Yellowstone in 1871 and today

The Fishing Bridge in 1871 and 2012Image copyright
AP

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The Fishing Bridge in 1871 and 2012

After 140 years, the boulders, canyons, trees and geysers of Yellowstone National Park do not appear to be dramatically worse for wear, according to newly released images.

Photographer William Henry Jackson photographed the Wyoming-based park in 1871, the year before Congress made Yellowstone the first national park in the world.

More than a century later, photographer Brad Boner set out to replicate Jackson’s black-and-white photographs.

Some of his pictures will be displayed next to Jackson’s this summer at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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AP

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Yellowstone National Park in 1871

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AP

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Yellowstone pictured in 2013

The top picture on this page, The Fishing Bridge, suggests the only change in those 14 decades is a man-made one – the bridge itself, says David Quammen, a contributing writer for National Geographic who wrote the magazine’s May 2016 issue on Yellowstone,.

That is because the geological features of Yellowstone – the rocks and the geysers and the landscape – are still very much the same, he adds.

What has changed is the way people have populated and developed the park in that time, he says, and the photographs do not tell the whole story.

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Hulton Archive

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Jackson explored Yellowstone using federal cash and he carried his equipment on mules

Most people do not realise Yellowstone began as a tourist attraction and only later became a wildlife refuge.

“Yellowstone has changed vastly – in some ways for better, in some ways for the worse,” said Mr Quammen. “Those changes mostly involve ecological changes.”

Animal populations have prospered, he says, with more wolves in the park now than at the time when Jackson took his camera and headed off on that expedition.

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Getty Images

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The wildlife is better managed now, says Mr Quammen

As the park has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, there have been huge changes in infrastructure, said Mr Quammen, like the Fishing Bridge, and roads, hotels and tourist concessions.

The people who run the park now are sensitive to the fact that as visitation increases, the supply of scenic resources does not. Limits will have to be placed on how many people can visit. Last year, four million people came to Yellowstone.

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AP

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The Grotto Geyser as pictured in 1871

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AP

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The Grotto Geyser pictured in 2012

“The real changes in Yellowstone are off-screen – it has become a wildlife refuge, and it is filled with people in cars and hotels, and these photos don’t show that,” he said.

Mr Boner, the photographer, said to replicate Jackson’s photographs, he walked around the park holding his photos up to the horizon.

“The whole point of creating Yellowstone was to give future generations an opportunity experience these special places,” he told the AP news agency.

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AP

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Minerva Terrace pictured in 1871

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AP

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Minerva Terrace pictured in 2013

“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.”

“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,” Mr Boner said.

“There were definitely times I got goosebumps.”

Reporting by Ashley Gold


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