Tower-Roosevelt Area Historic Highlights
The Buffalo Ranch
The Lamar Buffalo Ranch was built in the early part of the century in an effort to increase the herd size of the few remaining bison in Yellowstone, preventing the feared extinction of the species. Buffalo ranching operations continued at Lamar until the 1950s. The valley was irrigated for hay pastures, and corrals and fencing were scattered throughout the area. Remnants of irrigation ditches, fencing, and water troughs can still be found. Four remaining buildings from the original ranch compound are contained within the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Historic District (two residences, the bunkhouse, and the barn) and are on the National Register of Historic Places. In the early 1980s, old tourist cabins from Fishing Bridge were brought to Lamar to be used for Yellowstone Association Institute Classes.
In 1993, a cabin replacement project, funded by the Yellowstone Association, was begun. At this time all of the old cabins have been replaced with new insulated and heated structures. The facility is also used in the spring and fall for the Park Service's residential environmental education program, Expedition: Yellowstone! You are welcome to drive by to view the historic buffalo ranch, however, there are no facilities open to the general public at this location.
The Tower Ranger Station
The Tower Ranger Station, though not on the National Register of Historic Places, is a remodeled reconstruction of the second Tower Soldier Station, which was built in 1907. The Roosevelt Lodge was constructed in 1920 and has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Roosevelt National Historic District also includes the Roosevelt cabins. Interestingly, one of the reasons Roosevelt Lodge was nominated for the National Register was due to its important role in early park interpretation.
Pleasant Valley was the sight of "Uncle John" Yancey's Pleasant Valley Hotel, one of the earliest lodging facilities in Yellowstone. The hotel and outbuildings were built between 1884 and 1893 and served early park visitors as well as miners passing through en route to the mining district near Cooke City. Currently, the site is used by the park's main concessioner, Xanterra, for their "Old West" cookouts. None of the original buildings remain.
The Northeast Entrance Ranger Station
The Northeast Entrance Ranger Station was constructed in 1934-35 and is a National Historic Landmark. Its rustic log construction is characteristic of "parkitecture" common in the national parks of the west during that period.
The Bannock Trail
The Bannock Trail, once used by Native Americans to access the buffalo plains east of the park from the Snake River plains in Idaho, was extensively used from approximately 1840 to 1876. A lengthy portion of the trail extends through the Tower District from the Blacktail Plateau (closely paralleling or actually covered by the existing road) to where it crosses the Yellowstone River at the Bannock Ford upstream from Tower Creek. From the river, the trail's main fork ascends the Lamar River splitting at Soda Butte Creek. From there, one fork ascends the creek before leaving the park. Traces of the trail can still be plainly seen in various locations, particularly on the Blacktail Plateau and at the Lamar-Soda Butte confluence.
There are many archaeological sites in the Tower District. In fact, sites are found in a greater density here than in most other areas of the park. Unfortunately, most have yet to be extensively catalogued or studied.
Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.