The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

In the days before photography, there were only landscape painters who could convey the grandeur and beauty of a place.  The works of one such landscape painter helped created the very first national park, Yellowstone.

Art Makes A Difference

In 1871, American government geologist, Ferdinand Hayden, was sent to explore the area in Wyoming consisting of what is now Yellowstone National Park.  His expedition was made up of mainly scientists – a botanist, mineralogist etc. who could determine if there was anything of value in the land.  Hayden, however, also had the foresight to  take with him a landscape artist and a photographer to document the expedition.

The landscape painter, Thomas Moran, had been born in England but immigrated as a child with his family to Pennsylvania. When he was apprenticed as a teenager at a wood engraving firm, he began also to draw and to paint.  Moran’s images were instrumental in capturing the imagination of the US Congress and prompting them to declare Yellowstone a national park.  For the first time, the American public could also see what they had only heard about from news reports.

A National Treasure

In 1872, a little over 1.2 million acres was designated as the first national park, Yellowstone National Park, preserving its natural beauty for generations to come.  Although Yellowstone was granted protected status, Congress did not actually go so far as to set aside any money for its upkeep!

Public funding was to come later.  After all, during this time of American Westward expansion, it was pretty remarkable that anyone thought about protecting land at all.  Congress probably thought the Yellowstone land was useless for development and so agreed to its protected status.

Yellowstone was the first national park in the world and inspired the conservation of public lands in both the US and in other countries in future years. It was also one of the first batch of UNESCO world heritage listed sites to be named such.

The Grand Canyon o the Yellowstone

One of Moran’s most famous paintings is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone located in Canyon Valley.  It was purchased by Congress for $10,000, a fairly unheard of amount in those days.  The painting is kept by the Smithsonian in Washington D.C..  It depicts the Yellowstone River flowing down from Canyon Falls through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Thomas Moran painting

Thomas Moran’s painting, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

When we were at Yellowstone this summer, I took a photograph of Canyon Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone that Moran used for his inspiration.  Pretty amazingly similar isn’t it?

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

In Moran’s version, there are 2 small explorer’s staring in the foreground.  My photograph has been carefully positioned to avoid the hundreds of tourists milling around the area!  Nonetheless, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is stunning beautiful.

Aren’t you glad this natural beauty was preserved for us to enjoy?

the grand canyon of the yellowstone

the grand canyon of the yellowstone



No One is Going To Ride These Wild Horses

No One is Going To Ride These Wild Horses

Happy Chinese New Year!  It’s the year of the horse in the Chinese zodiac calendar.  The year of the horse comes around every 12 years and has appeared in the past in 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002.  If you are not born on a horse year, 2014 is supposed to be a great year to travel because it will be filled with good luck.  Good news for me!

We are taking our lucky selves and travelling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in April.  I hope we see the wild horses which live along the nearly 11 miles of beach around Corolla in the Outer Banks

google doodle

Image: google doodle

They are wild Spanish mustangs who roam freely and are deemed a cultural treasure by the state of North Carolina.

Corolla Horses

Image: Corolla Wild Horse Fund

The history of these horses goes back to colonial times. The Spanish tried to colonise the area around what is now North Carolina.  They, however, met resistance from the Native Americans who lived there (probably because they were stealing Native American children to send as slaves to the West Indies).  The Spanish eventually left for their colonies in Florida which were better protected and abandoned their horses.

corolla horse

Image: Corolla Wild Horse Fund

The horses eventually became feral and fended for themselves.  They learned to survive off the dune grass, acorns and persimmons and sources of freshwater that was found in their habitat.  They are an incredibly hardy bunch in order to have survived for nearly 500 years without human intervention.

Corolla Horse

Image: Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Until recently, the Outer Banks of North Carolina were some of the least developed areas in the United States.  They are a series of sand dunes which protect the coast of North Carolina from the Atlantic Coast and on the non-Atlantic side are separated from the mainland by more water.

corolla horses

Image: Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Some interesting facts about these wild horses:

  • It is against North Carolina law to touch or feed a wild horse.
  • Wild horses that have to be taken off site for treatment are not allowed back onto the Banks in case they bring any disease back into the herd from horses they met while being treated.
  • There are approximately 25 harems in the herd.  A harem consists of one stallion and several mares.
  • Stallions without a harem live together in groups.

Experts have confirmed through DNA evidence that these horses are direct descendants of the Spanish horses imported by the Spaniards in the 16th century.  The Spanish horses the Conquistadores took to the New World had been among the best from the Spanish royal horse farms.  Their beauty is evident even today.


My children can’t wait to see these horses for themselves!  Truth be told, neither can I.