Today in Wyo history (1880): "Rocky Mountain" Harry Yount becomes first park ranger at Yellowstone - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Today in Wyo history (1880): “Rocky Mountain” Harry Yount becomes first park ranger at Yellowstone

Harry Yount at Berthound Pass in Colorado Jan 1, 1874 (William Henry Jackson, United States Geological Survey)

CASPER, Wyo — On June 21, 1880, “Rocky Mountain” Harry Yount was hired by the US Department of the Interior to be Yellowstone National Park’s (YNP) first gamekeeper. His work and recommendations during his 14 months at the post helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service, according to Harry Murray, who wrote about Yount in Vol. 29, Issue 2 of Wild West magazine.

The National Park Service’s second director, Horace Albright, called Yount the “father of the ranger service, as well as the first national park ranger.” 

Discharged from the Union Army after the Civil War, Yount became a teamster on the Bozeman Trail and delivered cords of wood for the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming. He also worked as a scout and trapper, and as a guide for the Hayden Geological Survey.

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During one expedition some of the surveyor’s reportedly became delirious and disoriented in the deep snow, and Yount had them strapped to their mules for their own good. He also narrowly avoided slipping into a glacial crevasse while attempting to summit Grand Teton.

According to Murray,  YNP’s first superintendent had no salary or funding.  The second had minimal funding, but poaching and vandalism were a problem. In 1880 Interior Secretary Carl Schurz hired Harry Yount as park gamekeeper.

“Yount was mostly a defender of wildlife after reporting for duty as Yellowstone gamekeeper in July 1880,”  Murray wrote.

Yount built a cabin at the juncture of the Lamar and Soda Butte valleys so as to protect wintering bison and elk. Yount reported to the Interior department the need for “a small, active, reliable police force, to receive regular pay during the spring and summer at least, when animals are likely to be slaughtered by tourists and mountaineers.”

“Rocky Mountain” Harry Yount in 1873 (William Henry Holmes)

Yount added in his report:  “It is evident that such a force could, in addition to the protection of the game, assist the superintendent of the park in enforcing the laws, rules and regulations for protection of guideboards and bridges, and the preservation of the countless and widely scattered geyser cones and other matchless wonders of the park.”

On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Parks Service to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

After resigning his Yellowstone post in September 1881, Yount homesteaded and prospected in Wyoming, settling in Wheatland, until his death from heart failure on May 16, 1924.

Harry Yount at Berthound Pass in Colorado Jan 1, 1874 (William Henry Jackson, United States Geological Survey)


Murray, Harry. “Yellowstone’s youth was first Park Ranger: Harry Yount wintered at the Wyoming Park and inspired creation of the NPS.” Wild West, vol. 29, no. 2, Aug. 2016, p. 20+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 21 June 2020.