There are 423 national parks in the United States – but Yellowstone was the first.
Dedicated in 1872, this year marks 150 years since America chose to set aside this 2.2 million acres of geological wonders.
And on Friday, dignitaries gathered at Old Faithful Inn to take part in the anniversary celebration.
Friday morning at the Old Faithful Inn, Gov. Mark Gordon pointed out that Yellowstone National Park is the centerpiece of the country’s wilderness experience.
“Yellowstone is sort of a touchstone,” Gordon told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s what we think about when we think about something that is truly, truly American.
“And so this place, at 150 years, I think it’s an opportunity for us to re-engage with the wildness and to re-engage with this heritage that is truly remarkable for Wyoming, and for the nation as well,” he continued.
Gordon and other dignitaries came to Yellowstone on Friday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of America’s first national park. The celebration featured displays of Native American artwork and rides on the park’s signature yellow buses, while attendees expressed appreciation for the nature that the park is meant to preserve.
“It’s the most remote part in the lower 48,” said Gordon, who has lived in Wyoming his entire life. “I’ve been through all of this park – on a kayak, I’ve done it horseback, I’ve been hiking here. I’ve been here in the winter and the summer. It’s just a remarkable place.”
“I like to think that if you could go beneath the crust of the earth and see what was happening underneath, this is what you would see,” said Diane Shober, director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “It would be like right here in Yellowstone, and that activity from mountains and lakes and canyons. Every turn, there’s something fabulous to see and enjoy.”
Shober pointed out that a trip to Yellowstone is the quintessential American family vacation.
“Everyone wants to come to Yellowstone at least once in their life,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “There just is so much to do in and along the way and so while Yellowstone is really maybe the destination, the journey going to and from here is really special as well.”
The purpose behind the creation of Yellowstone National Park 150 years ago was conservation, which Gordon pointed out remains important today.
“It’s great that we put the boundaries on the map about Yellowstone, but it’s not a zoo,” he said. “It’s not a park in the sense that Central Park might be in New York, it’s actually an area, a region, and wildlife don’t know those boundaries. And so we’ve worked a lot with the Park Service, with the Forest Service, with private landowners, to really understand how we can work together to build a truly conservation-minded notion here.”
And for all its beauty, Shober pointed out that Yellowstone is still a very wild place.
“There’s a very great mystique and appeal, and has been since time began for these beautiful wild places.” she said. “But here in Yellowstone, you get to see wildlife that you might not normally see, remembering that they are wildlife that they’re living in their natural environment.”
“You can feel the magic of this place and why people said, you know, we need to preserve this,” Gordon added. “Wallace Stegner said it was America’s best idea. And it certainly is.”