If Peabody’s impassioned, vividly written chronicle of how Yellowstone became a national park does not make readers want to visit, nothing will.
After introducing the Yellowstone area as the homeland and hunting ground of Plains American Indians, Peabody’s narrative begins in the summer of 1871, when a team of men led by Ferdinand Hayden set out on the first scientific expedition across the uncharted territory of Yellowstone. The dramatic, picturesque descriptions of the expedition read very much like an adventure story. These scientists and artists explored, sampled, and photographed the extraordinary wonders they found. Their dispatches, describing boiling springs, burping mud pots, pools of molten magma, huge mountains of sulfur, and erupting geysers, confirmed earlier reports of the region’s distinctiveness. As proof was offered, would-be entrepreneurs schemed of ways to exploit these natural wonders. Peabody describes how, with the support of such conservationists and naturalists as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Law Olmstead, and John Muir, the surveyors were able to convince Congress to preserve the land from commercial development and set aside over 2 million acres as a national park. Peabody packs a lot of information into this narrative, somewhat to its detriment. She has a large cast to juggle, and frequent fact boxes on topics ranging from grizzly biology to profiles of specific features break up her account.
A lively, richly detailed account of exploration, conservation, and natural history. (photos, maps, endnotes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-18)