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A Brief History of Yellowstone National Park’s Roosevelt Lodge
as it Celebrates its 90th Anniversary

 

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, August 5, 2010 – Yellowstone National Park’s Roosevelt Lodge will celebrate its 90th anniversary this September.  Situated in the scenic northern region of the park – an area known for its abundance of wildlife – Roosevelt Lodge is the smallest of the nine park lodges. The lodge features 80 simple cabins – some dating back to the 1920s – as well as the main lodge building, with a dining area, registration, lobby and gift shop. 


Named for Yellowstone enthusiast Theodore Roosevelt who regularly visited the park, 
this rustic lodge and cabin facility was built in in an area of the park that was a favorite
of Theodore Roosevelt.

While it is not the oldest lodge in the park – the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, celebrating its 120th anniversary next year, claims that honor – the lodge and its surrounding area are historically significant because of a colorful past marked by an intriguing cast of characters as well as its spectacularly beautiful and abundantly wild location.

Pleasant Valley
Like the lodge itself, the adjacent valley is also historic. Walk in any direction a quarter mile from the Roosevelt Lodge’s spacious front porch, stand for a moment in silence, and you can practically hear the hoof beats of horses that have been galloping across this lush valley for centuries. Indians crossed the valley in preparation for bison hunts and camped in outcroppings near the dense forest that surrounds the valley. Mountain men, fur trappers and prospectors traveled through the valley on their way to Lamar Valley, with its abundance of wildlife, or to Lamar River or Soda Butte Creek in search of gold. Explorers on expeditions to discover the wonders of the area long before it was a national park traveled through the area as they mapped, photographed, painted and wrote about the remarkable region in northwest Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho that today comprise Yellowstone.

The area is bordered by the Yellowstone River to the east and Lamar River to the northeast and to this day is home to abundant wildlife, including bears, bison, wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, eagles, fox, coyotes, beavers, river otters and many species of birds.  For early visitors, it was truly a land of plenty. And for John R. Yancey, it was also a gold mine. 

Uncle John Yancy
“Uncle” John Yancey was a squatter at first, but in 1882 he was granted a concession to operate a mail station at his Pleasant Valley ranch. The ranch is on the site of what is today the Roosevelt Lodge cookout -- one of park’s most popular evening activities – about 1 ½ miles from the Roosevelt Lodge.

Two years later, Yancey built the Pleasant Valley Hotel on the site. The two-story log hotel targeted trappers and explorers and other park visitors who couldn’t afford to take the park’s increasingly popular “Grand Tour,” which included accommodations at the park’s finer hotels and transportation around the park. Yancey’s definition of hospitality was somewhat different than what was deemed by polite society as acceptable accommodations, even in remote and wild Yellowstone Park. Yancey said his hotel could accommodate up to 20 guests, but there were only five guest rooms. Bedsheets were changed – but not regularly – and glassware in the saloon was rarely washed.

“Beds had clean sheets when there were enough to go around, and when there were many guests it wasn’t unusual for the sheets to be unchanged for a few days,” said Leslie J. Quinn, interpretive specialist for Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone. Yancey also operated a saloon and served whiskey in glasses that Uncle John claimed had “never been profaned by contact with water,” said Quinn.

Yancey died in 1903 and operation of the lodge was undertaken by a nephew, Dan Yancey, who didn’t share his uncle’s enthusiasm for hospitality. The lodge burned to the ground in 1906 and was never replaced.

Camp Roosevelt
By the early 1900s, another concessioner, the Wylie Permanent Camping Company, had been steadily opening permanent tent camps around the park. Although they were a marked step up from the accommodations of the Pleasant Valley Hotel, their target market was similar: visitors who were unable to afford the Grand Tour hotels such as Old Faithful Inn (beginning in 1904) and Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

Camp Roosevelt, located on or very near the site of today’s Roosevelt Lodge, included wood-floored tents with basic furniture and a single large tent for dining. Camp Roosevelt and other Wylie Camps were particularly popular among tent-campers – and sometimes even lodge guests – because of their nightly campfire entertainment. Every evening, staffers – often college students on summer break – would put on skits and stage sing-alongs around the campfire. Although simple and amateurish, the staff entertainment prompted camaraderie and interaction among the guests. National Park Service rangers began giving interpretive campfire talks in the evening, eventually replacing the nightly entertainment.

Camp Roosevelt and other Wylie Camps had other charms according to Quinn. “Early every morning a staffer would quietly enter each tent and build a fire in the tent’s wood stove so guests awoke to a warm tent,” he explained.

Being on staff at a camp meant being a jack-of-all-trades. “Every tent camp had one staff person whose job it was to man the dining tent armed with bats and shovels to fight off the bears when they visited the tent in search of an easy dinner,” said Quinn.

Roosevelt Lodge Then…
Construction of the Roosevelt Lodge was completed in September 1920. The lodge building included a dining room, lobby and registration area and long, wide porch lined with rocking chairs constructed by the Old Hickory furniture company. A back-of-the-house area was later built to accommodate administration and a kitchen. The lodge building is much the same today, with Old Hickory rocking chairs on the porch, an open dining area and inviting stone fireplace (although the fireplace was eventually converted from wood-burning to gas), and an original photograph of Theodore Roosevelt hung on a lobby wall.

Although the lodge is named for him, Theodore Roosevelt never visited it; the lodge was built 17 years after his visit. During a two-week trip to Yellowstone Park, Roosevelt spent a couple of nights camping nearby to explore, fish and observe the wildlife. Although he clearly was enamored of the park, and perhaps even particularly favored the rugged northern region, there is nothing in any record to indicate a higher level of importance. Notably, Roosevelt dedicated the historically significant Roosevelt Arch, completed in 1903, at the end of his vacation in the park.

Guests of Roosevelt Lodge were housed in simple, cozy cabins which today number 80. It is not known how many cabins were originally constructed at Roosevelt, but we do know several cabins were moved from other locations in the park.

…And Now
The lodge also includes a corral that houses horses for trail rides in the park. Today, that historic corral continues to offer trail rides, and it is also the staging area for the Old West Cookout, a modern-day version of Camp Roosevelt’s employee-run campfire shows. Introduced in the 1950s, this family-friendly tour offers cowboy entertainment with songs and story-telling; choice of transportation in a horse-drawn wagon or on a horse; and an expansive Western-style buffet with steaks, signature Roosevelt Baked Beans, corn muffins and more. 

Late every afternoon, guests begin to gather on the Roosevelt Lodge’s inviting porch to share stories of the day’s adventures. As the sun begins to set and the temperature drops, guests put on jackets and order another beverage while rocking, leaning against the porch railing or sitting on the steps. Horses return from trail rides. Guests arrive for dinner. Some guests wander off to their cabins; others take their place in a comfortable Old Hickory rocker.  And it becomes easy to understand why those early travelers to Yellowstone weren’t overly concerned when the sheets weren’t changed at Yancey’s Hotel or a bear visited the dining tent at the Wylie Camp. While other areas of the park may offer a greater choice of services and activities, visitors to this wild region of Yellowstone are there by choice to enjoy the area’s abundant natural beauty.

The Details
Roosevelt Lodge has the shortest season of the park’s nine lodges. This year the lodge opened on June 11, and it will close for the season Sept. 6.

The lodge includes 14 Frontier Cabins and 66 Roughrider Cabins. Frontier Cabins include two double beds, a bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. These cabins are $108 per night. Priced at $65 per night, Roughrider Cabins are simply furnished and include a bed and a wood-burning stove for heat.  Shared public bathrooms are located within an easy walk of these cabins.

The Roosevelt Lodge experience is heavy on Mother Nature and light on technology. There are no televisions (no lodges in the park have TVs), telephones, radios, Internet hook-ups or cell phone coverage.

The Roosevelt Lodge corral is the staging area for daily stagecoach adventures, interpretive horseback trail rides, and the Old West Cookout.

Half-hour stagecoach adventures are offered several times throughout the day. The stagecoaches – replicas of the original Tally-Ho stagecoaches that took early visitors on the Grand Tour of Yellowstone Park – travel along a two-mile route. The tours are priced at $12 for adults, $6 for children three to 11. Children under two years old travel free.

One-hour interpretive horseback rides depart twice-daily and two-hour rides depart once a day. The one-hour rides are priced at $38. The two-hour ride is $58.

Guests can travel to the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout by one- or two-hour horseback ride or in a covered horse-drawn wagon. Wranglers provide interpretive information about the area and its history along the way. The Cookout includes steak and an all-you-can-eat buffet of Western-style favorites as well as entertainment by a singing cowboy. The Cookout is priced at $55 for adults and $45 for children three to 11 and free for children under two traveling by wagon; $66 for adults and $56 for children traveling on the one-hour horseback ride and $80 for adults and $70 for children on the two-hour ride.

Roosevelt Lodge is also home base for an award-winning Lodging & Learning program called the Roosevelt Rendezvous. A partnership between Xanterra Parks & Resorts and the non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute, the four-night program includes accommodations at the lodge, all meals, a welcome gift, and in-park transportation for daily field trips that explore Yellowstone topics such as geology, wildlife and human history. Roosevelt Lodge is offered for the exclusive use of Roosevelt Rendezvous participants. This year the program starts on Sept. 10 and 14. The program is priced at $709 per person for two adults per cabin and $845 for one adult per cabin. All prices quoted are subject to tax and utility fees.

For more information about accommodations, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone visit www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or call toll-free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) or (1) 307-344-7311.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts® (consisting of several affiliated Xanterra entities) operates lodges, restaurants and other concessions at national parks and state parks and resorts. Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the country’s largest park concessioner. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates concessions in the following locations: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., and eight Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio's Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been committed to the preservation and protection of the environment for many years. Through its environmental program, “Ecologix,” Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been recognized repeatedly for environmental leadership in the hospitality industry and is the recipient of many honors, including major awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Travel Industry Association of America, American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Colorado Department of Public Health, State of Arizona, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
For more information about Xanterra Parks & Resorts, links to individual properties and reservations numbers, visit www.xanterra.com.

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Contact: 

 Xanterra Parks & Resorts
6312 S. Fiddlers Green Circle
Suite 600 North
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
www.xanterra.com

Mesereau Public Relations
1-720-842-5271
mona_mesereau@msn.com
 

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Also See: Built 100 Years Ago - The Old Faithful Inn a Model of Parkitecture / April 2004
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