Geyser Bob's Yellowstone Park History Service
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West Thumb
Larry's Lunch Stations
West Thumb

Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges - West Thumb:
Thumb Lunch Station

Copyright 2009 by 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.

Click Here for Map of West Thumb Area - 1930 Haynes Guide

The Zillah & Ferry Service 
Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) was granted a lease in 1886 to operate boats on Yellowstone Lake, but did not exercise that option until 1891. At that time a new road was being built over Craig Pass from Old Faithful to West Thumb. Ferry service would eliminate the tedious and dusty ride from the Thumb Lunch Station to the Lake HotelE.C. Waters, who had been manager of the National Hotel, accepted the offer to manage the ferry service. The Zillah, a 40-ton steamship, began running that route in 1891 and was licensed to carry 125 passengers. Waters would pay the stagecoach drivers fifty cents for each passenger convinced to take the ferry. When the park transportation system was motorized in 1917, the trip to Lake Hotel became much shorter and more comfortable, making the ferry service unnecessary.
Barkalow Bros Postcard "Steamboats - Yellowstone Lake"
Thumb Lunch Station
 Located along the shores of Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb, this building served as a lunch station for stagecoaches traveling the route from Old Faithful over Craig Pass to the Lake Hotel. The business opened in 1892 by YPA and replaced the lunch facilties that had existed at
Trout Creek, located along the previous route to the Lake that traversed the Mary Mountain Road from Fountain Flats. Travelers to Lake Hotel could opt to board the ferry at the nearby boat dock, rather than ride in a stagecoach.
FJ Haynes Postcard No. 208 - "Thumb Lunch Station"

Although primarily serving as a lunch station, a few sleeping rooms were available for guests that wished to spend the night. The operation was also referred to as the Thumb Hotel. The operation began as tent facilties until 1904 when this building was erected. The operation closed down after the end of the 1916 season when the motorization of the transportation fleet decreased travel times and made this lunch stop obsolete. The building were torn down in 1923. 

YNP Archives #318711

There is little evidence today of the huge commercial operation that existed at the "Thumb" during the first half of the 20th century. The area hosted a Wylie Camp, Shaw & Powell Camp, a Hamilton general store, Haynes Photo Shop, boat dock, ranger station, campground, and hundreds of housekeeping cabins with a cafeteria to serve the thousands of guests. Per provisions of the Mission 66 Plan, dismantling of all the visitor facilties began in the 1960-70s. The area was rehabiltated in attempts to restore the area to its orginal natural condition. Guest facilities were to be replaced at the newly-developed Grant Village area, just south of West Thumb.
YNP Archives #318751

    Alternate view of the Thumb Lunch Station from a 1905 Yellowstone Park Association photo brochure.  The area was variously known as Thumb Bay, Thumb of Lake, Thumb Basin, Thumb Geyser Basin, or just Thumb.

MAP - Click Here
to view map of development changes at West Thumb.
The light dotted lines indicate the formerly developed areas and roads,
while the heavily dashed lines indicate current activity.

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