Travel – Yellowstone Adventure Part 6: Then and Now – 1872 to 1956 to 2021


Yellowstone Circa 1956. It was common then for traffic to be stopped by begging Black Bears. The bear management team was formed in 1960 to stop this from happening. Humans being attacked by bears doubled in the 50s. If cars stop in the road for bears now, rangers arrive soon to move people along or fine them.
Yellowstone circa June 2021. There are still bears on the road, but they no longer beg for food at the cars, they simply cross the road and keep foraging on the other side. We were the only vehicle that stopped for this bear. Luckily there was a pull out just beyond where he crossed.

The photos in this blog post are a comparison to our recent visits to Yellowstone in 2021 and 2020 compared to pictures from 1956. Beth is the unofficial visual historian of the family. She salvaged hundreds of photos, film footage, audio and video tape from the family estate in early 2020 when Allen and Helen sold their home of 50 plus years. The 1956 photos were from a vacation that Helen took when she was 20 years old.

I have also included a YouTube video at the bottom of the post that illustrates how things were in the park in the 1950s.

Visitors WALKING on the thermal features at Mammoth Hot Springs! That would land you in jail today.
Mammoth Hot Springs today. Boardwalks with hand rails and warning signs keep visitors off of the features. Occasionally a new Hot Spring develops under the the board walks and they need to be moved.
Mountain goats (2 adults and one kid) getting in on the begging action in 1956. Today you need to bring a high powered Spot Scope to see them way up on the cliffs. Cliffs where they naturally belong.
Maddy saw these Big Horn sheep as we were leaving the park for the final time. This photo was taken by Riane with a high powered zoom lens on her camera.

Many changes have taken place inside of the Yellowstone area over the years. Management has changed hands a few times, and the methods of management have evolve as well.

In 1872 the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act established Yellowstone as the first National Park on Earth. The purpose of establishing Yellowstone as the world’s first national park was to set the park aside as a public pleasuring ground to share the wonders and preserve and protect the scenery, cultural heritage, wildlife, geologic and ecological systems and processes in their natural condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

In 1886 the US Army arrives to be the administrator over the park. The US Army would be chartered with this task until 1918 when it turned over administration to the National Park Service which had been established two years earlier.

In 1934 the National Park Service Director prohibits the killing of predatory animals in the park.

In 1948 the park is visited by over 1 million people. Today the annual visitors top 4 million worldwide guests.

In the 1950s people became enthralled with the park and annual visitation numbers swelled.

Part of the draw was Yellowstone’s wildlife. Visitors would throw food from their vehicles to draw wildlife in resulting in a closer look at nature. However, one of the unintended consequences was the wildlife beginning to approach humans for food instead of obeying their instinct to stay away from humans.

Many animals, especially the black bear became a nuisance and a danger to humans and themselves as well. Something needed to be done.

In 1960 the park began to manage the black bear population in an effort to reduce the number of bear to human injuries and property damage resulting from black bears searching for food in dwellings, camp sites and automobiles. The goal was to reintroduce bears that migrated to human areas back to their natural habitat.

In 1970 the Bear Management plan expands to close open pit dumps that were used to feed black bears, essentially forcing the animals to return to the wild and not rely on human intervention to eat.

In 1988 a law was enacted to protect the thermal features in the park from geothermal projects just outside of the park. That summer was also the last large scale forest fire in the park burning almost 800,000 acres of land.

In 1995 gray wolves were introduced into the park.

The following YouTube video shows the park in the 1950s. Note the black bears begging at visiting cars. One other large difference. Fisherman’s bridge was full of fisherman in this footage with no fishing license required. Today it is illegal to fish from Fisherman’s Bridge…

Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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