The National Park Idea

My name is Peggy L Henderson, and I am the author of several time travel romance series set in the American West, as well as some western historical romances. I love Yellowstone – it’s beauty, diversity, and history. There is just no place like it on earth. It’s what inspired me to write my first series, the Yellowstone Romance Series. Romance and adventure is set against the backdrop of this magical place that is often called Wonderland. Amidst action, adventure, and plenty of romance, the series takes the reader through my fictional account of how Yellowstone National Park went from an unknown wilderness to becoming the first national park.

Yellowstone National Park, the nation, in fact, the world’s first national park, was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.

If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone, and sat at one of the Ranger campfire programs at Madison Junction, the ranger will almost always point behind him or her, to a tall mountain across the valley. The mountain is named National Park Mountain, and legend has it that this is where the national park idea was born. It is said that Henry Washburn, Nathaniel Langford, and Cornelius Hedges camped in the valley just beneath the mountain during their expedition through the area in 1870, and came up with the grand idea of preserving the wonders they saw – the geysers, hot springs, canyons, rivers and lakes – for everyone to enjoy for generations to come. They wanted the area set aside as a nation’s park.

Whether this conversation actually occurred, and in that precise location, is up for debate, but it makes for a nice campfire story. So what did lead to the birth of the national park idea?

Lewis and Clark, during their expedition in 1805, missed the area that is now the famous Yellowstone National Park. In 1806, John Colter, who was part of the expedition, set out with a group of fur trappers, and some historical accounts say he is the first white man to have seen the area and its geysers. He described a place of “hell and brimstone” that most people dismissed as delirium. Those who heard of his tales called this imaginary place “Colter’s Hell.”

Over the years, more fur trappers entered the Rocky Mountains, and more and more reports found their way back to civilization of a place with boiling mud, steaming rivers, and petrified trees. These fantastical stories were believed to be just that – men’s tall tales who had been in the wilderness too long.

In 1856, mountain man Jim Bridger reported observing boiling springs, spouting water, and a mountain of glass and yellow rock. But since Bridger had a reputation as a “spinner of yarn,” his reports were also ignored.

The first detailed exploration of the Yellowstone area came in 1869, when three privately funded explorers trekked through what is now the park. The members of the Folsom party kept detailed records and journals, and based on their information, a group of Montana residents organized the Washburn/Langford/Doane Expedition of 1870. Henry Washburn was surveyor-general of Montana at the time.

The group included Nathaniel Langford, who later would be known as “National Park Langford.” They spent a month exploring the region, collecting specimens, and naming sites of interest (Old Faithful, anyone?) Another member of the group, lawyer Cornelius Hedges, proposed that the region should be set aside and protected as a national park. Other prominent men also made similar suggestions that “Congress pass a bill reserving the Great Geyser Basin as a public park forever.”

In 1871, Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, a geologist, organized the first government-sponsored exploration of the region. The Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 included numerous scientists, as well as photographer William Henry Jackson, and artist Thomas Moran. Together, they compiled a comprehensive report on Yellowstone, which helped convince Congress to withdraw the region from public auction. The Act of Dedication Law was signed by the President Uysses S. Grant on March 1st, 1872.

The Act of Dedication

An Act to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming …. is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate, or settle upon, or occupy the same or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed there from…Approved March 1, 1872.

Yellowstone Heart Song, Yellowstone Romance Series Book One:

Nurse and avid backpacker Aimee Donovan is offered the opportunity of a lifetime. She encounters a patient who tells her he can send her two hundred years into the past to spend three months in the rugged Yellowstone wilderness at the dawn of the mountain man era. The only requirement: she cannot tell anyone that she’s from the future.

How did a white woman suddenly appear in the remote Rocky Mountain wilderness? Trapper Daniel Osborne’s first instinct is to protect this mysterious and unconventional woman from the harsh realities of his mountains. While he fights his growing attraction to her, he is left frustrated by her lies and secrecy.

Daniel shows Aimee a side of Yellowstone she’s never experienced. She is torn between her feelings for him, and exposing a secret that will destroy everything he holds as truth. As her three months come to an end, she is faced with a dilemma: return to her own time, or stay with the man who opened her eyes to a whole new world. When the decision is made for her, both their lives will be changed forever.

Peggy’s books can be found on the Pioneer Hearts Books store on Amazon.

Excerpt from Yellowstone Heart Song

For the better part of the morning, Daniel led her through the forest.  He showed her how to read different tracks, signs to look out for that an animal had been in the area, where to look for edible roots and plants, and how to watch the skies for changes in the weather. Along with the berries, she filled her backpack with mint, wild onions, licorice, and various other roots and plants.

She listened attentively as she tried to absorb everything Daniel told her. Some things she already knew, others were completely new to her. The subtle animal signs he picked up on astounded her. Silently, he had pointed out a black bear sow and her twin cubs in the distance, a moose in the thickets that she would have completely overlooked, and countless other smaller animals. He knew which critter made every track they came upon. He read the forest for information as someone in her time would read a newspaper. It was most refreshing to get a glimpse of this wilderness that she loved so much in her time from this man who carved out a living here.

Aimee savored the beauty of her surroundings. Aspen trees grew in abundance. Beaver lodges lined the banks along streams, and countless otters played in the waters. With the coming of the fur trappers to these mountains within a decade of this time, the beaver would be trapped to near extinction. Wolves would be hunted until none remained, and without this predator, the elk would take over, and cause the destruction of the aspen from overgrazing. This was a Yellowstone unfamiliar to her, but it was as nature had intended before the encroachment of man.

Despite the differences, the landscape still held a certain familiarity, and she realized Daniel was leading them back in the direction of the cabin sometime in the early afternoon. Her foot throbbed with every step she took, but today was one of the best days of her life. The raw, undisturbed landscape exhilarated her. No other hikers, no roads. Just me and this gorgeous backwoodsman.

Oh, geez, where were her thoughts taking her now? Daniel had proven to be an excellent teacher, and she enjoyed seeing her beloved Yellowstone through his eyes. Yet, as the day wore on, she found it harder and harder to concentrate on her surroundings, while she became more and more aware of him. He was as untamed as this land, and by far the most virile man she had ever met.


Peggy L Henderson

Western Historical and Time Travel Romance

“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of:

  • Yellowstone Romance Series
  • Teton Romance Trilogy
  • Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
  • Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series

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I never thought I’d be a writer, much less publish a book some day. I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I guess life just had other plans for me. When my husband and I decided to start a family, vet school pretty much went out the window, but I stayed in the field as a veterinary clinical laboratory technologist.

I live with my husband and two teenage sons in southern California. I have a Welsh pony, a crazy Labrador retriever who is a food vacuum, two cats, two parakeets, four bearded dragons (my compromise with my sons when they wanted a snake), and a small flock of chickens complete our menagerie of critters. I can’t imagine my life without my animals. My dream is to live in Montana some day.

In 2009, I began writing a story that, for whatever reason, was stuck in my head for almost a year. The book, Yellowstone Heart Song, turned into a full series of five novels (with three more planned), and several novellas. I’ve also written a related series, the Teton Romance Trilogy, plus three books in the Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and working on an ongoing western historical romance series titled Blemished Brides.

When I’m not writing, I love to go camping and hiking with my husband and kids, and spend time with my animals.

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