THE YELLOWSTONE BACKCOUNTRY PAGE



BACKCOUNTRY CABINS


Relics like the one pictured above dot the park's backcountry.
The structure on the left was probably for food storage, while the one on the right was part of a sawmill used to build one of the park's obsolete hotels.


There have been many structures built in the backcountry throughout the parks colorful history. Usually they were constructed by hunters or trappers as temporary shelters for the warmer months of the year, or in other cases they belonged to the army in the days before backcountry patrol cabins. Many of these buildings have remained essentially unknown until very recently. The park officially recognizes 14 such shelters, but there are undoubtedly more awaiting discovery.

THE WEST BOUNDARY
There is a cabin along the park's west boundary, less than 2 miles from U.S. highway 191 that remained undisturbed until 1974. Upon discovery its roof was collapsed but items were still inside and were dated from the late 1800's. Two stoves were present as well. As far as I know these ruins are still there.

BLACKTAIL DEER PLATEAU
In the vicinity of the Blacktail Deer loop drive near the area known as "The Cut" are the ruins of another poacher cabin. I don't know much about this one except that is supposed to be in pretty good shape. I hope to visit it during the summer of 2000 and will update its condition once I have seen it for myself.

MIRROR PLATEAU #1
One of the more interesting relics of the backcountry, this cabin is over 15 miles from the nearest road. Here is how park historian, Lee Whittlesey described it in 1979. "The roof had fallen in but the door was still attached by means of leather hinges. We discovered an old rusty shovel in the cabin. Stamped on the metal part of the shovel was the name 'X. Beidler', which I instantly recognized as a Federal Marshal very important in the vigilante history of 1860's and 1870's Montana Territory. Whether the shovel belonged to Beidler personally I cannot say."

MIRROR PLATEAU #2
Another reported cabin lies in a very remote area between the drainages of Shallow and Timothy Creeks. This one is far off-trail and has likely been seen by very few. The Mirror Plateau is one of the park's less traveled areas. Cultural sites are probably fairly common in this undisturbed country.

WESTERN HAYDEN VALLEY
While reading old logbooks in the park archives, I came across an entry by a ranger in the late 1940's. He had come across a rather large poacher cabin deep in the forest between Cygnet Lakes and the Hayden Valley. This covers a fairly large area. The distance between the two is nearly 2 miles. I myself have searched in this area with no success. I suspect this cabin may have been a casualty to the fires of '88. Or perhaps it continues to hide in the patchwork wilderness of the Central Plateau. If anyone has seen this cabin, I would certainly be interested in knowing its condition.

ELECTRIC PEAK
One of the more unusual places to find a structure in the backcountry would at a high elevation in a seemingly non-strategic location. This is the case with this cabin who's origins are unknown. It lies in the forest near timberline on the northeast slopes of Electric Peak. Surely it must be a poacher cabin as it seems unlikely that any official building would have ever been put here.



Many old abandoned buildings can be found outside of Yellowstone.
On the left we see a very well preserved building from just outside the park in the Shoshone National Forest. While on the right is another of Yellowstone's mysterious poacher cabins.


ALUM CREEK
Again near the western border of the Hayden Valley is another building of early origin. Only with this one there is no mystery. In the Alum Creek Finger Meadow are the remains of a Soldier Cabin left over from the army days in Yellowstone. Before the era of the backcountry patrol cabins, the army had constructed several crude huts to house patrols on duty in the backcountry. Only a few remain.

COUGAR CREEK
Roughly halfway up the old Cougar Creek Tail, (an unmaintained trail that connects the Gneiss Creek and Mt. Holmes trails) was another of the park's Soldier Cabins. This one howver was thought to have been destroyed by the fires of '88. The North Fork Fire burned particularly intensely in this part of Yellowstone. Then recently I received word from Fred Kallien who was the Situation Unit Leader on the North Fork Fire. One of his duties was to send crews to protect historical and cultural sites. He informed me that he did send crews to protect at least two cabins in the Cougar Creek area. Whether either of these was the Soldier Cabin is not known.

THE "OLD RUIN"
In 1880 Yellowstone Park superintendent P.W. Norris was exploring an area east of Mt. Washburn when he discovered the remains of an old cabin. So old was this building, that he estimated that it had been constructed sometime between 1820-1830. In his opinion, it had been built by early fur trappers. A man who had worked with trappers in his early years, Norris was familiar with their construction techniques. Based on the style of construction, he believed that it must have been a relic of the Hudson Bay Company of Montreal. So important was this piece of early park history that Norris included on his maps for several years.
Today the status of these ruins is unknown. It is unlikely that there is much of anything left after so many years. However, metal objects may still be retrievable with the use of a metal detector. The site is located in a bear management area and thus is almost surely to have been left undisturbed. One brief search in 1999 yielded no information. If anything of this cabin can be located in the future it would represent the oldest known Euro-American cultural site ever found in Yellowstone.

TURKEY PEN CABIN
The Turkey Pen cabin was built in 1867 by area prospector George Huston and was later occupied by Huston, John Evans, and a man named Groves. Located on Turkey Pen Creek, it was the place a hapless Truman Everts was taken following his "Thirty Seven Days of Peril" lost in the Yellowstone wilderness. According to legend, at the time Huston was building the cabin, he was visited by some friends who commented that the building with its rough unchinked walls "looks like a turkey pen!"
The site of this cabin is near the present day Rescue Creek Trail. The rumor is that a few remnants still remain on the site, but I have not been able to locate any.

SHOSHONE GEYSER BASIN
There are actually two cabin sites in the vicinity of Shoshone Geyser Basin.
The first site is not hard to find. If you hike in on the trail from Old Faithful, you take a sharp right turn before reaching Minute Man Geyser toward Shoshone Creek. The old worn pathway should still be visible. There used to be wooden footbridge across the creek. The cabin was another 100 yards behind the creek, in a beautful, open meadow. The NPS burned it down in 1976 although the old cabin was in good shape, and was probably one of the most used backcountry cabins in the park.
The remains of another cabin exist near the geyser basin as well. It was located on the edge of the meadow when coming in on the Lone Star trail, right before you reach the "Y" to either go to the geyser basin or down to the lake. It was far to the right, on the edge of the meadow that Shoshone Creek meanders through.

THE GNEISS CREEK TRAIL
Not far from the Gneiss Creek Trailhead are the remnants of an abandoned cabin. The site is just east of the trail after it has climbed over the ridge to the north of the Madison River and entered a large meadow. This cabin is reportedly the remains of a barn and stable that were once used for the care of concession and government horses in the early 1900ís.

THE SAWMILL
Surprisingly close to a section of the Grand Loop road are two structures that are in very good shape considering their proximity to the highway. The site (which dates to the 1890ís) is actually a former sawmill that was used to construct one of the parkís major hotels. Still standing are the walls of one structure, a second building that was probably a food cache, and some major pieces of the original railcar that was used to saw the beams. For some distance around this sight, many stumps indicate the presence of this amazing and undisturbed piece of Yellowstone history.


THE YELLOWSTONE BACKCOUNTRY PAGE
Copyright ©2001-2008 Paul Rubinstein
All Rights Reserved.