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Scribners Monthly, An Illustrated Magazine for the People; Scribner & Co.; May 1872; New York

Culture and Progress

The Yellowstone National Park.

            THE hungry patrons of cheap restaurants down town must occasionally have been edified by the notice posted conspicuously over the counter, that "all pastry consumed in this establishment is made on the premises." Without committing ourselves to the general principle of protection for home manufactures, we may afford to rejoice at any measure tending to encourage the practice of doing our own pleasuring within our own borders. The recent Act of Congress concerning a singularly picturesque tract of land known as the Yellowstone region, will call attention to the unexampled richness of Montana and Wyoming Territories as a field for the artist or the pleasure tourist, while it aims to ensure that the region in question shall be kept in the most favorable condition to attract travel and gratify a cultivated and intelligent curiosity. By the Act, some 2,500 square miles of territory at the head-waters of the Yellowstone river are set apart as a National Park (!) with a Superintendent (the Secretary of the Interior) authorized to take all measures to keep the region in such condition as most fully to answer its purpose of a gigantic pleasure-ground. Verily a colossal sort of junketing-place! The Yankee in the story-book claimed that America could boast of bigger lakes, larger rivers, louder thunder, and forkeder lightning than any other country. If any one doubt this hereafter, we shall refer him to the Yellowstone Park. Everything in it seems on a scale out of all proportion to ordinary experience and conventional habits of thought. While European potentates spend millions on millions of francs to dig out little rills or lakes, or painfully heap up little nuggets of rock-work in their artificial pleasure-grounds, Nature has given us one here, ready made, which dwarfs every other, natural or manufactured. As little children of a holiday afternoon amuse themselves with building dams, cutting canals, and raising mud hillocks in the cabbage garden or the gutter, so here the Titans and Æons of the elder world seem to have refreshed themselves, in some leisure cycle of geologic growth, with playing at scenery. They did it lustily and con amore. Why should we waste ourselves in unpatriotic wonderment over the gorge of the Tamina or the Via Mala, when Nature has furnished us with the Grand Cañon of the Yellowstone, in which the famed Swiss ravines would be but as a crevice or a wrinkle? Why run across the sea to stifle and sneeze over the ill odors of Solfaterra, when we can spoil our lungs or our trowsers to better effect, and on an incomparably larger scale, with the gigantic boiling springs and geysers of Montana? And why strain and stiffen our backs in staring up at Terni or the Schmadribach, which are but as side-jets and spray-flakes to the Titanic majesty of Wyoming Lower Falls?

            Of the detailed wonders which we here only hint at, no reader of our Magazine for the last year or two will need to be reminded. It will not be forgotten that along with our descriptions and illustrations of this curious tract, the suggestion was made which has been carried out in the recent action of Congress. A contemporary publication has lately discussed with some gravity the question whether the tide of mountain travel can ever be expected to set westward,—whether Americans or Europeans, turning away from the familiar terrors of the Alps, may be drawn to whet their appetite for adventure on the peaks and ravines of the Sierras, and Shasta or Mount Tyndall come to be as fascinating to the all-conquering crags-man as the Lyskamm or the Matterhorn. The present disclosures certainly tend to render it probable. When the North Pacific road, as we are led to hope will be the case, drops us in Montana in three days' journey, we may be sure that the tide of summer touring will be perceptibly diverted from European fields. Yankee enterprise will dot the new Park with hostelries and furrow it with lines of travel. That the life will for some time to come be frightfully rough, the inconveniences plentiful, and the dangers many and appalling, is likely enough. But that is just the spice which will most tickle the palate of our adventurous tourists and men of science.