One of my last days in Yellowstone I booked the “Wake Up to Wildlife” tours conducted by the parks concessionaire. Definitely worth the time and cost it was great having someone else do the driving and the narration. These tours are given in retrofitted 1930’s tour busses. The story of the busses is an interesting one.
The White Model 706 Tour bus was developed specifically for sightseeing in the National Park System of the U.S.A. In 1935 four manufacturing companies agreed to participate in product evaluations at Yosemite National Park to determine the best vehicle for touring in western national parks. Although the transition from horse drawn to engine powered coaches had already occurred, there was no standard for seating capacity or power requirements. Early passenger vehicles were either underpowered or did not carry enough passengers. The vehicles were loaded with sandbags to simulate passenger weight and driven throughout Yosemite National Park. With its longer wheelbase and powerful 318 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine, the White Model 706 outperformed the other entries.
Yellowstone ordered 27 of the Model 706’s for the 1936 season and by 1940 there were 98 Model 706’s at Yellowstone. The older Yellowstone fleet was gradually phased out. The Model 706’s were used through the mid 1960’s when they were sold. The Skagway Streetcar Company of Alaska assembled a fleet of eight units, which were used until 2001, and then sold to Yellowstone National Park for restoration, exhibition and limited tour duty.
The historic bus was a great way to tour the park and look for wildlife. As the sun was coming up over the park we enjoyed beautiful vistas and lots of wildlife.
With close up view of animals ranging from Bighorn Sheep to a Red Fox the animals of the park were very cooperative.
With the help of binoculars and a spotting scope we also viewed a bear, osprey and mountain goats.
The wildlife of Yellowstone is amazing!
As I close the Yellowstone chapter of the trip I reflect back on the establishment of Yellowstone as the first National Park. What a forward thinking and wonderful idea, to set aside a tract of land for future generations. History shows a group of explorers promoted a park bill in Washington in late 1871 and early 1872 that drew upon the precedent of the Yosemite Act of 1864, which reserved Yosemite Valley from settlement and entrusted it to the care of the state of California. To permanently close to settlement an expanse of the public domain the size of Yellowstone would depart from the established policy of transferring public lands to private ownership. But the wonders of Yellowstone—shown through Jackson’s photographs, Moran’s paintings, and Elliot’s sketches—had caught the imagination of Congress. Thanks to their continued reports and the work of explorers and artists who followed, the United States Congress established Yellowstone National Park in 1872. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The world’s first national park was born.
The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act says “the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” In an era of expansion, the federal government had the foresight to set aside land deemed too valuable to develop.
“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people” an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved for everyone – truly America’s best idea.