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Camping in  the Yellowstone 

Shaw & Powell Camping

Copyright 2020 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

The Shaw and Powell Camping Company were permitted to operate 'movable camps' in Yellowstone in 1898. The firm was started by Amos Shaw and J.D. Powell (John D. Powell) with headquarters in Livingston, Montana.  Many members of the Shaw family were involved, including son Walter Shaw, Leo Chester, and Jesse Shaw.

Shaw & Powell initially brought guests into the park from the north entrance and in 1909 officially opened the Shaw Hotel in Gardiner to serve their guests after their arrival on the Northern Pacific train and prior to their departure. They had been leasing the lot since 1907, and the Sanborn Insurance map of Gardiner in 1907 showed a "Gardiner Hotel" on the site at that time. Previously, the corner was occupied by C.B. Scott. In later years the hotel name changed to the Shaw Hotel, owned and operated by Walter Shaw and his wife.

Shaw & Powell Camping Company
Shaw & Powell Camping Wagon

Early camping wagon, emblazoned with L.C. Shaw Camping No. 7.  The "L.C." standing for Leo Chester Shaw, son of Amos Shaw.

[Undated glass slide] 

Shaw & Powell Camping wagon

1903 camping wagon with guests picnicking at an unknown location. The wagon now sports the Shaw & Powell name.

[Courtesy Library of Congress, #2016648961] 

Shaw & Powell transported guests in wagons and coaches around the park to view all of the major scenic attractions. Carrying all their camping materials with them, they setup nightly camps in various locations that featured good grass for grazing and adequate water resources, not to mention in close proximity to renowned natural features.

Description of the Shaw & Powell Transportation Co. 

Livingston Enterprise Souvenir (Montana) in 1900

The firm of Shaw & Powell, hunting camp outfitters and Yellowstone Park guides, are prepared to take parties of any size from five to one hundred, through the National Park, or on hunting trips through Jackson Hole country, Hell Roaring region, Buffalo Fork or Suce creek - in fact to any and all points in Montana or Wyoming where there is an abundance of game, such as elk, bear, deer, mountain lion and sheep, antelope, chicken and grouse. Their pack trains are made up of good horses and plenty of them, who are well able to stand the high latitude and long trips. These outfits include cots to sleep on, which means sleeping off the ground and everybody made as comfortable as possible . . . Amos Shaw, the senior member of the firm, is one of the oldest guides in the park, having assisted in surveying its lake and rivers, laying out the roads and sounding the depths of the geysers and hot pools . . . They carry a full outfit on each trip, including the best cook and the best of food.  Shaw & Powell employ only gentlemen, and succeed where others fail. 

Shaw & Powell Camping Hotel

Shaw & Powell Camping Co. Hotel in Gardiner, ca1913. It was located on east Park Street, near the corner of what is now 2nd St. (Hwy 89)

[Courtesy Yellowstone Gateway Museum #1317]


Shaw & Powell Camping Co. camping wagon with three women posing, perhaps the camp matrons.

[Real-Photo postcard]

Shaw & Powell Camp Wagon
Shaw & Powell Camp Wagon

Left:  Shaw & Powell Mountain Wagon on the road, ca1909.  [Real-Photo Postcard]

Right:    Shaw & Powell Camping Wagon, undated real photo.

A Description of Camping Life with Shaw & Powell in 1903,

Excerpts from The Oxford Mirror, Aug. 13, 1903, Oxford Junction, Iowa

     "It is the good fortune of myself and Harold to be with the Shaw & Powell camping company, which numbers twenty-eight tourists and fourteen helpers, or 'savages' as they are called in camp parlance.  The camp is moved every day, and all the tents, cots and bedding are piled up on an immense baggage wagon, drawn by four horses.  Besides this there is a traveling kitchen, containing range, sink and all sorts of receptacles for holding everything needed in a kitchen.  During the travel of the camp from one point to another, the cook prepares for the next meal. There is also a wagon which carries the food supplies, which is called the 'mess wagon.'  Last night a bear made a visit to our camp, and in the morning this particular wagon was a sorry looking sight.
     There are five coaches carrying our party . . . and Mr. Powell gives us every opportunity to see all there is to be seen in the park.  He is a most accommodating and pleasant gentleman, and takes great pains for the comfort of his guests.  Every trip through the park is personally conducted, either by Mr. Shaw or Mr. Powell, so that the traveler is always assured of first-class treatment in going with this company.
     When we reach our camping place for the night the large dining tent is at once set up, so that the cooks can begin getting the evening meal. Then one man starts out with a horse to drag in logs to make a camp fire, while several more set up the sleeping tents. These are set as closely together as possible, and in a semi-circle, with the campfire in the center. After supper we all gather around the fire and tell stories, play games or sing songs. 
     Besides the two cooks, there are twelve young men with Mr. Powell, who help about the camp in various ways - driving the coaches and wagons, putting up tents, waiting on table, etc.  I think with one exception they are all college boys who are spending their vacation in this way . . .  They are all typical college boys, and with their music and college songs, add much to the pleasure of the trip."

West Yellowstone

    The Union Pacific RR began service to what is now West Yellowstone (known at the time as just Yellowstone) in 1908, and the camping company soon started transporting guests from the west entrance. In 1912, the company bought out the Robert C. Bryant Camping Co., also known as Bryant-Spence Camping Co., which had been operating camping tours from the west entrance since 1903. The sale also included the Bryant Way hotel in West Yellowstone, which then became the Shaw & Powell Hotel. Old photos show a sign on it reading, “Inn at the Gate.”  It was located on Park Street, one block east of the UPRR Depot, near the entrance to the park.

    One guest in August 1914, commented about the “Inn:”

“The "Inn at the Gate" was not very much of a hotel. There was a large office, with a bare floor and one corner fenced in with a counter, and the room was heated with a stove. It was cold enough too so that a fire felt very comfortable . . . The food was placed upon the table and the guests simply sat down and ate what was before them, helping themselves to what they wanted. It was really a very good breakfast and I think no one complained of the service, though there was a good deal of laughing about the "style" that we put on.”

Shaw & Powell Hotel, West Yellowstone Hotel, Inn at the Gate

"The Inn at the Gate." Former RC Bryant hotel, became the Shaw & Powell hotel in 1912.  [1914 Photo, Univ of Wyo Special Collections]  

Permanent Camps

Shaw and Powell were given permission by the Interior Dept. to build a permanent camp in 1912 at Willow Park, near the current Indian Creek campground. In 1913, permission was received to build permanent camps at all major locations. The Superintendent’s Report noted in 1913 that Shaw & Powell carried over 2400 guests that season. They operated their own stage lines to transport their customers around the park, utilizing Mountain Stages built by the Studebaker Co.  Log kitchens, dining rooms, and storerooms were built at all night camps in 1913-15.  By 1916 camps were located at Willow Park; Nez Perce Creek; Upper Basin (current O.F. Lodge site); Yellowstone Lake, west of the Hotel; Canyon (Uncle Tom's Trail parking lot - later Canyon Lodge); and Tower, with lunch stations near the base of Gibbon Falls and at West Thumb.

Shaw & Powell Willow Park
Shaw & Powell Willow Park

Top Left:  Shaw & Powell camp at Willow Park, near Apollinaris Springs, ca1912.  [Real-Photo Postcard]

Top Right:    Shaw & Powell metal sign, found at Willow Park camp in 2007. It was left in place. Whether it is still  there is unknown. In a memorandum in the Nov. copy of the Superintendents Report of the Yellowstone National Park, in 1947, it was noted that the Yellowstone Park Co. was demolishing the old camp buildings. Remnants of concrete foundations, piling etc., still remain tucked away in the woods.

Bottom Left:  Camp at Nez Perce Creek, undated. It was located on the north side of the creek and a half mile or so from the present road. Evidence of the site could still be seen in 2007.  [Courtesy Yellowstone Gateway Museum, #20060441277]

Bottom Right:  Little known Shaw & Powell camp at Tower Falls in 1915. Note the elk antler stacks. The camp was located adjacent to the current campground.  [Courtesy Montana Historical Society.]

Shaw & Powell Nez Perce Camp
Shaw & Powell Tower Camp
Shaw & Powell Gibbon Camp, Gibbon Lunch Station

Left:  Gibbon Lunch Station. It was located near the base of Gibbon Falls, on north side of river.  [1914 Brochure Through the Yellowstone National Park]

Right:    Shaw & Powell camp at DeLacy Creek. It seemed to only be in operation as a permanent camp for the 1913 season, as in 1914-16 the camp was located across from Old Faithful Geyser, at the current OF Lodge site.  [Stereoview No. 2094, Bob Berry Collection, Cody, Wyo.]

Shaw & Powell DeLacy Camp
Shaw Powell Camp; Nez Perce Camp, Shaw & Powell; Shaw Powell Nez Perce

Left:  Early view of the Shaw & Powell camp on Nez Perce Creek, upstream from the mouth. The camp was later moved farther away from the stream.

[Stereoview #113, unknown publisher/date. Courtesy Buffalo Bill Historic Center, Cody, #P21-1249]

Shaw & Powell Map, Yellowstone Map

Left:  Map of Yellowstone in 1913 showing locations of Shaw & Powell Camps.  [1913 Shaw & Powell brochure]

Right:    Advertisement for the Shaw and Powell Way from 1916. By at least 1913, the S&P Way term was being used, copying from the Wylie Way and Bryant Way.  

[Ogden Standard, 20Jul1916]

Click either to enlarge

Shaw & Powell Camping Company
Shaw & Powell Canyon Camp
Shaw & Powell Canyon Camp
Shaw & Powell Upper geyser basin, Shaw & Powell Old Faithful Camp

Top Left:  Shaw & Powell Canyon camp lodge interior view. The doorway at the end led into the dining room.  

[Haynes PC No. 231.]

Top Right:    Shaw & Powell camp at Canyon, main lodge building with guests. The log tower is ready to be ignited for the nightly campfire.  [Haynes PC No. 230]

Bottom Left:  View of Old Faithful Camp taken from the Crow's Nest atop Old Faithful Inn, ca1916. Notice the tents to the left of the main pavilion.  [YNP #02784]

Excellent description of a day on tour with Shaw & Powell in 1910.

Geyser Region of Yellowstone Visited by Waterloo Tourists

"Camp Life"

The Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Reporter, August 20, 1910

     “Everybody is up bright and early in the morning ready for a big day sightseeing. Jim Rainbow is our alarm clock and he surely does his part well as there is no more sleep for the party after he has his eyes open. Then comes the call for breakfast and it is not a light one, potatoes, bacon, breakfast food, pancakes and syrup, etc. While the guests are eating their breakfast the tents are being taken up. Each bed is numbered so that we all have our own bed every night. This wagon is started off to our next campground and they have everything in readiness when we arrive in the evening.
    “The cook wagon is a marvel. It has a range and places for provisions for the six and a half day’s trip besides all the cooking utensils and dishes. The cook wagon moves on as soon as they get their dishes washed to the place where we stop for lunch.
    “The tourists leave camp about seven or half past on their day’s trip. We go from 11 to 13 miles before lunch. At 12 o’clock we are all ready for another meal and when they told us the first day it was just lunch we wondered what we would have for dinner. Meat, potatoes, hot biscuit or Johnny cake, sauce, preserves, etc., but no one complains but just eats. We stop for about two hours and usually our guide has some trip planned for us somewhere near our camp.
    “At 2 p.m. we again proceed on our way stopping here and there and traveling about the same distance as in forenoon, coming into camp about 6 o’clock with good appetites for our dinner, which is surely a bounteous one. Several kinds of meat and vegetables, pudding or pie, besides all things that go to make up a good meal. We have been very fortunate in having Mr. and Mrs. Powell as our cooks on this trip as they are both experts. The regular cook was taken sick and had to return home.

    “Our camps are located on some of God’s most beautiful garden spots. One of the bright and lasting memories of our trip will be our camp fires. The pine logs are piled high and set on fire and everybody gathers around it as one large family. There is no formality here. Singing, stories and visiting are the pastime of the evening with pop corn and candy mixed in. It is often a great pleasure to just sit quiet and watch the fire and think what a great privilege it is for us to be permitted to be here.
    “At 10 o’clock we retire for a good night’s rest, and to be ready to rise when our alarm clock goes off. Another remarkable thing that we have noticed and that is the complete harmony among the help of the camp. We have not heard one word that is not becoming to a lady or gentleman. Their main aim seems to be to make it pleasant for the guests, and I have been told that it was the same in all of the six camps.
    “They start out a cook wagon and everything necessary every day but as the business of the Shaw & Powell company has become so large that they have to start a party out every day.
    “Every one of the helpers around the camp has a nick name and very often the tourist or dude as they are called, never finds out the name of the driver who has been with them for a whole week. The helpers are called savages. They have such names as Jumbo, Sunny Jim, Professor, Fuzzy, Happy, etc. It is our good fortune to have Happy for our driver and he has surely been rightly named. He is also the very efficient guide of our party. They have a man who stays at each camp who is called the horse wrangler, whose business it is to keep the camp clean. He is out at 3:00 a.m. every morning to round up the horses.”
By Mrs. Fred C. Sage​

Final Days

After the 1916 season changes brought about by the Interior Dept. forced the company to merge with the Wylie Camps to form the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. (See Chapter Introduction).   Many of the Shaw & Powell camps were closed to eliminate duplication and concentrate business at the major locations. The transportation business was turned over to the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., owned by Harry Child. Shaw & Powell camps at Canyon, and Old Faithful were retained for the new Camps operation, along with the Wylie Camps at Lake and West Thumb. Brothers Walter and Arthur Shaw continued on in management of the new camping company with A.W. Miles of the former Wylie Co.

Shaw & Powell Camping Co. brass luggage tag
Shaw & Powell Permanent Camps

Left:  Brass luggage tag for the Shaw & Powell Camping Co., ca1913.  [Author Collection]

Right:   Metal pinback for Shaw & Powell, ca1913

Yellowstone Park Camps Co.

Left:  1917 newspaper ad for the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. (1917-1919)

Right:    Decal for the Yellowstone Park Camps Co. (1919-1927)

A.W. Miles (Wylie Camps) and Shaw & Powell, former competitors, apparently did not play well together, it has been said, and finally sold out to Howard Hays and Roe Emery early in 1919. The two men formed the Yellowstone Park Camps Co., and took over the West Yellowstone Hotel and a nearby lot that housed the barn, blacksmith shop, and roofed corrals. The property was sold in 1926 to Sam Hurless and M.K. Musser who build a cabin camp on the site.

Yellowstone Park Camping Co.

Walter Shaw and his wife Lillian operated the Shaw Hotel & Cafe in Gardiner from 1922-25. Walter opened Shaw’s Camp & Cabins in Cooke City in 1919, and later guided tours through the park to the Cooke City area where he operated Shaw’s Goose Lake Camp. Walter drowned in the Yellowstone River in 1925 and his wife and Chester Shaw continued to operate the hotel until 1944.  At that time it was sold to Hugh Crossen and J.D. Winters who operated it under the name Park Hotel and Café. They sold it to Paul Spradlin a few years later. On August 9, 1950 the hotel caught fire and burned down, killing two guests who were lodged there. One woman jumped out of a window and sustained non-threatening injuries, while the remainder of the guests managed to escape somewhat safely.


Hugh Crossen repurchased the property and built the Town Club & Café utilizing the original stone back and side walls. The property changed hands several times until 1969 when it passed into the hands of Don Laubach. The business was sold in the 2000s and has featured several different operations. In 2019, the building, with the historic rock wall over 100 years old, was torn down to be replaced by a new business.

Shaw Hotel Gardiner, Gardiner Montana Shaw Hotel

Left:  Shaw's Hotel & Cafe, Gardiner, ca1930s

Bottom:    Shaw's Camp in Cooke City, ca1930s.  [Sanborn Real-Photo postcard]

Shaw's Camp Cooke City
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