Camping the Yellowstone
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Yellowstone Camps 101
The formal hotel system in Yellowstone Park that began in 1883 was designed primarily for the ‘traveler of
means' brought in by the railroad companies. The common visitor, or ‘Sagebrushers’, as they were known, were pretty much on their own in regards to lodging and meals, mostly camping along various roadsides.
In 1883, William Wylie started the Wylie Camping Company in order to serve this crowd. His rates were considerably less than the hotel's and he offered a more personalized camp experience. Starting with portable camps, he eventually received permission to establish permanent tent camps in 1896 and gradually began building camps at various park locations. Wylie also built lunch stations at Gibbon River, West Thumb, and Riverside.
Shaw & Powell entered the business in 1898, utilizing portable tent camps. In 1913 they received permission to establish permanent tent camps at Indian Creek, Old Faithful, Lake, Canyon, Nez Perce Creek, and Yellowstone Lake, just east of West Thumb. Both of these companies also operated stage lines in order to bring visitors directly to their own facilities.
In the ensuing years other camping companies entered the scene to compete with Wylie and Shaw & Powell. The main contenders included Tex Holm, Frost & Richard, Marshall Brothers, Old Faithful Camping Co., Bryant Camping Company, Bassett Brothers (probably the earliest camping outfit), Lycan Camping Co., David Curry (later of Curry Camps in Yosemite), and numerous other smaller operations.
Mandated changes by the Department of Interior in 1917 brought about the consolidation of the Wylie and Shaw & Powell companies, while the other permanent camp companies were dissolved. With the advent of auto travel and the decreased travel times, many tent camps and lunch stations were closed down after 1916. This new camps company was known as the Yellowstone Park Camping Company (YPCC). YPCC's efforts were concentrated at the major locations in the park - Old Faithful, Canyon, Mammoth, Roosevelt, and Lake. As part of the major changes brought about in 1916-17, their transportation privileges were revoked, and taken over by the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., headed by H.W. Child.
The Yellowstone Parks Camps Company was formed when the Y.P. Camping Co. sold out to Howard Hayes and Roe Emery in 1919. These camp companies were responsible for building lodges with cabins at Mammoth (1917), Roosevelt (1920), Lake, Old Faithful, and Canyon in the early 1920’s. Los Angeles hotelier Vernon Goodwin, with backing by Harry Child, bought the operation in 1924 and renamed it the Vernon Goodwin Co. They established housekeeping cabins and cafeterias at the various auto campgrounds.
In 1928 H.W. Child took over complete control of the company and it became the Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Company. Improvement continued to be made at the lodges and camps cabins. In 1936 Child merged the camps company together with his hotel and transportation companies into the Yellowstone Park Co. Mammoth Lodge was closed down in 1940 and Canyon Lodge was shut down in 1956 with opening of the new Mission 66 era Canyon Lodge at its current location. Lake Lodge, Roosevelt Lodge, and Old Faithful continue to operate under the auspices of the current park lodging and transportation concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts.