the Washburn.










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