Yellowstone Calls in the Cavalry

By Regina Scott

             Regina Scott

My father was a big John Wayne fan, so I grew up watching Westerns that featured the iconic actor. In them, the US Cavalry always rides to the rescue, no matter the odds. When I was researching for my second book in the American Wonders Collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous, I was delighted to learn that the Cavalry really did ride to the rescue of our first national park, Yellowstone.

When Yellowstone was first created, there was no National Park Service. No one had any idea how to manage the millions of acres that encompass the park and range from snow-capped mountains to steaming hot pools.

Congress appointed a superintendent, but some of the first tried to manage things from Washington, D.C.! Others that followed moved out to the park, at least when it wasn’t covered by snow, but even they struggled to protect the natural wonders and the species who called Yellowstone home.

By 1886, Yellowstone was in real danger. Commercial interests were lobbying to build railroads into the park, erect businesses, even log and mine. The number of visitors was swelling, and many had no idea how to behave.

   Albert Bierstadt Painting of Old Faithful

They carved their names into the geological formations, chipped off chunks to take home as souvenirs, and even plugged up the geysers to see how high the debris would shoot.

Postcard #157 – The Buffalo Herd;
Frank J Haynes

Worse, poachers traveled brazenly through the park, picking off game. The buffalo herd, the last truly wild herd in the country, dwindled to less than 30.

Captain Moses Harris

Something had to be done. Congress used a clause in an earlier law to send the Army to manage the park. Captain Moses Harris and Troop M of the 1st Cavalry rode into Yellowstone on August 20, 1886, to take control.

     Troop M of the 1st Cavalry in Yellowstone

Their first task? To fight the wildfires that were raging throughout the park, at least some set by poachers intent on driving the game onto unprotected lands for slaughter. There was no fire wagon, no hoses, and no money to allocate for them. But they fought the fires nonetheless. They also stationed detachments at all the major tourist attractions to safeguard the park.

The men expected their work in the park to be temporary, until Congress could determine a better way to manage Yellowstone, but the Cavalry remained in charge for 32 years. Their zeal to protect the land and its animals lay the foundation for the conservation mindset still prevalent in the National Park Service today.

What else would you expect from those trained to ride to the rescue?

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? Which attraction was your favorite? If you haven’t been, which have you heard about you’re longing to see? Comment below for a chance to win an autographed print copy of Nothing Short of Wondrous, a set of vintage-style postcards, and huckleberry lip balm straight from Montana.

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Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than fifty works of warm, witty historical romance. She and her husband live in the Puget Sound area of Washington State on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her fascination with history has led her to dress as a Regency dandy, drive a carriage four-in-hand, learn to fence, and sail on a tall ship, all in the name of research. You can learn more about her at or connect with her on Facebook ( or Pinterest (

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60 thoughts on “Yellowstone Calls in the Cavalry”

  1. I love Yellowstone, and love visiting all of it. But one of my favorite area is The Morning Glory pools, that have such beautiful colors. I first saw Old Faithful in 1966, and at that time the boardwalk was a lot closer then it is now. And there was no place to sit and watch, unlike now they have seating for those that want to sit. The boardwalk goes all the way around Old Faithful for those that want to walk. And I love the Little Grand Canyon, which after seeing Grand Canyon in Arizona, makes you appreciate what is in Yellowstone. Last I love seeing all the wildlife, and my last visit got to sit while a herd of Buffalo moved around.

  2. Good morning and welcome. I went and visited Yellowstone in 2017 and saw Old Faithful. This summer my husband and I returned to see the rest of the park. The Lower Falls were gorgeous and still remain along with Old Faithful, my favorite attractions. The buffalo were so thick this year, we really got to see them in their natural habitat. I think everyone needs to visit this amazing place at least once in their lives. Thanks for such an amazing blog.

  3. I love nature and being outdoors. So it is really hard for me to pick one thing I liked about Yellowstone. All I can say is that it is beautiful!!!
    Thank you for writing about it – I never knew.

    • It’s amazing seeing animals in their natural habitat. Northwest Trek near us is one of my favorite parks. There, the animals roam free and the people have to go through in a tram. They even have a herd of bison. 🙂 Nothing as grand as Yellowstone, of course.

  4. No I have not been there and do want to go! However I also work for the Conservation Officers here in Indiana whose job it is to protect our state’s natural resources! Great information today!

    • We never know where our travels will take us, do we. I had the Mystic Seaport (historical whaling village) on my bucket list for a long time before a dear friend arranged to take me there. Worth the wait!

  5. What a wonderful blog! And the pictures were so inspiring, especially the Calvary. Thank you for sharing them. I love the old lodge at Yellowstone. It is awesome. I’m not acquainted with you as an author. Your book cover is beautiful. Thank you for brightening my day with wonderful memories of Yellowstone. Loved it!

    • I only wish I’d been able to talk about more of it in the book, Estella. My characters spend much of their time in the Lower Geyser Basin, but they visit the Norris Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Maybe someday I can write about the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the falls, and the lake. A girl can dream!

  6. Morning have a blessed day. Yellowstone is on my bucket lst. I am a huge John Wayne fan and have almost all his movies or watched them. I have a handful of my favorites. True Grit, sons of Katie Elder, cowboys and Big Jake.

    • Hope you have a blessed day too, Kristi! If I had to pick a favorite John Wayne movie, it would be The Quiet Man. Love that story (even though it’s not a Western). Maureen O’Hara was always wonderful paired with him.

    • It’s a great place to visit with family, Sharon. I went with my parents and little brother when I was young. Then I was more interested in the animals and the showy spots like Old Faithful. Now I can see the beauty everywhere.

  7. I have never been to Yellowstone, but I would love to see the hot pools and the geysers, especially Old Faithful.

  8. I have been to Yellowstone once and it was just beautiful. We were able to spend a couple of days and take several guided tours and loved it. Old Faithful “wasn’t operating” when we were there, but the thing that awes me the most anyway is the bubbling mud pots. I have seen them at Lassen Park and in Iceland and they always leave me speechless.

      • Thank you, Regina! I had no idea the National Park Service even had a sound library. I will enjoy listening to the mud pots and exploring the rest. I’m not sure what it is about the mud pots, except that it shows just how powerful nature is. And how cool that part of your story is opposite the mud pots. On my TBR list :-).

  9. The cover of your book is beautiful! The blue of her dress with the blue sky and water in the background is very eye-catching. I’ve never been to Yellowstone but would love to go. My husband and I want to take our kids to as many of the national parks as we can. I didn’t know the Cavalry was in charge of the park. That is so interesting. I’m thankful they were able to preserve it.

    • Thank you, Christy! That’s a great goal to take your family to as many parks as possible. We did a driving trip with our sons when they were younger, down from Washington through Oregon to visit family near San Diego. We hit Crater Lake, Yosemite, and the Redwoods on the way up and back.

  10. What a gorgeous cover. This sounds like a wonderful book (I looked it up) This is some interesting info about the park. I was little when I went with my parents. I am the oldest of five and my second brother had not come along yet. So it has been a long time and I just dont remember much other than time with mom and dad and big trees.
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  11. I have been to Yellowstone 3 times and feel like I have only seen a tiny part of it even though I have driven through East to west, West to East and North to South. There are so many spectacular natural sights! I did know about the military supervision thanks to the Ken Burns series “The National Parks” which is available on dvd from PBS or many libraries.

  12. I haven’t been to Yellowstone, but I want to go! I don’t have a specific thing to see, though I’d love to see old Faithful! This weekend, GRIT is showing a lot of John Wayne movies!

  13. I have never been to Yellowstone, but would love to go some day. All of this is so very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing. Your book sounds like a very good read and I love the book cover , it is Beautiful. Have a Great weekend and stay safe. I love John Wayne movies, one of my favorite ones has been The Son’s of Katie Elder, when I was very young I would watch John Wayne movies with my dad, he used to love watching his movies.

  14. My first visit to Yellowstone was when I was 10 years old. I still remember how I could wait for a long time to wait for the to eruptions and they would hit the sky. I’m 67 and our trip to Yellowstone is still one of my favorite places to visit. It still takes my breath away.

  15. What a lovely cover.
    We have been to Yellowstone twice and will very likely stop in again when we are out that way again. The park is so diverse, it is hard to compare the features and decide between them. Of course the geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs and other hydrothermal features are impressive. I like Yellowstone Falls and Canyon, the open Lamar Valley area, and the Roosevelt area. We stayed in a cabin in a different area each time we visited. They are basic but nice. We now have an RV, so will likely be camping, but there are no hook-up in the park and we need electricity all night.
    Enjoy the Fall and the holidays. Stay safe and healthy.

  16. I love the cover. I was intrigued by the information.
    I have never had the pleasure of seeing Yellowstone, but would love to see Old Faithful.
    Shirley Strait

  17. Beautiful cover. It sounds like a really interesting book. I was in Yellowstone many years ago when I was little with my parents. So I don’t remember very much about it.

  18. I have not been to Yellowstone yet. I think that my mom worked there in the summer when she was young. I want to see a buffalo….lol And I’m close enough I really should go.

  19. I have been to Yellowstone and it is awesome. It should be on everyone’s bucket list along with the Grand Canyon.
    Very interesting about the calvary. Thanks for sharing.
    Your book sounds interesting. I like the cover.

  20. Hi Regina – Enjoyed your blog about Yellowstone in the early years. I haven’t been, but it sounds like a Awesome place to see. I have been to Yosemite Park, if Yellowstone is anything like it…… would be beautiful in some many ways.

  21. I have never bee to Yellowstone. The pictures I am sure do not do justice to the beauty. I love the idea of animals roaming in their protected environment. Thank you for the opportunity.

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