THE YELLOWSTONE BACKCOUNTRY PAGE



EARLY EXPLORERS IN YELLOWSTONE


Needless to say the following locations are most precious. They contain the ruins and remnants of the parks earliest history. Every year fewer and fewer of these sites remain because of thoughtlessness in the backcountry by souvenir hunters and reckless hikers. If you do stumble upon one of these remarkable places; make detailed notes of your exact location and TAKE ONLY PICTURES!!! These are among the most interesting sites in the backcountry, lets keep them that way! They give us a glimpse into mans brief history in Yellowstone. It also is amazing to find these hidden treasure that lay undisturbed for a century or more at a time. This list is a few of the more interesting I have been to or know of: (Due to the sensitive nature of these sites, only general location descriptions will be given)


EXPLORER CAMPS

WASHBURN CAMP
There is a point along the lake shore between Breeze Point and the mouth of Solution Creek that is thought to be one of the camps of the Washburn-Langford-Doane in September 1870. It is suspected that this was where they camped while trying to find Truman Everts. The only evidence left today are old blazes on the trees and an old wood pile.

UNKNOWN CAMP
On the south side of the Flat Mountain Arm of Yellowstone Lake, near the west end were found two old stone fireplaces, many very old blazes, some trees which had been cut out long ago and other evidence of an ancient camp. The occupants of the camp remain a mystery.

GREGG-HAYNES-BIRDSEYE CAMP
In August of 1999, park employees Mike Stevens and Lee Ramella found the remnants of a very old camp on the upper reaches of the Ferris Fork. So far upstream was this camp (miles above Wahhi Falls) that it seems likely to have left there by the original party to survey the stream. This was the trio of William C. Gregg, C. H. Birdseye, and Jack Haynes. They extensively explored this part of Yellowstone in 1921. Judging by the condition of the cans, wood pieces, and remnants left behind, it seems possible that Stevens and Ramella were the first people in the immediate area since Gregg's party nearly 80 years prior.

MIRROR PLATEAU
An old wash basin sits under a tree near the meadow between Raven & Pelican Creeks. It seems that something else is possibly buried nearby. These artifacts may have been left by outfitters as this meadow was traversed by several nineteenth century park trails.


CARVINGS & INSCRIPTIONS

It was not unusual for early expeditions to carve their initials or names into a prominent tree near their camp. The park service has several of these historic finds in its archives including one with many of the members of the 1st Hayden survey.

CANYON AREA
The area near Upper and Lower Falls seems to be the richest in the park where tree carvings are concerned. This seems only natural because this was a primary stop on many of the early exploration parties in Yellowstone. The most famous of these is the J.O.R. tree. This tree which was found early in the park's history said simply "JOR 1819." No one knows who made this inscription or what became of the tree. Today there are several carvings still intact in the Canyon area.

THE NATURAL BRIDGE
At least one tree near the Natural Bridge still stands with a carving in its trunk.

JOSEPH'S COAT SPRINGS
Until quite recently, a tree with an authentic carving from the Walter Weed expedition of 1888 could be found out on the Mirror Plateau at Joseph's Coat Springs. In it were carved the intials "W. B. Scott" and the date "Aug. 25, 88." For its protection, the park service helicoptered it out and it is now stored in the Yellowstone museum collection.

HOLMES ROCK
At a point on the east shore of Yellowstone Lake, located one mile north of Steamboat Point can be found a large boulder. On it, W. H. Holmes (Mount Holmes was named for him) of the Hayden surveys carved his initials. The boulder is apparently still there although somewhat tricky to locate.


SURVEY MONUMENTS

THREE STONE MONUMENTS
When the original dimensions were laid out for Yellowstone National Park, it became necessary to construct three stone monuments from which to measure off of in order to determine the park's eastern, southern and western borders.
In the Organic Act that created the Park, it was said that the Park's boundary should be set out as follows:
The tract of land boundary is...commencing at the junction of Gardiner's River with the Yellowstone River, and running east to the meridian passing ten miles eastward of the most eastern point of Yellowstone Lake (the Southeast arm near the mouth of Beaverdam Creek); thence south along said meridian to the parallel of latitude passing ten miles south of the most southern point of Yellowstone Lake (at the bottom of the South Arm); thence west along said parallel to the meridian passing 15 miles west of the most western point of "Madison" lake (actually Shoshone Lake).
What all this means is that today there are still three original monuments that were constructed by one Lt. Bromwell for the purpose of determining the original park boundaries. The first is near the mouth of Beaverdam Creek; the second is at the bottom of the South Arm of Yellowstone Lake; and the third is at the western end of Shsohsone Lake near the Geyser Basin. All three still stand today.

THE EAST BOUNDARY
Evidently the first surveyors made some fairly significant errors in measuring the east boundary. This was probably caused by the rugged, mountainous territory in which they had to work. In 1904, additional boundary surveying was done in the park by surveyor John Scott Harrison. He proceeded up the Yellowstone River to Mountain Creek, then up Mountain Creek to what he believed was the park boundary and placed a stone monument. It also survives today.

THE THREE STATE MONUMENT (MONTANA-WYOMING-IDAHO)
The very first week that I arrived in Yellowstone I kept asking one question. Does the park have a monument where Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come together. No one I asked knew anyone who had ever been there.

It took me over 10 years to discover the apparent answer in a dusty old diary from 1874. Alonzo V. Richards was the first man to survey the western border of Wyoming. His diary contained the following description of a monument that he and his men constructed in Yellowstone in the summer of 1874.

Having been instructed by the Hon. Commission of the General Land Office to establish a monument at the intersection of the 34º of West Longitude with the crest of the Rocky Mountains, for the corner of the Territories of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and having ascertained by means of Barometric reconnaissance that this is the highest point of said range of mountains, upon said 34º of West Longitude, I therefore established said corner of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana territories at this point. Diligent search was then made in every direction for several miles, for a stone from which to construct a monument, but nothing was found that could be worked or handled. All the stones large enough, being boulders, so very hard that our tools, made expressly for the purpose, either made no impression or were instantly broken.

I therefore set a prime post, 11 ft. long by 15 in. dia. 3 ½ feet in the ground, marked as follows:

On north face-- 34º W. L. 1874 On the south face—246m-56chs.-lns. On the east face—“Wyoming” On the southwest face—“Idaho” On the northwest face—“Montana” (being squared 2 ft. at upper end in the shape of a pentagon) Deposited a stone in bottom of pit, in which this post was set, marked “A. V. R.” with several charred blocks, raise conical mound of earth and stone 4 ft high, 7 ft in diameter, with a pit in the corner of each of the three territories, 3 ft. square 2 ft. deep. Then placed on the top of the mound on the east side a flat sandstone, marked “Wyoming” another on the South West side marked “Idaho” and one on north side marked “Montana.”

WYOMING BORDER MARKERS
Not only did A. V. Richards construct the elaborate 3-State Monument, but he also erected similar, albeit smaller markers every mile along the entire western Wyoming border. Although a few of these markers were removed by later surveys, many still remain along the park's western border, put there in 1874.

THE TERMINAL MONUMENT
The "Terminal Monument" is the corner post set by A.V. Richards in 1874 at the northwest corner of the state of Wyoming. This corner had been searched for in previous years without recovery until removed by USGS topographer Raymond E. Hill in 1958. Throughout that summer Hill worked from the south, recovering several of Richards [old] boundary monuments on the state line between Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. He became so familiar with Richards work that he was able to recognize the work of his axmen in an area that had since been both burned over and logged.

According to Hill:
When Mr. Richards reached this terminal monument it was late in the fall, snow was imminent, and he had a large crew, equipment and horses to move nearly 200 miles southwest. Because of the time, he left unessential items and among those were 2 Stadia rods that he had designed and described in his survey notes. I recovered both these in remarkably good condition and they are at my desk as I write this. Terminal Monument Creek was named accordingly. It was the creek I followed on foot to recover the monument, and it heads very near the monument location.


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