Geyser Bob's Yellowstone Park History Service
Serving the Greater Yellowstone & Surrounding Gateway & Historic Communities
Cinnabar MT
Cooke City MT
Corwin Springs MT
Gardiner MT
LaDuke Hot Springs
Livingston MT - Original Gateway to YNP
Cody & Park Co. WY
Monida & Beaver Canyon MT
West Yellowstone MT
Gardiner MT

Gardiner, Montana - Yellowstone's Northern Gateway

A Pictorial History of the Early Days

Copyright 2014 Robert V. Goss

Early History . . .

Gardiner, the 1st gateway community of Yellowstone Park, was located at the north entrance of the park at the junction of the Yellowstone and Gardner rivers.  Due to the relatively low elevation (about a mile high), low winter snow pack and the presence of the Yellowstone River, easy year-round access was available. All of the other current entrances were snow-bound a good portion of the year. The area was traversed by Native Americans for at least 13,000 years and evidence of their presence has been well-documented along the Yellowstone River and other tributaries. The Yellowstone was also a favorite route of the fur trappers and early expeditions into the park. The Gardiner valley was visited by white men as early as 1829, when Joe Meek and other trappers were attacked by Indians near Cinnabar Mountain. In the 1830s mountain man Johnson Gardner trapped in Yellowstone, particularly around the Indian Creek/Gardner River area, known as Gardner’s Hole. The river and town were named after Gardner and somewhere along the line an “i” slipped into the spelling of the town’s name.

     In the 1860s prospectors such as George Huston, Jack Baronett, A. Bart Henderson, and Adam Horn Miller traveled along the Yellowstone River into the park searching for the elusive wealth of gold. Discoveries were made along Bear Creek and Jardine and in the northeast portions of the park around the current Cooke City area.  Between 1869 and 1871 the expeditions of Folsom-Cook-Peterson, Henry Washburn, Barlow Heap, and F.V. Hayden trailed along the Yellowstone River and through the Gardiner valley into the depths of the park and began to bring the wonders of Yellowstone into the public eye.

James McCartney, who with Harry Horr, homesteaded 160 acres at Mammoth Hot Springs and built the first crude log hotel at Mammoth in 1871, founded the town of Gardiner in 1880. McCartney became the 1st Postmaster when the post office was established Feb. 9, 1880. He later became the unofficial mayor.  It has been said that he laid out the town along the park border to get back at the government for kicking him out of Mammoth and negating his claims. The park boundary line still runs right along the sidewalk of most of Park Street. The town did not spring to life until 1883 when the Northern Pacific RR built the Park Branch rail line from Livingston to the town of Cinnabar, about 3 miles north of Gardiner.


Above: This is one of the earlier known views of Gardiner, Montana, taken around 1887.  Although most of these buildings burned in the following years, 2 or 3 of these buildings are still in use today.  Photo courtesy of US National Archives

Below: Undated photograph of some of the businesses on Park Street, including the Park Hotel, Tripp-Melloy store, and no doubt a wide assortment of saloons.

1888 view of Gardiner by HW Lloyd, courtesy YNP Archives #1397a

Below:  Gardiner City, ca1895. Visible in the center is the C.B. Scott Saloon & Billiards. Courtesy Burton Holmes Travelogues, Vol. 12, 1919
Left: Park Street view ca1890. Visible are the C.B. Scott store to the right, Pratt & Hall center, and a Restaurant-Bakery center left (later the O.K. Store). Courtesy YNP Archives 33307.

Left: Park Street view ca1902. The Park Saloon is show right center with the horses in front. To the left is the Gardiner Hotel and next to that is C.B. Scott's Saloon and Billards Hall. YNP Archives 9130

Click Here for a close-up view of the three business. YNP Archives 37094

      "Gardiner - A Short History"

Excerpt From the Gardiner Wonderland newspaper, April 30, 1903.

       "The first town laid off in this end of what is now Park County, was Gardiner.  James McCartney came in this way during the first rush to Cooke City, and after examining the Mammoth Hot Springs, he made up his mind that they were worth locating.  He accordingly entered into possession, erected buildings, bath tubs, etc. and made the springs his summer residence.  In the fall of that same year he also located the tract of ground which is now the Gardiner townsite.  In 1882 when Northern Pacific was building and the National Park was attracting world wide attention a man by the name of Stone, acting for the railroad company purchased McCartney's interest, made under the Desert-Land Laws, and made a final proof the next year. In the meantime the road was being graded into the town and a town of several hundred people sprang up in a very few weeks.

        "About this time there was trouble about the title to the town site, as well as those who had already settled and built in the town. Those who had "jumped" the townsite had given settlers permission to build and when the legal owner sought to do business with them, he could get no concessions.  The result was that all the grading work stopped and the station was made three miles down the line.  Gardiner remained the principle town until the fire of '86 when about all of its business portion was burnt.  At this time the owner of the townsite stepped in and refused to allow rebuilding until lots had been bought and paid for.  This caused many to leave and soon from a thousand population the town dwindled to two or three hundred, and at times has even contained less.  The location is a very pretty one, at the junction of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers and lies directly upon the Park line.  In fact the sidewalks of the main street project into the Park.  It is from here that the wagon road enters and continues directly up the Gardner Canyon to Mammoth Hot Springs, five miles south.  The town has its own electric light and water systems.  In all these years, the old timers have had faith that the road would ultimately extend here.

        "As it is, the town is the supply point of the surrounding country and headquarters for most of the team work and freighting in and about the Park.  Just south of the town lies a low tract of land, small in extent, then rising in broken hills to Sepulcher Mountain and this is winter feeding ground for large numbers of antelope.  At this season hundreds may be seen daily, but as one old resident said; ‘They know where the Park line is,' and seldom cross it, although they seem to understand that they stand in no danger from man, for be it said to the credit of the settlers, they respect the Park laws for the protection of its game.  It is the travel, freighting, and government work in the Park from which Gardiner draws its main support, but its higher claim for greatness lies in its superb winter climate. Its elevation is less than 5,300 feet and not one year in five is there sufficient snowfall in the valley and extending down the valley past Cinnabar and for several miles for sleighing, while the temperature seldom falls much below zero. The surrounding mountains will be deeply covered with a white mantle, but the valley will be as if it belonged to a region a thousand miles southward. This fact is attracting many from other camps and localities where the deposit of snow is so objectionable. It is of course, not altitude that gives immunity from snow, but the peculiar location with reference to the surrounding mountain ranges, Electric and other high mountains lie immediately west and south of the valley.”

The Northern Pacific RR Moves in . . . .

In 1883 the NPRR extended their tracks from Livingston MT to Cinnabar, about 3 miles north of town.  Anticipating that the line would end up in Gardiner, the community quickly grew.  By June of 1883 the town boasted of a population close to 200, consisting mostly of tents, log shacks and 21 saloons, 6 restaurants, 5 general stores, 2 hardware stores and several other types of businesses (and no doubt a few brothels).  However, a land dispute between the railroad and 'Buckskin Jim' Cutler prevented the rail line from coming all the way into Gardiner, and the town's growth spurt stopped.  L.A. VanHome and Harris Doble discovered the marble and travertine cliffs above town in 1887, but they were not fully developed until the early 1930’s by the NW Improvement Co.

1885 the town’s first public school was established in a small log cabin and the following year the townsite was formally platted by George H. Robinson.  A mere three years later most of the town was destroyed by fire, including 19 businesses and 13 homes. In 1895 John Spiker set up a water wheel near the Yellowstone River that would pipe water up to the town using the pressure from the river.  Water had previously been hauled up in barrels.  Two years later he installed a 75-lite Jenny Dynamo at his water plant and was able to put in electric lights at his hotel.  The town was plagued by fires during its early years, the first one in 1887 destroyed most of the buildings, while 13 homes and 19 businesses were devastated in 1889.  The year 1893 saw the first bridge constructed across the Yellowstone River, creating incentive for development on the north side of the river. By 1902 the land dispute with Cutler had been resolved and the rail tracks were extended into Gardiner that year, creating a prosperity boom for the town. That same year the newspaper Wonderland was first printed in town but only lasted until sometime in 1905. It is available online and can provide a wealth of information about those early days.  [ Link ]

Above: Construction of the NPRR Depot in 1903. Photo coutesy YNP Archives #161764

Below: Interior view of the depot from Campbells New Revised Complete Guide of Yellowstone Park, Published by H.E. Klamer 1909

View of the Gardiner NPRR Depot ca1905. From an original negative in possession of the author. Copyright Robert V. Goss

Below: Interior view of the Gardiner NPRR Depot ca1905. From an original negative in possession of the author. Copyright Robert V. Goss


The rail line was finally extended from Cinnabar into Gardiner in the spring of 1902. Park Co. historian Doris Whithorn has claimed that "Trains started running the entire distance to Gardiner on June 20, 1902.  [Photo History of Gardiner, Jardine, Crevasse]  However, the Gardiner weekly newspaper Wonderland issue of June 26, 1902 makes no mention of that fact. The following issue of July 3 noted that "For the first time the regular passenger train on the Park branch ran into Gardiner and unloaded its passengers at the temporary depot and platform erected in the western part of the town . . . It may now be said that Gardiner is the terminus. . ." The paper however, mentioned no specific date for that event.  A temporary depot was used until the new edifice was completed in 1903.  The rustic log depot building erected at the terminus of Northern Pacific’s ‘Yellowstone Park Line' was designed by Robert Reamer, architect of the Old Faithful Inn,  The firm of Deeks & Deeks had been awarded the $20,000 construction contract. Upon completion, visitors exiting the new depot could gaze upon a pond and the new stone Arch built at the entrance of Yellowstone Park.  The former gateway town of Cinnabar soon became a ghost town as businesses closed their doors and began anew in Gardiner. Many of its buildings were moved into Gardiner and the once booming town rather ignominiously disappeared from the landscape.

As construction commenced on the new depot, a new stone arch constructed of native basalt was beginning to rise. Hiram Chittenden, in charge of road design and construction in Yellowstone, had come up with the idea and Robert Reamer designed the magnificent structure. On April 24th, 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt was present at the dedication ceremony of the slowly rising Arch and the event was reportedly attended by 3500 people. He laid the mortar for one of the huge basalt blocks and presented a stirring speech to the attentive crowd.             [Click Here for a link to the April 30 edition of the Gardiner Wonderland newspaper describing the event.]

An excerpt from a 1904 edition of the Railroad Gazette boasting about the new Depot, reported that:

   "The station at Gardiner was designed to harmonize with the other structures [Arch, etc]. It is essentially rustic and is built of native materials. The foundations and lower parts of the walls are rough boulders. The walls above, including the platform shelters are made of unbarked logs. The roof trusses, gables and ceilings are finished with similar material. The interior contains a large waiting room with fireplace, ticket office, express office, baggage room and toilet rooms. The rustic effect is also carried out in the interior, the doors, windows, settees, chandeliers, hardware, etc., all being in keeping with the general design. The projecting ends of logs are smoothed and polished, and where lumber is used for finishing it is of high grade and finely polished. Wrought nails, bearing on their heads the trade-mark of the company, are used wherever they will show. The fireplace at the end of the waiting room is broad and forms a pleasing feature of the interior."

Left: View of the Gardiner NPRR Depot, Roosevelt Arch and an incoming train ca1905. From an original negative in possession of the author. Copyright Robert V. Goss

Click Here for a floor plan of the NPRR Deot,
from 1904 Railroad Gazette.

 "To a Land of Wonders - A Yellowstone Park Expedition SIx Years Ago"

Excerpt From a Newspaper Account of a Tourist's Travel to Yellowstone in Early 1883,
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 27, 1889

"Pushing up against the very boundaries of the reservation there is a veritable Shantyville, Gardiner City, an ideal squatter town, with the rudest houses made of unseasoned boards, with not a few tents mingling with the more pretentious huts, huddled together as though the land was valued by the foot and inch.  We took the census of the city and found that of the thirty-two houses which made the settlement, twenty-eight were saloons, the other four being the inevitable bakers' and butchers' shops with a private bar attachment, although not wholly given to the local industry.  The town had been built in expectation of being the railway terminus, but there were strange hints that the rails would end at Yankee Jim's, some miles below, and the enterprising squatters were trying to unload their real estate on such guiless tourists as came along.  The mining boom was being worked, for a little yellow dust had been found in the prospector's pans; the entire region already was staked out in miners' claims, and in vision the citizens were possessed of millions."

The Town Grows Up (and out) . . . .

The first train arrived in Gardiner on June 20, 1902.  Since there was no turn-around yet, the train had to backup to Cinnabar until the following year.  The coming of the railroad to Gardiner brought many changes to the town.  In 1903 the stone Arch was erected under the direction of Hiram Chittenden and Robert Reamer.  Reamer also directed the construction of the beautiful and rustic log railroad depot.  W.A. Hall built his huge new general store near the Arch, while William Wylie built a new hotel behind the store for his camping company guests. The Shaw & Powell Camping Co. also built a hotel for their guests (current Town Cafe site).  The town of Cinnabar vanished almost immediately and many of the buildings were moved into Gardiner. The Army established a soldier station in 1903 and the jail was built the same year.  The Gardiner Opera House Company built a large stone opera house on Main Street in 1910, which was later taken over by the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 669. They continued to use the building until 2009 when they disbanded. The building now serves as a community center.

Above: The Roosevelt Arch with the NPS stone check-in station The Arch was built out of native stone in view of the new NPRy depot.  Hiram Chittenden came up with the idea and Robert Reamer designed the Arch. It was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24,1903 and by September visitors were able to drive through the Arch via stagecoach to enter the park. The check-in station was built in 1921, replacing the building near the south edge of town. This stone station was razed in 1966.
Click Here for a view of the Arch under construction. YNP Archives 37257
Above: The north end of town on the east side of the river ca1905. Hwy 89 now passes by this unique still-standing stone house. From an original negative in possession of the author. Copyright Robert V. Goss

Above:  Shaw & Powell Camping Co. wagon in front of the company hotel.
esy Park County Museum, Livingston, Mt.

Below:  The Shaw & Powell Hotel remained in the family after the company was disbanded after the 1916 season (see Shaw & Powell webpage for details). The family sold the hote-cafe in 1944 to Hugh Crossen and J.D. Winters. After a fire in 1950 the building became the Town Club and Cafe, utilizing some of the remaining stone walls.

  Undated view of the Wylie Hotel. W.W. Wylie originally leased the Park Hotel in 1897 from S.M. Fitzgerald for the use of his guest arriving and departing Gardiner.  Wylie built a new hotel in 1903 on Main St, behind the new
W.A. Hall Store. YNP Archives #9555

Below:  A raging fire destroys the Wylie Hotel on Jan. 8, 1935.


"Misses Myrtle Cody, Writer of the Article, and Maida Edwards of Denton,
Were in the Party Which Spent Several Days in Yellowstone Park
Tells of Scenic Beauties”

Denton Record-Chronicle (Texas) Thursday, August 12, 1915

Two young ladies from Denton, Texas describe the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot and Swinging Bridge in Gardiner when beginning a Yellowstone Park tour with the Shaw & Powell Camping Co.

“We arrived in Gardiner, Montana, at 5:30 on June 25 [1915]. Gardiner is a typical Western village. It is all built on one side of the street at the north entrance of the Yellowstone Park.  We step from out Pullman and we see a beautiful rustic depot built from unhewn pine logs and rough stones. It is a masterpiece of quaint architecture.  The inside of the depot is just as attractive as the outside. The big fireplace in one end of the waiting room with a split log mantle catches our eye. You glance around the room and see on the mantels and walls only decorations of nature, such as pine burrs, curious-shaped pieces of wood, different kinds of stones from the park, and elk horns. At the other end of the room is the ladies’ rest room with all modern conveniences. We would like to rest here awhile, but a twelve passenger coach awaits us at the door, with six big white, impatient horses, ready to carry us to the Shaw & Powell hotel, where we are to spend the night.

“We are warmly greeted at the hotel and enjoy our stay overnight.   The following morning we walk over the village, and one interesting place we visit is an extension bridge over the Gardner river. It is built for pedestrians and is said to hold up to four people, but wait until you walk out to the center, where the bridge swings up and down with each step, while the rushing, foaming water beneath roars until you do not know whether you are going up or down; then you think it will not hold one. The coach leaves the hotel at 11:30 for first camp, which is Willow Park, and everyone is ready. The first and second coaches are full, but there is room in the third coach for our party and four more passengers.

    Note: Myrtle and Maida rode off into Wonderland to enjoy their 4-5 day tour with the Shaw and Powell Camping Company.  Both young women were from Denton, Texas, located at the northern edge of the current Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolis. Named after Captain John B. Denton in the mid-1800s, Denton had a population of just over 4,700 souls in 1914 and was the county seat of Denton County. Maida is believed to have been a 1st grade teacher in Denton.

 Left:  Footbridge over the Yellowstone River ca1920

Right:  Alternate view of footbridge from the northern side. The small building located to the right of the bridge is the town jail. The Eagle's Club is behind it. To the left of that along the road is the building that became the K-Bar. YNP Archives 33327-2

Left:  A Christmas card depicting the W.A. Hall Store with the Roosevelt Arch. A gas sits inbetween the two. The long building above the station is the Wylie Hotel. Goss Collection

Right:  The W.A. Hall Store after renovations funded by the Yellowstone Association. Some of the new structural differences were based on Robert Reamer's original plans for the building.

W.A. Hall Store - We Sell Everything . . .

William A. Hall built this store (above) in Gardiner near the Arch and rail depot in 1903 and provided all of the basic necessities of life for the tourist, hunter, and resident.  The large upstairs was home to many community dances in its heyday.  Hall originally ran stores in Cinnabar and Aldridge, but with the opening of the railroad to Gardiner, he started a new store here.  The Cinnabar store closed right after his move and he left Aldridge after the coal strike of 1904-05.  Hall operated the store until 1955 and sold the building in 1961 to Cecil Paris.  The building still stands and was home to a variety of businesses, including laundromat, bookstore, coffee shop, video store, TV cable service, and gift shop for many years. In 2008 the Yellowstone Association, the nonprofit education foundation that benefits the park, committed $4 million to buy the property and an adjoining lot and refurbish the 12,000-square-foot building to create its new headquarters. The association spent $2.9 million renovating the building and in April 2009 moved its headquarters from Mammoth to the new facility. The building now houses the offices, an educational store, a visitor information desk, two classrooms and a display on the building's history.

Click Here for a 1960s view of the W.A. Hall Store, aka Cecil's Fine Foods

Yellowstone Park Transportation Company moves in south of town . . .

YPTCo built the stone residences south of town for their stagecoach employees around 1904-05. These include the Bunkhouse (below left), which was originally housed the horses for the stagecoach fleet, an open air coach shed (below center), and the duplex (below right) near the current Xanterra Gift Shop warehouse. That was used as the bunkhouse for the stage drivers, and later on for the bus drivers.  In 1925 YPTCo moved their transportation shops and bus garage from Mammoth to that area.   Hwy 89 was extended into Gardiner on the east side of the Yellowstone River in 1926 and the old original road from Yankee Jim Canyon to Cinnabar and Gardiner that navigated along the west side of the river became a secondary road.  A concrete bridge was built over the Yellowstone River at its present site in 1929, tying the two sides of town together, encouraging more growth on the north side of town. The Wylie Hotel burned down in 1935, while most of the old Shaw Hotel was gutted by fire in 1950.  Hugh Crossen later built the Town Club on the Shaw site, using the remaining stone walls.  A new elementary and high school was built near the old depot in 1954 and the stone Catholic Church was erected 3 years later.

Photo below from original negative. Copyright Robert V. Goss


 Above: View of the Duplex, that originally served as the driver's bunkhouse and mess. It currently serves as a residence for Xanterra employees. The center coach shed was torn by 1925 to make room for the new concrete building built to house the White touring busses. The horse barn was converted was at some point remodeled and converted over to an employee bunkhouse and is still used in that manner by Xanterra. Photo from YNP Archives 32056.  Above: National Park Service check-in station for park visitors. It was replaced by the stone building near the Arch in 1921. It is seen at the far end of the Transportation complex in the photo to the left. Photo from YNP Archives, Haynes Building Survey.

On March 30, 1925, fire broke out in the YPTCo main bus barn at Mammoth. Within an hour, the entire Reamer-designed barn was a total loss. Included in the damage were the smoldering ruins of about 93 vehicles, including 22 7-passenger White touring cars, 53 10-passenger White buses, and 18 other vehicles. The opening of the summer season would arrive in a mere 2-1/2 months, so Harry Child, head of the hotel and transportation companies, quickly got in touch with Walter White of the White Motor Company. Negotiations were soon finalized for the purchase of 90 model 15/45 buses and 9 service trucks. The White company scrambled together and was able to have the new vehicles arrive in time for the opening of the 1925 season.
Coincidently, YPTCo had been constructing larger and more modern garage facilities in Gardiner. Although originally scheduled to open in the fall, this project too was rushed to completion in time for the June opening. This new facility included modern mechanics stalls, body and upholstery shops, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, tire and battery shop, paint shop, and a coal-fired heating plant. The building is still in use and accommodates Xanterra Parks & Resorts Transportation facilities and Human Resource divisions. This photo may have been taken after the arrival of the new vehicles in June.

Accommodating Park Visitors . . .

With the complete conversion of stagecoaches to automobiles in Yellowstone in 1917, the means of transportion to the park began to slowly change. Henry Ford’s mechanization of the assembly line process in the production of his autos greatly reduced the price of personal transport, making autos affordable to much of the common class of people.  Cars also became more reliable and tourists increasingly began taking their vacations in their own vehicles rather than using the railroads. This process increased as the quality of the nation’s roads improved and route finding became easier. Auto Camps began to be seen in towns where folks could pull in and spend the night camping, rather than staying at an expensive hotel. These auto camps gradually became more formal with small cabins and perhaps a kitchenette and covered car parking. These “motor hotels” soon became known as “motels.” Gardiner businessmen saw the opportunity to compete with the park and local hotels for this new business. Hotels such as the Gardiner Hotel, Park, Wylie, Shaw & Powell, and Cottage Hotel, among others, had been serving the public for many a year. But that was soon to change. By 1927 the Public Auto Camp had been established in town, perhaps the first of its kind in Gardiner. Others followed in its footsteps and by 1937 the Hillcrest Motel, Hygrade Auto Court, Jim Bridger Cabins, Mountain View Cabins, and Reifsteck Cabins had been established. In later years others followed, such as the Town Motel Wilson and Westernaire Motels.

HillCrest Cottages

Jim Bridger Cabins


Reifsteck Cabins

  Mountain View Motel

Town Cafe & Motel

Wilson Motel

Hygrade Motel
The Hillcrest Cottages were built in the late 1920s by Ray & Jean Richey. They are still open for business and look much the same. Many of the Jim Bridger Cabins are still in operation, although the central office building was moved in 1991 to make way for the new First Interstate Bank building. A Best Western Hotel is now located just north of the cabins. The Reifsteck Cabins were run by Mrs. Viola Reifsteck, perhaps beginning in the late 1920s.  The Mountain View units on the left were torn down when the new Gardiner grocery store was built. The Town Motel is still in existence and the units need upgrading, but the cafe and lounge have been greatly remodeled and improved. The stone sides and back walls are what remain of the old Shaw Hotel & Cafe before the fire. The Wilson Motel is still in operation and a new 2-story wing was built in the 1990s - the complex now called Yellowstone River Motel. The Hygrade Motel units on the left were torn down when new 2-story motel complexes were built in the 1990s and renamed Absaroka Lodge.

Click Here for a view of the K-Bar & Cafe ca 1950s. Its appearance has greatly changed since then.

All postcard views from the author's collection.

Above Left: Park Street ca1940s at the corner of 2nd St (Hwy89). Visible is the hotel on the corner, the Grotto Cafe, and the MH Link Grocery Store.

Above Right: Park Street ca1950s. The Hotel, now called the State has undergone some remodeling at the entrance area. The Grotto has been torn down. The Ranger Bar is just down the street from the Link Store, along with a Meat Market, with of course, the W.A. Hall store at the end of the street. The Link Store was later torn down and a new store built on the site (and Grotto Cafe site) which became the North Entrance Shopping Center.

Above Postcards from the author's collection.

Above: Park Street showing area just east of 2nd St. The photo was taken sometime in between the above photos. The remodeling has been done on the corner hotel, but the Grotto Cafe is still standing. The Club Bar is on the corner and to the right is the old Shaw & Powell Hotel. YNP Archives 33335.


Rail Service Ends . . . .

Scheduled passenger rail service to Gardiner ended in 1948, although freight service, along with an occasional special tourist train continued until 1954-55.  Three trainloads of Girls Scouts brought in at the end of Aug. 1955 were reportedly the last train passengers to arrive in Gardiner.  Political wrangling caused the beautiful NP depot to be demolished in 1954 by the backward-thinking National Park Service and another beautiful historic building was lost to history. It was replaced with a rather mundane-looking building that currently houses the public library, Sheriff’s Office, and Water Dept.  A small public park occupies the former pond are and a beautiful log shelter with picnic tables has recently been added. The former railroad lands were eventually offered up for sale and a new public school was built on a portion of that land in 1951. Much of the school burned down in November of 1985 and was rebuilt in the ensuing years.

View north from the Arch, showing the buildling that sits atop the old NPRR Depot site. Behind is the Gardiner Public School (K-12) that was rebuilt in 1987. On its left one can see construction progressing on the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in 2004. Photo courtesy YNP Digital Archive #17815.


The Modern Era . . .

A boom in the late 1980’s and through the early 2000’s saw much new construction along the Hwy89 section of town. The grocery store moved from Park St. to Hwy 89 on the north side of town and a new Post Office was erected nearby in the past decade.  New hotels inundated the town for a period of years, including a Best Western, Comfort Inn, and Super 8, Yellowstone Village Inn & Suites, Absaroka Lodge (Hygrade Site), Yellowstone Park Travel Lodge, Yellowstone Gateway Inn, and Yellowstone River Inn (Wilson Motel). Some of the older-style mom & pop motels from the 1940-50’s era were either shut down or forced to upgrade to compete with the big chain hotels. The regrettable trend of converting apartments to vacation rentals has stricken seasonal and permanent renters alike in this land-locked town that has never had adequate rental housing. The town continues to thrive, although changes and uncertainly in the snowmobile policies of Yellowstone Park have lessened that business considerably over the years.  And despite the howls of the anti-wolf crowd, the area continues to attract many hunters in the fall and winter due to the thousands of elk that migrate out of the park into the surrounding Forest Service lands. The wolves, hated by some and adored by others have created their own cottage industry of avid wolf-watchers.  In recent years the white-water rafting business has burgeoned and supports at least five businesses catering to this adventure crowd. Hopefully this rampant commercialism will not force away the very people required to maintain this huge service industry due to lack of affordable housing, as had happened in all too many other resort towns throughout the West.

Below: A modern view of Park Street beginning at the junction with 2nd St. Photo courtesy


Copyright 2014 Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. 
No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

For more current infomation about Gardiner, the surrounding area, local events, businesses, accommodations and weekly newsletter,
Please visit the  Gardiner Montana Chamber of Commerce.


Primary Resources:

Gardiner’s Historic Resources, Prepared by the Greater Gardiner Community Council, Jared Infanger, 2013.

Goss Historic Photo Collection

Goss, Robert V., Yellowstone - The Chronology of Wonderland, 4th Ed 2004, Self-Published.

Goss, Robert V., Making Concsesions in Yellowstone, 4th Ed 2004, Self-Published.

Haines, Aubrey L. The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park. Vols.1 and 2: Colorado Associated University Press, 1977.

Haines, Aubrey L., Yellowstone Place Names – Mirrors of History. University Press of Colorado, 1996.

Whithorn, Bill and Doris. Photo History of Gardiner, Jardine, Crevasse Entrance to Yellowstone National Park 1972.

Whithorn, Doris, History of Park County, Montana 1984: Taylor Publishing Co., 1984.

Whithorn, Doris, Paradise Valley on the Yellowstone, Images of America. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Wonderland newspaper, 1902-1905, Gardiner Mt..

Yellowstone Park Archives Photo Collection


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