In 1807 John Colter and two companions, Joseph Dickson and Forrest Hancock, were trapping beaver along the Yellowstone river in Wyoming. The party came across a wilderness that included high waterfalls, deep canyons, hot springs and geysers. Colter reported what he had found to William Clark. Details of these discoveries appeared in Clark's journals published in 1814.

Official expeditions to Yellowstone resulted in Congress establishing the Yellowstone National Park on 1st March, 1872. Yellowstone therefore became the world's first national park. The park encompassing 2.2 million acres and includes around 250 active geysers. This includes Old Faithfall, a geyser that erupts virtually every hour. Lasting two to five minutes these eruptions reach heights of 180 feet.

Primary Sources

(1) Frances Roe, letter concerning her visit to Yellowstone (August, 1884)

We camped one night by the Fire-Hole River, where there is a spring I would like to carry home with me! The water is very hot - boils up a foot or so all the year round, and is so buoyant that in a porcelain tub of ordinary depth we found it difficult to do otherwise than float, and its softening effect upon the skin is delightful. A pipe has been laid from the spring to the little hotel, where it is used for all sorts of household purposes. Just fancy having a stream of water that a furnace somewhere below has brought to boiling heat, running through your house at any and all times. They told us that during the winter when everything is frozen, all kinds of wild animals come to drink at the overflow of the spring. There are hundreds of hot springs in the park, I presume, but that one at Marshall's is remarkable for the purity of its water.

For two nights our camp was in the pine forest back of "Old Faithful," and that gave us one whole day and afternoon with the geysers. Our colored cook was simply wild over them, and would spend hours looking down in the craters of those that were not playing. Those seemed to fascinate her above all things there, and at times she looked like a wild African when she returned to camp from one of them. Not far from the tents of the enlisted men was a small hot spring that boiled lazily in a shallow basin. It occurred to one of the men that it would make a fine laundry, so he tied a few articles of clothing securely to a stick and swished them up and down in the hot sulphur water and then hung them up to dry. Another soldier, taking notice of the success of that washing, decided to do even better, so he gathered all the underwear, he had with him, except those he had on, and dropped them down in the basin. He used the stick, but only to push them about with, and alas! did not fasten them to it. They swirled about for a time, and then all at once every article disappeared, leaving the poor man in dumb amazement. He sat on the edge of the spring until dark, watching and waiting for his clothes to return to him; but come back they did not. Some of the men watched with him, but most of them teased him cruelly. Such a loss on a trip like this was great.