Last updated: November 30, 2015
This is the introduction to William Popham’s 1911 book, “Yellowstone Park Romance.” We will be continuing this story in a lead up to that most romantic day of the year, February 14th. Pictures are taken from the Yellowstone Park Museum. They may not have been taken in 1911 but they hopefully help to illustrate the author’s wonderfully descriptive prose. Please note that many of the practices the author writes about (including feeding the animals or tramping near certain features) are no longer allowed today.
In all the world there is no other tourist resort comparable to Yellowstone Park. It is unique among the scenic regions of the world because, in addition to most of the attractions of the others, it has, besides, the most wonderful natural phenomena known to scientists. Its streams and valleys are not surpassed in beauty by any in the Old World. Its roadways, hotels, and the Wylie Permanent Camp are equal to those of the favorite resorts of Continental Europe. Its area includes, in addition, wonderful geysers, hot springs, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Falls of the Yellowstone. Of that mighty gorge, noted for its riot of color, for artistic and beautiful nature-harmony, there is nothing men have written that is adequately descriptive. Words are trivial and weak when one experiences the overwhelming sensation produced by a first glimpse of its wonders. In all the world there is no more startling scene.
Yellowstone, the largest of our national parks, is located in the heart of the "Rockies," and is the scenic gem of the Great West. It was set apart for the enjoyment and pleasure of the people by act of Congress, March 1, 1872, and consists of a tract sixty-two miles long from north to south and fifty-four miles wide from east to west, with an area of 3,348 square miles. National forests, contiguous on all sides, increase the total area of adjacent government reservations to over 7,000 square miles. The bulk of the Park area lies in Wyoming with the northern and western edges overlapping into Montana and Idaho.
The season is generally from June 15 to September 15. It is traversed chiefly by stage; but persons on foot, bicycle, private conveyance or horseback may enjoy its privileges. No motor-cycles or automobiles are allowed in the Park.
Each day's journey thru the Park unfolds new enjoyments. One finds that there is a cumulative charm and impressiveness in the experiences of each new day. The landscape changes with amazing suddenness. Each wonder spot, when passed, is found to be but the preface to something more inspiring. From the coaches, one observes with increasing surprise nature's varying pageant in which are embraced mountains and canyons, geysers, tumbling streams, hot springs, mud caldrons, paint pots, weird and impressive landscapes, and all that is picturesque, odd, inviting, and agreeable in the world out-of-doors.
The coach journeys from day to day are never long enough to become fatiguing. Each day's trip is from camp to camp, or from one hotel to another, and the longer trips are broken with noon stops at lunch stations, which afford ample rest.
It would be a rare pen which could justly describe the many wonders of this wild and wide domain. One who indulges even in plain, simple narrative description, lays himself open to the charge of romancing, to those who have never seen the Park.
This wonderland affords no legitimate grounds for comparison with so-called similar parks. It is the playground of a great nation — a world-wonder for all the world. In its boundary are mountains ranging from ten thousand to fourteen thousand feet above the sea — one valley with an elevation of about six thousand feet, and geysers that out-class anything of the kind in the known world. There are over thirty-five that throw columns of hot water from thirty to two hundred and fifty feet into the air, at intervals of from one minute to fourteen days, and often longer.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, about twenty-five miles long, with an average depth of twelve hundred feet, unsurpassed for brilliancy of coloring by anything else in nature; the Mammoth Hot Springs, with their colored terraces; cliffs of volcanic glass; waterfalls; mountains of petrifications; hills of brimstone; everlastingly snow-clad peaks — all these, with many more, too numerous to mention, are embraced in the people's Park, and over 1,000 miles of some of the best trout fishing in the world is thrown in to help them enjoy it.
The geysers are variously located in three distinct basins which are far enough apart to give the traveler by stage a few geysers with each day's entertainment. These basins are great wastes of a white deposition called in Park vernacular "the formation" under which must be boiling one of the mighty caldrons of the earth, for one can feel under foot a tremble, and can hear thru a hundred orifices the hiss of steam and the angry murmur of the waters below.
Two companies of United States Cavalry are stationed at Fort Yellowstone, and, during the summer, detachments of these troops are placed in different parts of the reservation. Their duties are to patrol the Park, prevent the spreading of forest fires and the commission of acts of vandalism. The troops have authority to make arrests for any violation of Park regulations. Hunting is especially prohibited, and all guns are officially sealed at the entrance to the Park.
The Government has constructed a system of macadamized roads of easy grade throughout the Park, and these are kept sprinkled daily during the Park season.
The Park's average altitude is 7,500 feet; the season days, while warm, are never oppressively hot; the nights are always cool. The fine roads afford splendid surrey and horseback rides. The mountain climbing, the weird character of the scenery, and the wild animals distinguish this domain from any other tourist resort in the world. Within recent years the Government has expended $1,000,000 in betterments, and the result is a never-ending surprise and enjoyment to those who are so fortunate as to visit this real Eden of the world's wonderland. Favored with a
healthful clime, blessed with exciting wonders, famed for the wildest geysers in the world — spewing, singing and dancing amid thousands of awful and yet beautiful boiling springs, hot paint-pots, mud springs, mud volcanoes, mush and broth portraying every color of the rainbow; various hills of sparkling crystals of sulphur, of glass, of cinders and ashes; mountains covered with honey-bloom, mountains icy, snowy or frost-covered; mountains colored like a sunset sky, and hundreds of features too numerous to describe here, — all conspire to make Yellowstone truly a wonderland well worth one's time to visit.
I like to be where God writes history; and in the color-glory mornings and evenings in Yellowstone — its beauties blending with the beauty of the heavens, I felt as if I should like, yea, I longed, to stay forever — to commune with Nature and Nature's God, to write poems and stories of its thousand wonders — to rest and think and dream — yea, really to live in the heart of wonderland.
As a whole, the scenery of the Park is restful and satisfying. What it lacks in the stupendous it makes up in softness of coloring and the gentle undulations that lead gradually to the massive mountains. The green of the pines, lightened and darkened here and there with the shades of different species, is everywhere. The waters of the rivers are dimmed by the shadows; the cascades have a glimmer and sparkle quite their own, and now and then peep out in the sweeps of the distance, little lakes that shimmer in the sun.
This image is one of Thomas Moran’s chromolithographs from his trip to the Park, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.