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Constructed in what is now the Yellowstone National Park, Fort Yellowstone protected travelers during the end of the Indian Wars and those visiting the park since for over 40 years. Originally constructed 1886 as a cavalry post, the fort would steadily grow until 1913. Fort Yellowstone was first called Camp Sheridan, named after the Commanding Officer of the US Military and famed Civil War and Indian Wars officer, Philip Sheridan. It became Fort Yellowstone in 1891. Yellowstone National Park was controlled by the War Department until the Department of the Interior was able to effectively take official control in 1918. Visitors of the Mammoth Hot Springs portion of the park can still see some of the fort's buildings and learn about the fort at the area visitor center.


  • 1909 Bachelors Officer's Quarters
  • 1909 Double Cavalry Barracks
  • 1910 Guardhouse
  • 1897 Noncommissioned Officer's (NCO) Quarters
  • 1913 Chapel
  • Company M of the 1st Cavalry arrive to Mammoth Hot Springs in 1886
  • Fort Yellowstone in 1900
  • Engineers Office
  • 1904 photo of one of the remote soldier stations. This one was located in the West Thumb area
  • Fort Yellowstone in 1895
  • Soldier on guard duty in the park in 1903
  • Colonel Lloyd M. Brett, Fort Yellowstone's last superintendent
  • Colored 1910 photograph of Fort Yellowstone

When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, the US Department of the Interior had a small, and poorly funded, group of civilians to protect, conserve, and promote the park. From 1872 to 1886, the Department struggled to manage the park because of poor funds. The Department of the Interior transferred control of the park to the War Department in 1886. Not only did the War Department have more funds, it had more men available to and familiar with the area due to the Indian Wars that were winding down at the time. For the next 40 years protected, the War Department conserved and managed the park for the US g government. The first post they established was Camp Sheridan, constructed by elements of the 1st Cavalry. In 1891, the government granted more permanent funds to the post and it was decided that a fort should be constructed with better buildings. 

During the next 30 years, barracks, a guard post, a hospital, post office, canteen (cafeteria of sorts), engineer's office, a chapel and officer's quarters (and more) were constructed to the ever-expanding Fort Yellowstone. Since troops needed to be out to cover more than the Mammoth Hot Springs area and the now North Entrance, more facilities were needed for the rest of the park. They built remote buildings such as soldier stations near the other park entrances, on various mountain tops, and in valleys and canyons. The soldiers also served as park rangers. 

During its years in managing the park, the War Department established fisheries, protecting the wildlife and wilderness safety protocols. John Muir, the eminent American naturalist and "Father of the National Parks," praised the men of the military for their management and preservation of the park. 

During WWI, the War Department's funds to manage the park were low. This caused contention between the states within Yellowstone National Park's boundaries and the federal government. These contentions led to the slow disbandment of troops from the park in 1916-1918. The contentious situation was only resolved when Congress was persuaded to hand over control to the civilian branch of the government, the Department of the Interior, which had established the National Park Service in 1916. Now, the Department of the Interior had greater funds and manpower to manage the park. The Park Ranger uniforms were influenced by the uniforms of the War Department soldiers.

Today, some of the structures of Fort Yellowstone can be seen today at Mammoth Hot Springs and throughout the Park. The units stationed at Yellowstone while the fort was in operation included elements of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th cavalry regiments. 

Frazer, Robert W. Forts of the West. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.

Hampton, H. Duane. The Early Years in Yellowstone: 1872–1882. How the U.S. Cavalry Saved Our National Parks. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1972.
 
Hart, Herbert M. Tour Guide to Old Western Forts. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Co., 1980. 

Roberts, Robert B. Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1988. 

Rydell, Kiki Leigh; Culpin, Mary Shivers (2006). "The War on Vandalism-The United States Army Takes Control of Yellowstone National Park 1886–1906". Managing the Matchless Wonders-History of Administrative Development in Yellowstone National Park, 1872–1965 (PDF). National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources. pp. 26–50.