Walking up the steps at Apollinaris Spring is in a way like walking into history. It was a lively place in the early days of Yellowstone. In those days, the majority of visitors entered from the north. Stagecoaches would stop here and visitors would fill bottles and canvas water bags or simply drink from a cup; it became a gathering place.
The average visitors to Yellowstone in the late 1800s or early 1900s were wealthy. These well traveled socialites believed the spring tasted like naturally carbonated commercial water from a spring in Germany; Yellowstone’s Apollinaris Spring is named after that spring.
This was such a popular stop that a Wylie Permanent Camping Company tent-camp was opened across the road from the spring. In those days the spring was not much more than a rocked-in hole in the ground.
After the Wylie Camp was moved to Swan Lake Flats in 1906, local outfitters continued to camp nearby. Concerns about the sanitary conditions at the spring led to some 1925 renovations. Travertine flagstones for stairs and a platform were quarried near Mammoth Hot Springs and granite and obsidian boulders were used as a retaining wall.
A plumbing system was put in place to pipe the water into a series of drinking holes or fountains along the wall. For a period, a stone fountain was in place near the center of the platform. The use of local rock materials reflects a style that was to become more common in our national parks.
Nowadays, the National Park Service recommends that visitors either carry water with them or purify their drinking water by some means. While we are discouraged from drinking water at Apollinaris Spring today, the water is still used for the restrooms located in the picnic area across the street.
If any of your ancestors visited Yellowstone, chances are they stopped here. Places like Apollinaris Spring are important to our cultural heritage. When you come, spend some time here or in the picnic area. If you concentrate enough you can almost feel the history of Yellowstone come alive.