Happy 150th Birthday, Yellowstone: A Colorized Look Back at the Founding of America’s First National Park

February 18, 2022

On this day, March 1, back in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the official law establishing Yellowstone as America’s first national park. Under this legislation, a national parks system was formed that now oversees 419 national parks encompassing more than 84 million acres. 

A colorized photo of a group of tourists visiting Old Faithful. (worthpoint.com)

The establishment of Yellowstone National Park was the culmination of decades worth of work that began in 1806 when John Colter, a member of Lewis and Clark’s Expedition, first explored the Yellowstone area with a group of fur trappers. The reports he brought back seemed too otherworldly to be true. 

Colter’s Hell

The lower basin of Mammoth Hot Springs, in Yellowstone National Park, 1870-1879. (Colorized Photo by William Henry Jackson/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

When John Colter traveled through the Yellowstone region, he made careful observations of the strange features and landscape that he saw. He described the area as “a landscape full of fire and brimstone”. When he returned to Fort Raymond, he told of bubbling mud puddles, rainbow-colored hot springs, steaming water that shot high into the air, and of the smell of sulfur. His reports seemed too outrageous to be true. Folks jokingly called the region “Colter’s Hell.” Colter was vindicated when stories trickled down from fur trappers and mountain men that supported Colter’s account.