Yellowstone, then and now Pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson took this photograph of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River during the 1871 United States Geological Survey of the Territories, lead by Ferdiand Hayden, in the region that would become Yellowstone National Park. (William Henry Jackson/National Archives And Records Administration via AP/Bradly J. Boner/Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP)
Yellowstone, then and now
Lexile

Boulders shift. Canyons erode. Old trees fall. New ones grow. And tourists crowd Yellowstone National Park. The length of their vacations is barely any time at all in the stream of history.
 
A century and a half is nothing in the eons of often violent geology that made Yellowstone. Even so, an exhausting project by a Jackson, Wyoming, photographer shows how an ecosystem protected for that long can change. It can occur in ways obvious and subtle.
 
Brad Boner visited dozens of sites in the park photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1871. That was the year before Congress made Yellowstone the world's first national park. Boner painstakingly replicated in color more than 100 of Jackson's black-and-white photographs.
 
This summer, 40 of Boner's images go on display. They will be next to Jackson's originals at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. It is in Jackson Hole, Wyo.  During the centennial year for the National Park Service, the exhibit testifies to the success of the world's first national park, Boner said.
 
"The whole point of creating Yellowstone was to give future generations an opportunity to experience these special places," he said. "When I look at these pictures, I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that my kids are going to be able to go to a lot of these places and see the same thing."
 
The images show what can change, too. Rock pinnacles at Tower Fall crumble and alter the flow of Tower Creek, the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake erodes dozens of feet in places and the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where Jackson once stood, collapses into the chasm.
 
Boner took several trips to Yellowstone over the summers of 2011-2014. He spent much time wandering with Jackson's photographs held up to the horizon.
 
"Things would just sort of click and fall into place. All of a sudden, you're looking at the landscape that is in the photograph that I was holding, that Jackson took," Boner said. "There were definitely times I got goosebumps."
 
Jackson traveled Yellowstone as part of a federally funded expedition. He went to explore and document the area. He carried his photography gear on mules. Taking a photo back then involved exposing images on an 8-by-10-inch glass plate. Then he developed the negative on the spot.
 
"Basically he had to set up his little darkroom every time he wanted to take a picture," Boner said.
 
Boner had modern digital camera gear. But a couple of his trips were plenty ambitious. With a friend, he paddled around the edge of Yellowstone Lake in a canoe. It was about 60 miles. Another trip took him, his wife and a friend more than 30 miles over the rugged and remote Mirror Plateau.
 
"We saw bears where we didn't think we would see bears. We got snowed on in July," Boner said.
 
Other times his targets, especially grand vistas and thermal features, were heavily traveled.
 
"I'd be standing shoulder to shoulder with a whole bunch of tourists because Jackson had this knack for a picking out the best spot," said Boner.
 
Boner is a staff photographer for the Jackson Hole News & Guide. He plans to publish the images in a book later this year.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why can't we compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (57)
  • kaleal-2-bar
    6/06/2016 - 03:15 p.m.

    We cannot compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because the environment is always changing. The article states, "Boulders shift. Canyons erode. Old trees fall. New ones grow". I found this article interesting because the environment is my home and I feel like I am supposed to know and understand more about it.

  • tyn-2-bar
    6/06/2016 - 03:21 p.m.

    We cannot compare Yellowstone from today to a thousand years ago because cameras did not exist one thousand years ago. In the article, it says that "A century and a half is nothing in the eons of often violent geology that made Yellowstone." That is because there were no pictures one thousand years ago. Cameras have only existed for 1.5 years so there are no pictures of Yellowstone one thousand years ago.
    I would like to see what America was like before the white man came along.

  • samuelr-2-bar
    6/06/2016 - 04:03 p.m.

    We can not compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because we did not have cameras 1,000 years ago to take pictures of Yellowstone that we could look at to compare the current state of Yellowstone to. 1,000 years ago Yellowstone looked very different from how it looks now. This is because of the simple fact that things change. The article states that "Boulders shift. Canyons erode. Old trees fall. New ones grow. " this means that over time things change. Change is just a natural process of life that we can not avoid. Things were very different 1,000 years ago because from back then until now things have changed immensely. I chose this article because I think pictures from hundreds of years ago a fascinating, especially of such a beautiful sight.

  • oliviam-6-bar
    6/06/2016 - 09:23 p.m.

    We can not compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because we did not have cameras then. 1,000 years ago Yellowstone looked very different because "Boulders shift. Canyons erode. Old trees fall. New ones grow. " this means that over time things grow older or new things appear. Also, "A century and a half is nothing in the eons of often violent geology that made Yellowstone." This means that to the earth, not much has changed at all. Humans react differently.

  • tylerd-kut
    6/07/2016 - 07:58 a.m.

    why dont they take a picture now and in a long time take another one and look at them.

  • joshm-kut
    6/07/2016 - 09:46 a.m.

    i would like to go to yellowstone park because it looks really cool and a nice place to visit

  • taylorl-3-bar
    6/07/2016 - 11:52 a.m.

    We cannot compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because the environment is always changing. The article states "Boulders shift. Canyons erode. Old trees falls. New ones grow." I found this article interesting because the environment is my home and I feel like I am supposed to know and understand more about it.

  • tialden-1-bar
    6/07/2016 - 06:51 p.m.

    We can't compare photos of Yellowstone now and 1000 years ago because as stated in the article the environment changes. Also 1000 years ago the camera wasn't created. Yellowstone is a beautiful national park in California by the way. I found this article interesting because I learned more about Yellowstone National Park.

  • william1108-yyca
    6/07/2016 - 06:53 p.m.

    We cannot compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because there were no cameras to take photos with 1,000 years ago. If there were not any photos then there was nothing to compare the Yellowstone we have today and the Yellowstone 1,000 years ago. I think that these photographers are extremely talented people with the photos they have displayed. I think that I have been to yellow stone a long time ago but I do not remember what I saw or did there. Maybe one day I will go back to yellow stone and see it again so I can look at it again and explore the place.

  • gabriellek-1-bar
    6/07/2016 - 07:18 p.m.

    We can't compare photos of Yellowstone today and 1,000 years ago because there was no cameras to take pictures with 1,000 years ago. Also the boulders are shifting, canyons are eroding, trees fall and are replaced with new ones. I am interested to see what the world would have looked like 1,000 years ago before humans came. I was surprised that Boner paddled 60 miles around Yellowstone in a canoe.

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