I just received advance copies of my next book, Rediscovering Wonderland: The Expedition That Launched Yellowstone National Park. You can order it now at your favorite bookstore bookseller or you can locate a bookstore near you at Indiebound. Also, you can get it from : Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.Org, Books-A-Million, or Rowman & Littlefield.
Rediscovering Wonderland tells the story of the Washburn Expedition, a group of intrepid men who explored the area that became Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1870. Fur trappers and gold prospectors had been talking about wonders in the region — boiling geysers, towering waterfalls, giant lakes, and deep canyons — for decades, but their stories were usually dismissed as “tall tales.” In the 1860s several efforts to have credible men explore and document what was surely there fizzled because they feared hostile Indians in the area.
Finally, an ambitious politician, Nathaniel P. Langford, decided to make his name by organizing an expedition and publicizing its activities. An army lieutenant named Gustavus Doane maneuvered to lead the expedition’s army escort for the same reason.
Langford organized the expedition, but Henry Dana Washburn, a distinguished Civil War officer and Surveyor General of Montana Territory, was elected to lead it. Washburn guided the party of 19 civilians and soldiers past Indian country and into the uncharted wilderness. Although the explorers had heard about the area’s wonders, they were still awed by the things they saw.
When Langford returned from the wilderness, he immediately began campaigning to have the U.S. Congress set the area aside as a National Park. Park advocates used the explorers published accounts of what they had seen to support their arguments. Rediscovering Wonderland brings together the words of these men, along with photos of them and the sights they saw, to provide historical context for the exploration and founding of America’s first national park.
About the photo by Amanda Blau: I’m sitting on the antique roll-top desk my father found at a mine office in the mountains near the family ranch where I grew up. The clocks are an anniversary clock that belonged to my wife’s grandparents, a King Kong clock that struck our fancy, and the Ansonia clock my great-great-grandmother brought to Montana in 1882.