U.S. Presidents and Yellowstone National Park
U.S. Presidents and Yellowstone National Park – the two go together well. And, it’s no wonder, Yellowstone National Park is our oldest park and one of the top parks visited each year. More than 3.8 million visitors said yes to Yellowstone National Park in 2020. This is not a check-off your Bucket List type getaway; the park is filled with something for everyone. And, U.S. Presidents have been key visitors to the park through the years. Many have entered the park through northwestern Wyoming and Cody Yellowstone is the spot. Where is Cody Yellowstone, and why is it the spot – there is the town of Cody as well as parts of Yellowstone National Park and a large swath of land to the east of the park boundaries.
President’s Day is a good time to remember the many presidents who have explored northwestern Wyoming throughout history. According to Ryan Hauck, executive director of Cody Yellowstone, “Some came to play while others came to make a point, but regardless of the reason for their travel, this authentic Western playground certainly made an impression on the many U.S. Presidents who visited.”
Who made Yellowstone their playground or stomping ground for change:
- To start a conversation about Presidents and Yellowstone, we begin with the country’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, who continues today to have the most lasting impact on the region. In 1872, Grant signed the bill that designated Yellowstone as the world’s first national park, a move which is often called “America’s Best Idea.” However, he never actually visited Yellowstone.
- Theodore Roosevelt was a big fan of the state, and he made several trips during his presidential tenure and returned to Wyoming to vacation after he left Washington. During his final visit to the park in 1903 he spent two-week in the park. While vacationing he laid the cornerstone for the park’s Roosevelt Arch, bearing the inscription: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Although the arch is in the state of Montana at the northern entrance to Yellowstone, Wyoming celebrates the grand structure too, as most of the park is in Wyoming. He is considered the Conservation President – After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks and 18 national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land. His legacy is found across the country – making America the Beautiful more than just words but a lasting attitude of appreciation for our great land. Theodore National Park in North Dakota is the national park in his honor.
- Chester A. Arthur, visited the region in 1883 with a large entourage, intent on having an authentic Western experience. He had a two-month vacation during his term, and covered his business suit with knee-length leather leggings to make sure he was dressed Western-style. Arthur kept in touch with the outside world and engaged in presidential business by one daily mail courier on horseback who delivered and received Arthur’s messages.
- President Calvin Coolidge visited Cody on July 4, 1927 for the opening of the Buffalo Bill Museum, the first of five museums that comprise the Buffalo Bill Center of the West today. He visited Yellowstone and he also attended the Cody Stampede, a July 4 Cody tradition with multiple days of rodeos, parades and other events. The Cody Stampede continues its traditions today starting on June 1st until August 31st. A must when visiting the area.
- President Joe Biden first visited Yellowstone National Park in 1974 when he was a U.S. Senator. His young sons Beau and Hunter joined him in a rented camper, where they spent a week in the park in the hopes of trying to heal some of the emotional wounds from the tragic death of his wife and daughter. He said his inspiration for the trip was in part because his sons loved the Yogi Bear cartoons. He returned as Vice President to promote a massive stimulus package aimed at improving infrastructure and creating jobs in the country’s national parks.
- Franklin Roosevelt visited the park and avoided the park hotels, many with multiple floors and no elevators. He was a guest of the lodge manager in his single-floor park home, which could better accommodate his wheelchair while at the same time keeping it from public view. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942. As a result, some 14,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Confinement Site during World War II.
- In 1995 President Bill and first lady Hillary Clinton visited the park and took a stroll around Old Faithful Geyser.
- President Barack Obama and his family visited Yellowstone in 2009 and had lunch in the park’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
- President Jimmy Carter fished in Lake Yellowstone and then returned to the park after his presidency and dined in the employee pub at the park’s Lake Lodge. Visitors today can check out the pub wall where you’ll see his signature – still visible after all these years.
- President George H.W. Bush visited Yellowstone in 1989 to survey the devastation of the 1988 fires. Bush also fished in a river near Cody and visited Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill Cody’s hunting lodge.
- President Warren Harding visited the park in 1923, shortly before he died. Upon learning of his death, staff in the park named a geyser after him and observed a moment of silence in his honor.
- President Ford had been a ranger at Yellowstone National Park working as a seasonal park ranger during the summer of 1936.
A visit to the park should start in Cody Yellowstone home of the Great American Adventure which is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as areas inside of Yellowstone National Park and the valley east of the entrance. While helping Yellowstone celebrate its 150th anniversary, you can take part in rodeos, enjoy time at one of the authentic guest and dude ranches, make your way through world-class museums and participate in grand activities that reflect the adventurous spirit of the West.
Click the link – Hear the stories of residents who live in Cody and know the park very well.
Everyone plays a vital role in protecting OUR national parks. Whether it’s carrying out what we brought in (including your puppy’s waste), leaving areas just as we found them – or even cleaner in some cases, staying on the trail to protect native plant life, or being respectful of sacred places/spaces; it’s important to remember public land is everyone’s land, treat it as if it’s your own…. because it is.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations
National Park Service