Geology of the National Parks

History of the United States National Parks

Thomas Moran had a turning point in his career in 1871, when Ferdinand V. Hayden invited him to go on the Geological Survey Expedition to the stretch of Western land that is now Yellowstone National Park.  To learn more about the artist, read Thomas Moran's biography from the "National Gallery of Art" site,

Park proponents presented Moran’s artwork to members of Congress. These powerful images of Yellowstone fired the imagination and helped inspire Congress to establish the National Park System in 1916. 

Pictured is Artist Thomas Moran photographed by Napoleon Sarony, ca 1890-96, from the Library of Congress.
Pictured is President Grant our 18th President. Photo from


The wonders of Yellowstone—shown through photographs, paintings, and sketches—had caught the imagination of Congress. Thanks to the continued reports from explorers and artists who followed, the United States Congress established Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The world’s first national park was born.   


Pictured is President Roosevelt arriving at Yellowstone National Park in 1903. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Theodore Roosevelt took the view that the President as a “steward of the people” should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution.

After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act.


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