35 Amazing Vintage Photos Showing Early Visitors to America’s First National Parks More Than a Century Ago

By the Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it “under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.” The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement.

In the years following the establishment of Yellowstone, the United States authorized additional national parks and monuments, many of them carved from the federal lands of the West. All of them managed by either the Department of the Interior, War Department or Forest Service.

To organize the protection and preservation of these spaces for generations to come, on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments then managed by the department and those yet to be established.

A geological surveyor explores the lower basin of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, c.1870.
The Annie, reportedly the first boat ever launched on Yellowstone Lake, 1871.
Tourists drive their car on a dirt road along Yellowstone River 1899.
Tourists look out over the Grand Canyon, c.1900.
The Geyser Basins at Yellowstone, c.1900.
The gateway arch at Yellowstone, c.1900
Tourists skate on a frozen lake in Yosemite, c.1910.
A party of tourists in Mt. Rainier National Park, 1911.
Tourists ride through Mt. Rainier National Park 1909.
Tourists and guides picnic in Yellowstone, 1903.
Tourists ride up a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, 1909.
Tourists boat across Crater Lake, 1912.
Tourists watch the scalding water from the Excelsior Geyser flow into the Firehole River in Yellowstone, 1917.
President Theodore Roosevelt pays a visit to Yellowstone, 1903.
Tourists slide down a slope in Yosemite, 1903.
A member of a government geological survey stands next to Old Faithful in Yellowstone, two years before its designation as a National Park, 1870.
Tourists peer over a cliff into the Grand Canyon, 1880
Kitty Tatch and friend dance on the overhanging rock at Glacier Point in Yosemite, c.1890.
Tourists ride through Yosemite, c.1900.
Tourists pose for a picture in front of Yosemite Falls, c.1900.
A group of Yosemite tourists and their guide, c.1900.
Tourists ride the Glacier Point trail in Yosemite, 1901.
Tourists at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, 1901.
The view of Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point, 1902.
Tourists look from Clouds Rest over the Little Yosemite Valley to Mount Clark, 1902.
Tourists on Clouds Rest in Yosemite, 1902.
Tourists at Mirror Lake in Yosemite, 1902.
A tourist looks out over the Yosemite Valley, 1902.
A tourist stands on Glacier Point with Yosemite Falls in the background, 1902.
Climbers scale Mt. Rainier, 1910.
Tourists pose on Glacier Point above the Yosemite Valley, 1887.
Tourists climb Paradise Glacier in Mt. Rainier National Park, 1911.
A man stands behind the “Pulpit Terrace” formation at the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, 1904.
A rider on a trail at Glacier National Park, 1916.
President Theodore Roosevelt addresses a crowd at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, 1903.

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