Then & Now is a new series I'm starting to go alongside my adventures in Wyoming. I think it will be fun to look back on what it would be like to visit some of these magical places 100 years ago compared to today. Even if you know nothing else about Wyoming, you probably have heard about and seen pictures of if not visited for yourself America's Wonderland: Yellowstone National Park. This is the very first National Park founded by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Yellowstone National Park, Then
Visiting Yellowstone National Park 100 years ago would have been quite the experience! Travel options in the area weren't quite as efficient as today as a result the Park wasn't as crowded. Traveling by automobile in Yellowstone would still have felt fairly novel since the first car entered the Park in 1916. Even if you were traveling by personal automobile, the speed limits looked vastly different because you would still be meeting wagons and other horsebound travelers on the road. It scares me to think what it was like driving through the Golden Gate of the Yellowstone as this particular bridge still scares me with its sharp corners and the steep drop off the side of the road.
What might shock modern visitors most is what it would cost you in the 1920s to take a standard tour of Yellowstone including transportation, 4 nights lodging, and 14 meals. For the small price of $29, you could experience the highlights of the park!
"Lunch Counter - For Bears Only" at Old Faithful, southeast of the upper Hamilton Store, and Ranger Naturalist Walter Phillip Martindale;
Photographer unknown; 1921- the mid-1930s; courtesy of NPS
Maybe the best part of your visit would be your stay at the newly built Roosevelt Lodge which was constructed in 1920 replacing a tent camp formerly on the same site.
On the other hand, I'm sure you won't be surprised that the rules still said not to feed the wildlife, and tourists still, by and large, ignored these rules. The garbage dumps in the park were in fact, popular tourist destinations because you could always count on bears diffing through the dump to feast on visitors' leftovers. Significantly, the early 1920s are reportedly the last time that the original Yellowstone wolf packs roamed the Park before going "extinct". To this day you will hear a lot of local debate about the efficacy of those statements.
Yellowstone National Park, Now
Visiting Yellowstone National Park today you could choose the option of a group bus tour and this is indeed a favorite mode of travel for foreigners. However, the most popular form of travel in the Park is now a personal automobile. You can still ride horses and even wagons in Yellowstone National Park, but you'll be paying an extra fee to go with an Outfitter, Dude Ranch, or Guide Service on trails other than the main roads.
You will also find the cost for meals and lodgings to be significantly higher than in the 1920s as Yellowstone is such a popular destination and inflation. In fact, even staying in border cities like Gardiner, Cody, or West Yellowstone could be expensive. If you're planning to camp in the Park or stay in Park lodgings like the Roosevelt Lodge you'll want to begin planning your trip a year in advance!
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, so you may get a chance to see a wolf or even a wolf pack but the animals in Yellowstone are just as wild as they were in the 1920s. They don't run on tour schedules and they aren't meant to be sought out and swarmed by tourists. Respect the wild conservation of the Park and you will be in for a phenomenal experience. Don't respect the park and you're probably in for your 15 min. of Internet fame and not in a good way! It could also result in your injury, death, fines, or lifetime ban from Yellowstone if not other National Parks. We take protecting this National Treasure for future generations very seriously.
What is your favorite part of visiting Yellowstone National Park? Where is your favorite place to stay when visiting Yellowstone?
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