Centennial Celebration

100 years of the Parks Service.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which was created by an act of Congress and signed into law on August 25, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson. At the time there were 35 national parks and monuments administered by various agencies, including the War Department and Forest Service. Today, the National Park Service manages more than 400 national parks and monuments throughout the United States. The very first national park was Yellowstone, created on March 1, 1872. Throughout the 2016 tourist season, Yellowstone and the surrounding gateway communities host a number of programs and activities to celebrate the Centennial.

In the Park, youngsters of all ages can participate in the 2016 NPS Centennial Yellowstone Junior Ranger Program, and earn one of three patches according to age, with kids four to seven earning the geyser patch, eight to 12 the grizzly bear patch, and 13 and up, the bison patch. The Centennial Junior Ranger book with the 2016 emblem is sure to become a collector’s item. Also, in addition to earning a patch, youngsters also receive a unique wooden NPS badge containing the emblems of Old Faithful and a bison.

Last March, a Centennial commemorative three-coin set was released for sale to the public, including a silver dollar that features Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser and a bison. The coins should be available for purchase in Yellowstone and other participating Park locations this summer, as well as online at usmint.gov/coins.

During mid-April, National Geographic magazine released a special issue devoted entirely to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. If you’re not a subscriber, the issue can be purchased at Yellowstone Association bookstores in the Park’s visitor centers. On June 21 at the Old Faithful Inn, Pendleton Woolen Mills will release the Yellowstone Centennial Pendleton Blanket that features a bison grazing in a meadow below the Red Mountains.

Cooke City
Even though most of Yellowstone’s acreage is situated in the state of Wyoming, three of the Park’s five gateway entrances are from Montana—the North Entrance at Gardiner, the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City, and the West Entrance at West Yellowstone—and each community has events planned throughout the summer and fall season. In Cooke City, July 19 marks the second anniversary of the opening of the Cooke City Montana Museum. A special exhibit will include “He Might Strike It Still,” inspired by the letters of Mrs. Anastazie Zucker, an immigrant woman from Bohemia who lived in Cooke City from the late 1890s through the 1930s. The exhibit features what life was like in this frontier mining town while “waiting for the big strike.” Also, beginning July 7, a weekly campfire program will be given behind the Cooke City Visitor Center. Topics include the early fur-trade era, as well as a history of human-bear interactions in Yellowstone over the years.

West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone, which is home to the most visitor traffic of Montana’s three entrances, will host several events through the summer. One of the highlights is the “Smoking Waters Mountain Man Rendezvous & 1800s Living History Encampment” to be held on August 5. If you happened to see the movie The Revenant and it piqued your interest in what it was like to be a mountain man during the early 1800s in the Yellowstone region, this event is for you. To walk through the encampment is about the closest thing one can do to going back in time to the fur-trade era of the 1820s, as modern day “mountain men” come from all over the country to demonstrate through their clothing and activities, just what it was like to be a trapper living the rugged lifestyle in the Rocky Mountains. Other educational events in the town of West Yellowstone include a daily historical walking tour, as well as exhibits at the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum.

At the Park’s north entrance in the town of Gardiner, the summer season features several special and unique activities. Perhaps the top event to celebrate the Centennial occurs on the actual anniversary date of August 25 at Arch Park in Gardiner. The National Park Service and its partners will host a celebration to begin the next century with several programs. The importance of public-private partnerships will be featured, along with recognizing the new Arch Park Gardiner Gateway Project that is underway. Several activities are in the planning stage and include educational programs, musical guests, and local, state, and national dignitaries. It’s no secret that town officials have been working to arrange a visit by President Obama, who last visited Yellowstone during the summer of 2009, and the event will be broadcast online. More information will become available regarding this event and will be posted at nps.gov/yell.