Historic Resource Study
The History of the Construction of the Road System in Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1966
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Part Two: Cultural Resource Management


In 1986, the Federal Highway Administration began a multi-phase project to repair all of the principal visitor access and circulation roads in Yellowstone National Park. This project meets the purpose of the approved 1974 Master Plan "for public accommodation, for preservation of park resources, and for enhancing the quality of the park visitor experience." The first phase of the project was rehabilitation of the road segment between Biscuit Basin, west of Old Faithful, to the West Thumb Bypass. A National Register of Historic Places Determination of Eligibility for this road segment was prepared by the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, National Park Service and approved and signed by the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office in September, 1986. Another road related resource, or property type, evaluated by the Determination of Eligibility process was the Bacon Rind Road Camp Bunkhouse. This building was found not to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places by a consensus Determination of Eligibility with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office in August, 1988. A nomination for another associated resource, the Baronett Bridge site has been prepared by the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. This site will be included in the Multiple Property nomination form for this project.

In anticipation of the requirements to meet the compliance needs of the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as Amended in 1980 and the Section 4 (f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 for the rehabilitation of the entire road system, Yellowstone National Park requested a survey and evaluation of the entire road system as part of a larger project which would be Part I of a Historic Resource Study for Yellowstone National Park.

As the plans for the Historic Resource Study were developing, the Historic American Engineering Record office in Washington D.C. agreed to undertake a recording project of the roads and bridges in Yellowstone National Park as part of their multi-year National Park areas roads and bridges recording program. Thus the following Research Design was developed to meet the needs of these various projects.

The draft outline of the Survey Report for the Roads and Bridges in Yellowstone National Park, was sent to the State Historic Preservation Office of Montana and Idaho on May 3, 1989 for their comments. A meeting was held in Cheyenne, Wyoming with the State Historic Preservation Office staff on April 5, 1989 to discuss the project.

During the summer of 1989, an Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) team, recorded the bridges and some road sections in Yellowstone National Park. Measured drawings were completed for seven bridges in the Park — Cub Creek, Crawfish, Fishing Bridge, one of the Gibbon River Bridges, the Army Bridge at the end of the Fountain Freight Road, the Army Bridge over Obsidian Creek, and the Gardner River Bridge east of Mammoth Hot Springs. These bridges and the remaining bridges built or designed 50 years ago were also photographed to HAER standards. The HAER documentation with original photographs will be sent to the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, Yellowstone National Park, and to the Library of Congress. A copy of the documentation will be sent to the Montana and Idaho State Historic Preservation Office.



1. To inventory all historic resources associated with the historic context, "The History of the Construction of the Road System in Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1966." This project does not cover prehistoric resources; however, all historic archeological resources found will be identified and basic information will be recorded. This information will be turned over to the National Park Service archeologist for correct procedural requirements. The resources that were built after 1939 will not be inventoried, with exception of the Isa Lake Bridge.

2. To evaluate all historic resources inventoried and recommend for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places those resources which meet the criteria as specified in 36 CFR 60. To evaluate any post-1939 resources which may meet the criteria for evaluation guidelines for "Considering Properties that have Achieved Significance Within the Last 50 Years."

3. The identified property types reflect the current knowledge of the survey area, Yellowstone National Park. Any resources found that can not be grouped with the identified property types will result in other types being added. The identified type, Roads, Bridges, and Buildings and Structures Associated with the Construction of the Road System, were selected as a result of the preparer's knowledge of Yellowstone National Park history and resources, and background research.

4. The area to be formally surveyed will be the Yellowstone National Park. An informal survey will be done of the adjoining national forests and areas north of the Park, between Gardiner, Montana, Livingston, Montana. This informal survey could be a personal tour or it could be conducted by correspondence with the cultural resource specialists in the national forests and interested groups or citizens in the gateway communities — West Yellowstone, Montana, Cooke City, Montana, and Gardiner, Montana. The purpose of the extended survey is to assess similarities and differences in resources and also to analyze impacts or trends that the resources within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park might have on these other areas.

5. Produce a Historic Base Map.

6. The narrative of the historic context will include information which may be useful to others in the management of Yellowstone National Park, i.e. the maintenance staff, the natural scientists, the interpreters, and etc.

7. To make the historic context compatible with the comprehensive historic preservation plans developed by the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. The development of this context should supplement their Transportation or related context.


Research for the development of the Historic Resource Study has been conducted in the following depositories and/or with the following sources:

1. Yellowstone National Park Library and Archives, Yellowstone National Park.

2. Maintenance Files of Yellowstone National Park.

3. Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

4. The Rocky Mountain Regional Office Library, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado.

5. National Archives, Washington D.C. — National Park Service records, United States Geological Survey records, Office of the Secretary of the Interior records, Military records and the Forest Service records.

6. University of Wyoming, The American Heritage Center, Laramie, Wyoming.

7. Washington Historical Society, Hiram Chittenden Collection, Tacoma, Washington.

8. University of California, Los Angeles, Horace Albright collection.

9. The personal papers of Horace Albright in the possession of his daughter, Marian Schenck, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

10. National Archives and Records Center, Bureau of Public Roads records, Suitland, Maryland.

11. The cartographic records of the National Park Service, National Archives, Alexandra, Virginia.

12. National Archives and Records Center, National Park Service records, Denver, Colorado.

13. Numerous magazines and journal articles received via Inter-Library Loan.

The literature published about Yellowstone National Park is extensive, however the data concerning the development of the road system is in most cases minimal. Thus this research effort focused on primary material strictly concerned with the road construction. The very early (1872-83) material is general in nature, i.e. superintendent reports, traveler's accounts, but the early guidebooks and maps are more specific. After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took command of the road construction in 1883 and until it was turned over to the National Park Service in 1918, the details of the planning and construction became more specific and a plethora of published material exists. The transition of the responsibility of the road construction to the National Park Service coincided with the creation of the Service's Engineering Division. Fortunately for researchers, the following types of reports are available:

1. Preliminary Inventory Report of Road Sections.
2. Monthly Progress Reports of Engineers.
3. Final Construction Reports of Engineers.
4. Monthly and Annual Reports of Superintendents.
5. Monthly and Annual Reports of Landscape Architects.
6. Bridge Reports.
7. Master Plans.

The different correspondence files of the National Park Service are very helpful. Individual collections are very useful, particularly Horace Albright. Albright took over the superintendency of Yellowstone National Park shortly after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers left the Park. He was very interested in the road system and continued that interest after he became Director of the National Park Service in 1929 and into his retirement.

All of the above material not only gives technical information, but many documents impart the philosophy of what a park road should be. Information has been collected from the National Park Service and United States Forest Service records, magazine and newspaper articles, and other sources to be used for comparative data for similar resources. The records of the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office were searched on April 5, 1989. Telephone communications with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office were conducted during the summer of 1989. The Bridge Surveys for Montana and Wyoming have been helpful.

The extensive documentation of the road system in Yellowstone National Park provides a good basis for making sound predictions of what to expect during the Intensive Field Survey to be completed during the summer of 1989. In addition to the primary and secondary material discussed, the historical photographic collections are rich with examples of conditions, "before and after" views, and etc.

Previous research known to exist relating to the road system is Enchanted Enclosure: The Army Engineers and Yellowstone National Park - A Documentary History by Kenneth H. Baldwin and "The Yellowstone National Park Road System: Past, Present, and Future" by Bob Randolph O'Brien. The Baldwin history is a compilation of government reports about the Yellowstone National Park. The O'Brien Ph.D. dissertation gives a good overview history, but focuses on the future of the transportation network within the Park.


The field survey took place during the summer of 1989 and a portion during the summer of 1990. All vehicular bridges designed or built 50 years ago were surveyed. Bridges built after this period were not surveyed, however, they will be listed on an attached sheet. The precise location of each road segment and bridge was mapped, as well as sample surveying of culverts and headwalls. Due to the fact that there are probably a thousand or more culverts, predictive modeling will be used in the evaluation process. A detailed survey for the East Entrance Road and for the Old Faithful to West Thumb Bypass Road will be used. Every feature is on this survey map prepared by the Federal Highway Administration.

Survey forms, along with the survey report will be sent to the State Historic Preservation Offices.

The preparer surveyed the following roads:

1. of the Grand Loop Road (140.14)
2. the North Entrance Road (5.23 miles)
3. the Northeast Entrance Road (28.61 miles)
4. East Entrance Road (26.02 miles)
5. South Entrance Road (21.45 miles)
6. West Entrance Road (13.85)
7. the Norris - Canyon Road (11.57 miles)
8. the Gallatin Highway (20.50 miles)
9. Mammoth - Gardiner High Road (3.95 miles)
10. Bunsen Peak Road (5.88 miles)
11. Firehole Canyon Drive (2.20 miles)
12. Firehole Lake Drive (3.2 miles)
13. Virginia Cascade Drive (1.94 miles)
14. Mount Washburn Road as far as parking area (1.45 miles)
15. North Entrance Concessioner Service Road (0.31 miles)
16. Blacktail Deer Plateau Drive (6.88)
17. Madison River Loop Drive (1.10 miles)

Total miles surveyed - 294.28 miles

As part of the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) project, each historic bridge was photographed, providing current views. In appropriate cases, important features or details were photographed. Historic plans, drawings, and photographs were assembled.

The bridges built after this period were not inventoried, but will be listed and mapped in the National Register Documentation.

The following are the roads and the types of roads not surveyed:

1. Mesa Road
2. Old Mary Mountain Road
3. Maryville Road
4. Slough Creek Ranch Road
5. Road into Reese Creek area
6. all service roads
7. all roads in developed areas
8. campground roads
9. side roads into interpretive areas
10. utility roads

The assessment of these roads will be included in the evaluation of resources associated with either the concessions or administrative historic contexts. These were not part of the planned road system or in some cases they may have been a portion of an older road, but that issue will be addressed as each context is developed.

The preparer concluded, as a result of the survey and based on the historic context, and in consultation with the National Register staff in June, 1990, that the Grand Loop Road will be designated as a Historic District and each entrance road will be a separate district. While all are primary park roads, the historical purpose and evolution of each entrance road stands alone.

The only objective not met was a personal survey of the surrounding forest roads, with the exception of the Beartooth Highway leading out of the Park at the Northeast Entrance. The road between Gardiner, Montana and Livingston, Montana did receive a windshield survey. No new property types were found, but based on the developed historic context, the Engineers Building and the Chittenden House will be added to the Property Type—Buildings and Structures Associated with the Construction of the Road System.

A list of the evaluated properties will be included in this report. This included resources that have been found eligible for listing on the National Register and those found to be not eligible for listing on the National Register. This evaluation will allow planners to have available the information on which resources have historic significance. It will provide necessary information toward the development of a preservation plan.

In regard to the selection of this particular context, "The History of the Construction of the Road System in Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1966," the choice was based upon the need for the evaluation of the road system in order to meet the compliance needs of the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as Amended in 1980 and the Section 4 (f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Additional Historic Contexts will be written for Yellowstone National Park, including "The History of Concessions in Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1978," currently underway, and "The History of Administration of Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1966." The completion of the last two contexts should provide the necessary documentation for the evaluation and registration of the remaining historic resources with the Park.

Since the extensive road project only involves Yellowstone National Park, the very detailed portion of the historic context applies only to the road construction within the Park borders. However, in order to evaluate the construction of this system, a general overview of the major road events and development across the United States was developed. Note that a mention of other park roads projects will be found in both the detailed portion of the context and in the general overview.

The decision for the period of time, "1872-1966" was chosen as it encompassed the creation of Yellowstone National Park through the Mission 66 era. Since the first idea for a loop road to include the "wonders" of the Park originated with the first superintendent at a very early stage, the Park's creation was the appropriate beginning date. This also allowed for the study of what roads may have been in use prior to the Park creation. The closing date of "1966" was chosen as it marked the end of the last extensive construction program, MISSION 66, across the National Park system.

The question of integrity not only followed the guidelines found in the National Register Bulletin No. 15, "Guidelines for Applying the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," but also the following issues were examined:

what the road system was and is
why it's design has stood the test of time
how the early design philosophy has been executed
how it's evolution has adhered to the design philosophy

The typology of significant property types has been based on the function, style and association with the planned road system in Yellowstone National Park. The three identified property types are associated with the context, "The History of The Construction of the Road System in Yellowstone National Park." These property types can be identified with the following statewide contexts:


This survey and the resulting National Register nomination forms should supplement the Wyoming's Comprehensive Preservation Plan in the following areas:

1. add significant information to the Transportation Context.
2. add some information to the Military Context.
3. add some information to the Recreation and Tourism Context.
4. add some information to the Cultural Landscape Context.

The study fits into the four of the chronological stages for the following periods:

1. Territorial1868-1890
2. Expansion1890-1920
3. Depression1920-1930
4. Modern1930-Present

Under the Wyoming Transportation Context, several resources types can be found in the Yellowstone Roads and Bridges Survey:

1. Stage Coach and Freight Roads

The Northeast Entrance Road, portions of the North Entrance Road, and the Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs Freight or Wagon Road.
The Baronett Bridge Site.

2. Automobile

The Grand Loop can be considered a cultural type.
The Entrance Roads.


The survey and resulting National Register nomination forms will supplement the Montana Comprehensive Preservation Plan in the following ways:

1. Second Historic Period1850-1890
2. Third Historic Period1890-1930
3. Fourth Historic Period1930-1950

The survey supports the study associated with the Thematic classification "Developing a Transportation Network with the Landscape." The road from Mammoth Hot Springs via Norris to West Yellowstone could be associated with a Military Context.

The survey falls within the Southcentral Montana and Southwestern Montana regions.

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Last Updated: 01-Dec-2005