Yellowstone Roads and Bridges
A Glimpse of the Past
. . . we heard the roar of the river, and the road
went round a corner. On one side piled rock and shale. . . on the other a
sheer drop, and a foot of a noisy river below... Then my stomach
departed from me, as it does when you swing, for we left the dirt, which
was at least some guarantee of safety, and sailed out round the curve,
and up a steep incline, on a plank-road built out from the cliff. The
planks were nailed at the outer edge, and did not shift or creak very
much--but enough, quite enough. That was the Golden Gate.
From Sea to Sea, 1889
Golden Gate Viaduct, late 1880s. Photograph taken by Frank J. Haynes.
Another Army engineer, Lt. Hiram Chittenden, played a
significant role in Yellowstone National Park, Besides numerous
engineering feats, he published one of the earliest histories of the
Park, The Yellowstone National Park.
In 1894 Chittenden expressed the difficulty of
constructing roads and bridges in Yellowstone National Park.
The first difficulty arises from the wretched
nature of the material through which the roads pass. Unquestionably
there is no other spot of equal area on the face of the earth where
there is such a remarkable variety of substances, and such curious
combinations, in the composition of the soil. . . He may expect to
encounter in any single mile of road construction all the varities of
work which he would find in building a turnpike from Portland in Maine
to Portland in Oregon.
--Lt. Hiram Chittenden,
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1894
At the turn of the century visitors traveling in the
Park were conveyed by either horses, wagons, bicycles or stage coaches.
Their common complaint about the roads was dust.
. . . These passing wagons fill the air with dense
clouds of dust which envelop us so that we are scarcely able to
distinguish each other. One of the necessities of the tourist in this
region is a good linen duster, buttoning well up at the neck, and
reaching to the knees--also a pair of dark goggles to protect the eyes
from the dust and the reflections from the white limestone, which are
positively injurious, as well as unpleasant.
--Charles M. Taylor, Jr.
Touring Alaska and the Yellowstone, 1901
By the time Chittenden left the Park in 1906, the
proposed roads were completed and the Park had been "provided with a
comparatively good single-track road system." Chittenden realized the
importance of entrance roads and the necessity for side roads enabling
tourists to visit interesting points off the main route of travel.
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