3 - Gateway Communities - Livingston and Gardiner Gateway

Livingston is the original gateway community to Yellowstone National Park, via the Gardiner Gateway. The Northern Pacific Railroad (NPRR) extended its tracks from Billings, Montana Territory, to Livingston in 1882. A spur line was extended to Cinnabar, Montana Territory, in 1883. Cinnabar was located three miles north of the Gardiner at the entrance to the park. The tracks were extended to Gardiner in 1902. The northern entrance was the original gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

The birds-eye map below shows the railroad coming into Livingston and the spur line going south towards Cinnabar. This drawing dates 1883, the year the NPRR extended its line to Livingston. The artist is Henry Wellge. He was known for his birds-eye views and would travel on the railroad and illustrate communities that the railroad serviced.

The NPRR traveled through the picturesque Paradise Valley to and from the park entrance, a distance of 53 miles to Gardiner. Passengers would board Tally Ho stagecoaches to be transported to Mammoth Hot Springs, five miles inside the park. The last year horse-drawn transportation was used in the park was 1916. Autos and buses replaced stagecoaches in the park in 1917. Visitation to the park increased almost every year after that. Tourists could travel to, and through, the park in the comfort of their own cars. The wealthy “carriage trade” that stayed in the more expensive hotels was surpassed by middle class tourists staying in auto camps or the Yellowstone Park Camping Company lodges and cabins. The demographics of park tourists underwent a major transformation with the authorization of the use of private autos in the park. Below is a 1941 Motorists Map via Livingston-Gardiner Gateway.

Each of the five gateways to Yellowstone has its own unique features and landscapes. The Livingston-Gardiner Gateway passes through the picturesque Paradise Valley. This is one of the most majestic and beautiful passage to and from the park. The Gallatin Range borders the western side of the valley and the Absaroka Range borders the east side of the valley. This range is named after the Absaroka Native People. The name is derived from the Crow people; it means “children of the large-beaked bird.” The Absaroka Range contains 399 named mountains, including well-known peaks such as Pilot Peak, Mount Cowen, and Avalanche Peak. Emigrant Peak lies just east of Chico Hot Springs. Gustav Krollmann produced a poster for the Northern Pacific Railroad of Emigrant Peak, one in a series of 15 American travel posters published by the NPRR in the 1930s.

The first chapter of our book is titled Roosevelt Arch and Gardiner Gateway. It is illustrated with images of the Gardiner area, including the NPRR depot and Main Street. Gardiner has served as an important gateway to Yellowstone since the park was established in 1872. It is the only gateway open year round to wheeled vehicles. Gardiner lies at the confluence of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers near the 45th parallel. Yellowstone Forever has offices, shipping facility and a store in Gardiner. The Heritage and Research Center is located north of the Roosevelt Arch. This building is home to the park’s museum collection, archives, research library, herbarium and archeology lab. Gardiner is a unique community and an important gateway to Yellowstone National Park.