Here at the North Entrance to the world’s first—and in our opinion, most famous—national park we at the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce receive a lot of questions about the area. Gardiner is the original entrance to the park, signified by the historic Roosevelt Arch and Park Street, and the town boasts a rich and colorful history. This legacy of our gateway community continues today with modern residents and visitors, so please take some time during your visit to explore downtown and meet some locals, many of whom can answer your questions if you cannot connect with one of us. In the meantime, here are a couple of fun facts in the lead up to your visit stemming from questions we are frequently asked. Did you know….?
- Yes! We have public restrooms! In fact, we’re one of the few locations in town with public restrooms so there’s your number one (no pun intended) reason to visit us at our Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Park Street. Just look for the building with the big flags out front.
- While you’re likely to see wildlife downtown in summer, if you visit Gardiner from November through March you’ll likely encounter more wild animals than humans. While the town bustles with seasonal residents and visitors May through October the year-round population is actually closer to 800 people—just another reason we are known as Nature’s Favorite Entrance to Yellowstone National Park™ Click here to see a group of bison cows and their calves crossing a bridge over the Yellowstone River downtown. Always remember to stay at least 25 yards from wildlife, and make that 100 yards from bears and wolves, for your safety.
- Gardiner is Yellowstone’s only year-round entrance. The road connecting Gardiner to the park’s northeast entrance community of Cooke City, Montana, stays plowed during winter because it’s the only route in or out for Cooke City residents. This means you’ll have the road open and plowed and pretty much to yourself when you visit in winter. More accurately, it’ll be mostly you and lots of migrating wildlife. If you would like to visit Old Faithful or Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon during winter consider booking an oversnow tour in a snowcoach out of Mammoth Hot Springs. For more information on these oversnow adventures and how to book them please click here.
- You can soak in the Boiling River—but not this summer. The Boiling River is a unique environment located a short drive into the park along the route from Gardiner to Mammoth. The river itself is not actually boiling. Instead, hydrothermal water from Mammoth pours into the cold current of the Gardner River where it forms an eddy creating pools of water ideal for soaking (although you have to be careful as water temperatures can rapidly shift from cold to hot and the current can pose a risk for children). The parking area, trail, and soaking area of Boiling River are all currently closed to visitation. However, if you had your heart set on soaking during your visit, consider nearby Yellowstone Hot Springs or Chico Hot Springs, both of which are located north of Gardiner.
- The Yellowstone River, which meanders through downtown Gardiner after joining with the Gardner River, is the longest free-flowing, or undammed, river in the contiguous United States. Its headwaters are south of Yellowstone Park at Younts Peak. It flows northbound, picking up other rivers and streams along the way, before eventually merging with the Missouri River downstream near North Dakota after 671 miles. The Yellowstone River is actually the namesake of Yellowstone National Park and its name is derived from what it was called by a Native American Indian tribe known as the Minnetaree. Consider booking a rafting or fishing trip during your visit to experience its untamed spirit and unparalleled beauty.
- Gardiner’s history actually pre-dates that of Yellowstone National Park. The town was officially founded in 1880, but historical references to the area date back to 1805 before Yellowstone was established. And before that the area was inhabited by Native American Indian tribes. An exploratory party named Gardiner in 1870 after Johnson Gardner, who was a fur trapper in the area in the 1830s and the namesake of a nearby valley locally referred to as “Gardner’s Hole.” Most historians believe the added “i” in the town’s name today is the result of a phonetic misspelling. Click here to read the rest of the story.
- Theodore Roosevelt was not president when Yellowstone was established in 1872. President Ulysses S. Grant was and signed the 1872 Organic Act establishing Yellowstone as the world’s first national park. However, “Teddy” did visit the park during his presidency and laid down the cornerstone for the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner in 1903, dedicating the park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Today the arch is a favorite backdrop among visitors for vacation photos. Click here to read about other fun photo ops during your visit.
- Yes – students at Gardiner Elementary and High School used to have to scoop elk and bison poop off the football field if they found themselves in detention. (I can personally attest to this.) Growing up at Nature’s Favorite Entrance™ provides students a unique upbringing and education, including the opportunity to stand at Roosevelt Arch in 1995 when the first wolves were driven through as part of the now highly successful wolf restoration effort. To learn more about wolves, their prey, and their lasting effect on the Yellowstone landscape consider booking a guided private tour with a local expert.
Chelsea DeWeese pens from her hometown of Gardiner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.