Wednesday, July 12, 2017

(48) On the Road to Yellowstone National Park

July 12, 2017
On the Road to Yellowstone National Park

Tonight, we are camping adjacent to the highway and next to the Yellowstone River. We are quite literally on the road to Yellowstone. The campground is reasonably quiet and the highway noise is fading quickly. About all we can hear is a gentle sound of the Yellowstone River.

Driving on the Yellowstone, adjacent to the Yellowstone, on the way to Yellowstone
We began the day in Billings, Montana. From there we traveled to Laurel to take a look at that town and to photograph a couple of the buildings.
Laurel, Montana

Building in Laurel

Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center
dates from the 1930's
Yellowstone Trail Interpretive sign in Laurel
From there we proceeded on old Highway 10, which is the modern equivalent of the Yellowstone Trail. Highway 10 runs between Interstate 90 and the Yellowstone River. It is about as close as you can get to driving the old Yellowstone Trail.
We've reached the end of the road,
time to get back on the Interstate.
We drove it until the road ran out and we were forced to get on the interstate. It's hard to believe how much quieter Highway 10 is than Interstate 90. Most of the time I feel more relaxed on the old US highways than I do on the interstates. But this was particularly true today as I drove along the Yellowstone River.

N.P. Station, now a museum in downtown Livingstom
Livingston, Montana
We arrived in Livingston Montana which is an old railroad town. The old steam trains needed servicing more often than the modern diesels. For this reason stations and service facilities were spaced regularly along the line. The Northern Pacific Railroad ran through Southern and Eastern before heading to Missoula, Montana. Most of the towns that we have traveled through were Northern Pacific towns. Livingston was the big service facility.

Lobby of Murray Hotel in Livingston
Livingston's station was designed by the same architect that designed
Grand Central Terminal in New York City. 
With the increased efficiency of the diesels, a lot of the service facilities were not needed. For some of the smaller towns, like Marmarth, North Dakota, the Northern Pacific and its successors pulling out was devastating. Livingston, being a larger town and being the gateway to Yellowstone National Park seems to be surviving and perhaps even thriving. It has transformed itself from a blue-collar railroad town where people worked for a living to a town that takes care of a wealthy clientele that come to Livingston in order to enjoy the splendor of Montana's big sky country.

Livingston is still the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

The truth be told, I would be more comfortable in the old Livingston than the new. But at least Livingston is surviving and not drying up and blowing away like so many other cities and towns across the northern Great Plains.

Gateway to the Park

We drove south from Livingston along Highway 89 towards Gardiner Montana and Yellowstone National Park. The scenery is spectacular and it's definitely worth the visit. But I hope when you visit here you'll spend a little time in some of the other small towns that need to find a way to survive and reinvent themselves.

The White crosses along Montana's Highways mark
the point where a fatal accident occurred and are an 
effective reminder to slow down, The more crosses,
the more deaths at that point. 
The survival of the small towns has been a theme that has recurred throughout our trip east on the Lincoln Highway and on our trip west on the Yellowstone Trail. It's not just the small towns and villages of Montana and North Dakota that need to be remembered, it's the small towns and cities throughout the heartland of the United States.

Marmarth North Dakota.


  1. You made it! While working for the NP, My Dad had an apartment in The Palace in Laurel where he stayed waiting for the return trip to Livingston. Great pictures. Truly God's country!

  2. I believe those crosses by the side of the road, numerous on some roads like the one running up the Gallatin from Bozeman, have to be removed after 3 years. So the crosses represent only 3 years worth of carnage. I've greatly enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

  3. Lived in Idaho pretty much my entire life. Have never made it to Yellowstone. Will need to do it soon after looking at these pictures.

  4. What a cool road trip. We thoroughly enjoyed following along on your blog. It was a blessing to have met you in Fremont NE on the event of your 40th anniversary. All the best to you, Bill and Linda. Hope our paths will cross again!