Cultural Landscapes

Looking down from a hill to people lining the edge of a fence overlooking a waterfall
This overlook of Lower Falls is popular and part of a cultural landscape. Yellowstone contains an array of landscapes that reflect the park’s history, development patterns, and a changing relationship between people and the Yellowstone environment.



Cultural landscapes are settings that human beings have created in the natural world. They are geographic areas that have been shaped by human manipulation of natural and cultural resources and are associated with historic events, people, or activities in the park. They reflect significance of the historic setting and recognize the influence of human beliefs and actions over time on the natural landscape. A cultural landscape is an indicator of cultural patterns, values, and heritage through the way the land is organized and divided, patterns of settlement, land use, circulation, and the types of structures that are built and their placement in the landscape.

Yellowstone National Park contains an array of landscapes that reflect the park’s history, development patterns, and a changing relationship between people and the unique Yellowstone environment. In Yellowstone, these landscapes are often a physical record of the early and ongoing efforts to balance resource preservation and facility development for public enjoyment. They include sites such as Artist Point and Apollinaris Spring and the landscape features and patterns that contribute to the character of the Roosevelt Lodge Historic District. They also include areas significant to Native American cultures, such as Obsidian Cliff and sacred sites. Yellowstone’s cultural landscapes are being inventoried to identify landscapes eligible for the National Register and to ensure new undertakings are compatible with them.

Black obsidian arrowheads and other artifacts collected in Norris Geyser Basin area


Archeological resources are the primary and often only source about humans in Yellowstone.

Three Nez Perce on horseback.

Native American Affairs

Many tribes have a traditional connection to the land and resources of Yellowstone.

A historical photo of a group of people walking across a geyser runoff channel.

Preserving Cultural Resources

Learn how Yellowstone National Park works to preserve and interpret the human history of the region.



Carr, Ethan. 1999. Wilderness by design: landscape architecture and the National Park Service. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

McClelland, Linda Flint. 1998. Building the National Parks: Historic Landscape Design and Construction. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

McClelland, Linda Flint. 1995. Historic park landscapes in national and state parks: National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation form.

NPS-28 (Cultural Resources Management Guideline)

Shapins Associates, 2006. Cultural Landscape Inventory for Artist Point. National Park Service.

Last updated: September 24, 2019

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PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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