The Yellowstone Act of 1872 created the world’s first national park. It withdrew more than 2 million acres from sale, settlement, or occupation to be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Unlike Yosemite, the bill put Yellowstone under federal control because ceding it to either Montana or Wyoming as newly minted states would have likely prompted a high-noon-style duel. The legislation placed the park under the control of the Secretary of the Interior to “provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.”
—Hansen, Heather (2015-10-20). Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service (Kindle Locations 389-392). Mountaineers Books. Kindle Edition.
From trapper Daniel Potts’s letters to his brother, the Gazette of the United States & Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) printed, “The Yellow Stone has a large fresh water lake near its head on the very top of the mountain, which is . . . as clear as crystal. On the south border of this lake is a number of hot and boiling springs. One of our men visited one of these whilst taking his recreation— there at an instant the earth began a tremendous trembling, and he with difficulty made his escape, when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder.”
It didn’t take long for official talk of preserving Yellowstone to echo in the halls of Congress. Senator Samuel Pomeroy, a Republican from Kansas, got the ball rolling on an otherwise ordinary Monday in December 1871 when he addressed his colleagues, saying, “I ask leave to introduce a bill to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone as a public park. It has been ascertained within the last year or two that there are very valuable reservations at the headwaters of the Yellowstone, and it is thought they ought to be set apart for public purposes rather than to have private preemption or homestead claims attached to them.” The big idea was known simply as Senate Bill 392.
–Hansen, Heather (2015-10-20). Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service (Kindle Locations 377-381). Mountaineers Books. Kindle Edition.