Park History

Stones piled in a rock formation in a forested area.
People have spent time in the Yellowstone region for more than 11,000 years. Rock structures like this are evidence of the early presence of people in the area.

The human history of the Yellowstone region goes back more than 11,000 years. The stories of people in Yellowstone are preserved in archeological sites and objects that convey information about past human activities in the region, and in people’s connections to the land that provide a sense of place or identity.

Today, park managers use archeological and historical studies to help us understand how people lived here in the past. Ethnography helps us learn about how groups of people identify themselves and their connections to the park. Research is also conducted to learn how people continue to affect and be affected by these places, many of which have been relatively protected from human impacts. Some alterations to the landscape, such as the construction of roads and other facilities, are generally accepted as necessary to accommodate the needs of visitors today. Information on the possible consequences of modern human activities, both inside and outside the parks, is used to determine how best to preserve Yellowstone’s natural and cultural resources, and the quality of the visitors’ experience.



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Brown and gray columns of rock make up a cliff that towers up to a deep blue sky.

The Earliest Humans in Yellowstone

Human occupation of this area seems to follow environmental changes of the last 15,000 years.

Dead branches leaned up against a tree in a conical shape form a wickiup.

Historic Tribes

Many tribes have a traditional connection to this region and its resources.

A group of people in a field

Timeline of Human History in Yellowstone

The human history of the Yellowstone region goes back more than 11,000 years.

Rifle and powder horn with a map etched on side resting on fur.

European Americans Arrive

In the late 1700s, fur traders traveled the Yellowstone River in search of Native Americans with whom to trade.

Man sits on a box in front of a canvas tent while another man stands next to him.

Expeditions Explore Yellowstone

Formal expeditions mapped and explored the area, leading to the nation's understanding of the region.

Historic Moran water color of hot springs with group standing in distance

Birth of a National Park

Learn about Yellowstone's early days as a national park.

Modern Management

Managing the national park has evolved over time and dealt with some complex issues.

Visitors standing on a boardwalk and taking pictures of the orange thermophiles of Grand Prismatic.

Today's National Park Service

The National Park Service manages over 80 million acres in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa.

Historic colorized photograph of horses going under a large stone arch.

History & Culture

Explore the rich human and ecological stories that continue to unfold.

Last updated: September 12, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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