Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch

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America's first national park, and easily the most recognizable national park in the world, Yellowstone was made possible by President Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known conservationist.

National Park Icons: Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch

Although constructed over a century ago, the Roosevelt Arch remains a popular tourist attraction at Yellowstone’s north entrance. Photo by Phaldo via Wikipedia.

Two arches in the National Park System’s built environment have attained iconic status. One is the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and the other is the Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Some think that the Gateway is just eye candy, but everyone knows that the Roosevelt is history with a capital H.

As the 19th century drew to a close, Yellowstone National Park already had a basic tourism infrastructure. Stagecoach tours were inaugurated in 1881. A road and bridge building campaign had been launched by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1883, and the park’s Grand Loop road system was already in place by the early 1890s.

Yellowstone had some very nice accommodations by 1903, too. The Mammoth Hotel, first of Yellowstone’s grand hotels, opened in 1883. The (“Old”) Canyon Hotel opened in 1890, and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel opened the very next year. The Old Faithful Inn, though yet to be completed, would open to the public in 1904.

Despite these amenities, Yellowstone remained an isolated place that attracted few visitors. This was the park’s pre-automotive era, and the absence of railroad connections made it just too darn hard to get there.

Everything changed in 1903 when the Northern Pacific Railway (NPR) finally reached Gardiner, Montana, at Yellowstone’s north entrance. The park was suddenly connected to the country’s big, rapidly expanding railway network. Yellowstone was now quite reachable, at least for the wealthier class that actually took vacations (not a commonplace thing in the early 20th century) and could afford to travel to distant places like Yellowstone.

The NPR and other regional railroads were strong boosters of national park tourism. More tourists meant more passengers for the railroads and more business for the hotels and related tourist facilities the railroad companies built in and near the parks.

After the railroad arrived, NPR’s Reamer depot in Gardiner functioned as the place where railroad passengers transferred to the stagecoaches plying Yellowstone’s Grand Loop road system. That meant that the immediate vicinity of the depot is where the vast majority of Yellowstone’s tourists acquired their first impressions of the park’s purpose-built tourism infrastructure.

That could have been a serious drawback, because the depot’s staging area was initially just a noisy, dusty, unattractive place. It definitely needed some improvement.

The idea of building a prominent landmark at the main portal originated with Hiram M. Chittenden, the Corps of Engineers officer then in charge of the Yellowstone roads. Captain Chittenden knew that constructing a formal gateway would greatly improve the park's primary entrance, not just by making a bold statement about the park and all that the park represented, but also by adding some visual excitement to the depot staging area. They didn’t use the term “eye candy” back then, but Hiram Chittenden certainly understood the concept and its value.

The Gardiner citizenry heartily endorsed the landmark idea. It was only logical that the community would want a park-defining landmark visible from the depot, and not just because it might be pleasing to the eye. Passengers stepping off the train would see this landmark and recognize it for what it was – the symbolic and actual entrance to the magical place that was Yellowstone National Park. And they would see it from Gardiner.

Whittlesey and Schullery wrote an authoritative history of the Roosevelt Arch. In this excellent work, which was published in the Arch’s centennial year (2003), they pointed out that:

Construction of the arch in 1903 solidified Yellowstone’s somewhat abstract northern entry point into a place more defined and tangible, especially when the arch combined with the new train presence and its symbol, the Reamer depot. Completion of these structures seemed to usher the park formally into the 20th century, literally and symbolically—literally because it was 1903 and symbolically because the arch represented a step into modernity: trains now came right to the park boundary.

Although the historical record provides scant proof, renowned architect Robert Reamer, designer of the Old Faithful Inn (and the ill-fated original Canyon Hotel), is said to have designed the arch in addition to helping with the construction planning. I’ll leave it to historians to sort out the truth of it.

The stone archway constructed at Yellowstone’s north entrance in 1903 was, and to this day remains, quite impressive. Although even a small arch could have effectively conveyed the notion of a gateway or portal, this particular landmark arch was designed for dramatic effect and is conspicuously large. Constructed of locally quarried columnar basalt stone, and completed on August 15, 1903 (at a cost of around $10,000), the Roosevelt Arch soars 50 feet high, or about the height of a five story building. Its flanking towers, each 12 feet wide at the base, frame a main opening that is 30 feet high by 25 feet wide. Twelve-foot high walls on each side of the arch originally curved around a landscaped area that included a pond and a nicely landscaped garden.

The arch faced north toward the Reamer depot so debarking passengers could see it clearly. Inscribed at the top of the arch are the words: "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.” The identifier “Yellowstone National Park” is carved into the east tower, while the west tower bears the words “Created by Act of Congress, March 1, 1872.”

Most historical accounts of the Roosevelt Arch dwell on the fact that President Theodore Roosevelt, who was vacationing in the Yellowstone country when the structure that was to bear his name was being built, helped to lay the arch’s cornerstone on April 23, 1903. He gave a speech, of course. His words to the 2,000 or so people who attended the ceremony still echo through the years:

"The Yellowstone Park is something absolutely unique in the world. This Park was created and is now administered for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. it is the property of Uncle Sam and therefore of us all."

Being a product of America’s passenger railroad era, the Roosevelt Arch’s heyday lasted only a couple of decades. Tourists began arriving in Model T’s by 1915. As automobiles gradually became the preferred mode of travel, and as other entrances to the park were opened (there are now five), more and more visitors arrived at the park via roads that led to the east, south, and west entrances. Yellowstone’s rail passenger era was effectively over by the 1940s, and rail passenger service to Gardiner was terminated in 1948.

Sixty years have gone by since then, but the Roosevelt Arch is still a popular tourist attraction. Motorists who enter the park from the north drive through it, and many stop to take photos. It’s really a shame that so few know its story.

Postscript : The time capsule beneath the Roosevelt Arch’s cornerstone contains, among other things, a bible, newspapers, and a picture of Theodore Roosevelt.

To the Great Plains and Illinois I Go, in Search of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Abraham Lincoln, and Other American Histories

Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Photo: January 2017 by Amy Cools

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the example they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my seventh philosophical-historical adventure: an almost three-week road trip through the Great Plains and on to Illinois. I’ll fly from Chicago to Scotland on August 9th: I’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in the history of ideas at the University of Edinburgh starting this fall. In the meantime, I’m overjoyed to have this window of time to explore parts of my country which I’ve never seen, and to learn as much as I can along the way.

During this journey, I’ll explore Yellowstone and the history of National Parks in America (it’s been a great NP year for me!) I’ll travel throughout the Great Plains following the history of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, the Lakota and their and other Native Americans’ encounters with white invaders in the 1800’s and beyond I’ll visit Springfield, Peoria, and Chicago following Abraham Lincoln, Robert Ingersoll, uniquely American forms of art and architecture, and other topics. I’ll also make many more stops and detours along the way.

Patrons of this series: Ervin Epstein MD, Liz and Russ Eagle, Tracy Runyon, Genessa Kealoha, the Cools-Ramsden family, and Shannon Harrod Reyes

With warmest gratitude, thank you!

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Roosevelt Arch

The Roosevelt Arch is a rusticated triumphal arch at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, United States. Constructed under the supervision of the US Army at Fort Yellowstone, its cornerstone was laid down by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads: "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People".

The idea of the arch is attributed to Hiram Martin Chittenden, who felt that the area surrounding Gardiner was not sufficiently impressive and required an emphatic statement of arrival at the famous park. Before 1903, trains brought visitors to Cinnabar, Montana, which was a few miles northwest of Gardiner, Montana, where people would transfer onto horse-drawn coaches to enter the park. In 1903, the railway finally came to Gardiner. With the development of the Gardiner train station, the arch was proposed as part of the station ensemble. [1]

Roadside Wonders

The Roosevelt Arch has always been a symbolic gateway into Yellowstone National Park. This iconic symbol of Yellowstone's history was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. An inscription at the top of the arch reads "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people" which helps us remember why Yellowstone was set aside and protected back in 1872. If you are entering Yellowstone through the North Entrance via Gardiner, Montana, drive under the arch and enter the park the same way they did with stagecoaches a long time ago.

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Why I Cried at Roosevelt Arch – What Theodore Roosevelt and the National Parks Mean to Me

When I saw Roosevelt Arch I cried. It churned up an emotional response in me. This gateway to Yellowstone National Park, situated near the Northwest corner of the park, tugged at my heartstrings. To understand why, I must reflect on it and consider myself in the moment, for the emotions brought up were so deeply entrenched. It’s not something to skim off the surface of my being.

I think to best understand the reason for my emotions I must consider Roosevelt Arch in three aspects. First, I must consider its symbolic meaning, what does Roosevelt Arch mean? Next, I must consider it’s visual appeal, why does this visual provoke this feeling? And thirdly, I must reflect upon the man whose name is inscribed upon it: Theodore Roosevelt.

It is certainly not without evidence the measure of significance the National Parks means to me. I have visited so many and have written extensively about them. The National Parks are places I go to restore my soul. When life is burdensome, and I’m weighed down by the heaviness it entails, when I lose perspective and get caught in the rush and concerns of the moment, the National Parks with their magnitude, beauty, and remoteness have become places I go to step out of my troubles and find perspective. The immensity of the mountains, the richness of the forest, the profoundness of the canyons humble me and diminish the concerns in my own life as I gain perspective of the bigger canvas of life.

As I am inspired by the grandiosity of things I also find such beauty in the smaller things- in the wildlife, in the design of plants, the way water flows and sits, and in the beautiful way the sun filters through the trees or paints across the plains. Everything big or small is so near perfectly balanced, beautiful and unique, reminding me of the awesome expansive creativity of God. And here, as I am surrounded by God’s artwork, I am reassured knowing the same wonderful Maker who crafted these lands and natural wonders is the Architect and Orchestrator of my own life. I see that the fingerprints in nature are the same fingerprints in my own design. It is such a humbling yet reassuring feeling to know the awesome Creator and Coordinator of nature has His hands on my life.

Here in the remoteness and solitude of so many parks I am ushered into a place where I can focus in on this masterful Creator, to pray, to reflect, to enjoy His company in the still, calm, and quiet. Man has constructed temples, churches, and cathedrals, all of which can serve so much good, but God has also gifted us, in his own incredible design, temples in nature that point us back to him in a unique way. Whether it’s the stunning Yosemite Valley, the wide openings of the Rio Grande, the mountain peak in Appalachia, the spread of glaciers in the Rockies, or beneath a giant sequoia, these places of quietude and beauty are here for us to draw us back to the Creator.

In addition to these spiritual aspects, there are other more broadly understood terms in which the parks have been meaningful to me. They have been places that have put me up to challenges, physically and mentally- taking on long strenuous hikes, pulling my weight up cliff sides, overcoming fear in turbulent water, and problem solving when things have gone awry. The experiences in the parks have strengthened me physically and mentally and in return have been good for my soul. In the same regard they have instilled in myself a greater confidence in my own abilities, and have given me a passion to which I identify. My experiences in the parks have molded me into the outdoorsman I am, have spurred in me the desire and necessity to learn new skills, and have kindled the appreciation and thirst for beauty and adventure.

So here I was at Roosevelt Arch, this manmade structure was the first and primary entrance to Yellowstone National Park for many years. Montana was the main means of entry into the park as support for the exploration of Yellowstone primarily came out of the Montana Territory through the Washburn Expedition. When the railroad was brought to Yellowstone it came through Gardiner, Montana, and thus a grand entryway to Yellowstone was constructed in 1903 with the inscription above it “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” This phrase comes out of the Organic Act which established Yellowstone as a National Park, but it is unofficially a slogan used throughout the National Park Service. Standing here in front of the arch I see how it greatly contrasts the wild remote landscape around it of mountain and field. And this structure is bold and tall, a mighty gateway to Yellowstone. It was evident to me that this was the entrance not simply to Yellowstone but to the first National Park. Thus this arch, this portal, is where it all began. This is the doorway to all the National Parks and a monument to one of America’s best ideas.

In this moment, before the arch, I was also swept away with patriotism. My country has chosen to preserve such treasures and honor such beauty. The heroes, the fathers of the National Parks- now long gone- made this possible, people such as John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Stephen Mather, Nathaniel Langford- all outstanding Americans. Just the fall before, a turbulent election took place. Some people became very vocal about their thoughts on the United States. Some citizens renounced patriotism and attacked the country with boisterous and repetitive rhetoric, and many in higher education proudly slandered our nation. When I was in New York City visiting my brother and sister-in-law, walking down Fifth Avenue, a group of young people chanted and pleaded for the abolishment of the United States. How infuriating that was, but how refreshing and restorative to be here at Roosevelt Arch to celebrate the natural wonders my country has chosen to preserve for the ‘benefit and enjoyment” of all people and recognize the patriots that made this possible. People need to get out of the cities every once and while and enjoy the wonders of nature and the diversity of the country.

It is without question that my knowledge of Theodore Roosevelt himself is part responsible for this emotional response to seeing this arch. Theodore Roosevelt, more so than any modern historical figure, has had the greatest influence upon my character. It is largely due to the difficulties he endured and the principles by which he stood. This man knew pain, physical and emotional, to great profundities. Some may see him as privileged, and although he was in some regards, he also was a man of great misfortune. Life was not nice to him in many ways. He lost his father as a young man and both his mom and wife died soon after on the same day- a day in which in his journal he’d remark solely: “the light has gone out of my life,” with an X. This was a man who felt like he lost everything. Before, he spent much of his younger youth physically Ill. Severe asthma and intestinal issues plagued him. I have not experienced nearly as much hardship as Roosevelt, but I, like so many people, have faced my own hardships in life. I’ve had my own extensive and grave health issues, have lost dreams, and have been in emotional distress. How inspiring it is to see Roosevelt not allow himself to be beaten down by life, not to wallow in self pity, but rather do the most unexpected thing and learn to embrace the difficulties of life, to accept life for what it is, to find value in challenge and hardships. He grabbed difficulty by the horns and called it for what it is: “the strenuous life,” something he preached about. Although his lot in life initially dealt him misfortune, he did not let that hinder him. Roosevelt loved life. He had a passion for it in all regards, and lived it to the fullest, courageously and vigorously.

This wimpy, sickly child, not expected to survive past childhood, would go on to occupy the bully pulpit. He’d clean up sin loving New York City as police commissioner and governor, charge up San Juan Hill as a commander, see that the Panama Canal was constructed under his presidency, attack corruption in Washington, author more than forty-five books, raise six children, and work to preserve more federal land than any other president, creating a culture of natural preservation. Although so accomplished as president, being one was not always in his plans. He once said he never wanted to become president, but he became one by destiny. When president Mckinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt had to assume office. Although, expectedly so, he rose to the occasion and preserved the dignity of the office, he made light of the frivolity among the Washington political elite, for Roosevelt, despite his status, was a common man. He may have been born into the New York elite, but this man was relatable to the ordinary American. He’d camped with them, hunted with them, ate with them. He left the comforts of high-class New York City and became a rough and tumble cowboy and rancheman in the Dakota Territory. He did not simply identify with a class of people, he identified as American.

Along with his firm sense of nationalism, Roosevelt also defined in his own terms what it meant to be a man. Having read many books by and about Roosevelt, this is a motif I’ve found that spans his life and story. Always to some extent he was preoccupied with thoughts of manhood and how to live up to and fulfill his duty as a man. He’d observe characteristics in others, then write about them and speak about them. He would come to define manhood by four principles: courage, hardiness, integrity, and independence. I think presently, our nation, as a whole, lacks strong male role models. Modern attacks on masculinity, and fatherless homes, have left a generation confused and lost in society. Media has watered down or redefined manhood in physical and lustful terms. The youth more than ever need men like Roosevelt to lead them and teach by his legacy.

I suppose on a more uniquely personal level, I identify so strongly with Roosevelt because of his passions: America, history, reading, recreation, nature, and writing. Although hunting and fatherhood are two huge parts of the Roosevelt experience that I am not yet personally acquainted with, we have such similar interests and worldview, that an overwhelming majority of things Roosevelt said are relatable to me in some regard. Thus he has become quite intriguing to me.

So with all these characteristics in mind, here I was at Roosevelt Arch. Theodore Roosevelt had laid the cornerstone for this magnificent construction that would be dedicated to him. With all the symbolic meaning, as a gateway to America’s National Parks, bearing the name of Roosevelt and the slogan, “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” how could I not get emotional? This place appealed to me on so many levels. This was the door that unlocked all the National Parks which would mean so much to me and to so many.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike” – John Muir, The Yosemite.


To determine the look of the new memorial, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association held a design competition, concluding in 1947 with the selection of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen’s design for a graceful stainless-steel arch.

According to the competition’s call for submissions, the new monument was to serve as “a living memorial to Jefferson’s ‘vision of greater opportunities for men of all races and creeds.’” Speaking of his design, Saarinen said, “The arch symbolized the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.”

Saarinen’s design was chosen from 172 submissions, which included animal sculptures, a statue of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, and Eero’s father Eliel’s own entry depicting a tall, rectangular stone gate.

Eero based his design on the catenary curve, or the shape made by a free-hanging chain when held at both ends.

The Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone's Original Gateway

Join Ashea for a meander along the boundary line of her home town of Gardiner, MT and Yellowstone National Park, exploring early park and surrounding area history. Learn about changes in park management over the years, discover why a massive arch stands over the world's first national park's entrance, scout for wildlife in premier habitat, and enjoy the mountain views. We will not see any thermal features on this tour. but we might see wildlife!

Meet Ashea


Ashea has spent twenty-five years exploring and sharing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, helping people connect to a wild landscape and to themselves. She has led all ages and interests through Yellowstone including children’s programming, driving snow coaches, skiing and hiking deep into the backcountry, geyser gazing and road-based wildlife watching. In the fall of 2020, she added virtual touring to her array of guiding options and has thoroughly enjoyed sharing Yellowstone in this unique and meaningful way. She lives 100 yards from Yellowstone National Park’s boundary with her ecologist husband, where they own an ecological consulting business and small educational guiding company ( Immersing in Yellowstone and the surrounding public lands with their daughter on skis and foot is where they find nourishment.

What to expect

Get ready for something special. We’re travelling to Yellowstone with no passport, no plane ticket and no luggage. And yet you’ll experience all the sights, sounds and stories with just your laptop, favorite snack and an amazing content creator.

The tour will last about 45 mins and will be live-streamed by your content creator directly from Yellowstone . Forget about slideshows or pre-recorded videos, this is a live broadcast and anything can happen!

While on the tour you’ll be able to see a full screen video of your content creator and their surroundings, interact with them and other travellers through the live chat, see where you are in the world on a map and show your appreciation with a tip.

Why are they tip-supported?

We are running these tours on a tip-supported basis to make them as accessible as possible. They are free to join, but you have the option to leave a tip during the tour.

The majority of your tip goes directly to support the channel, while the rest helps Heygo continue to build a place that brings the world closer together.

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How to join

Reserve your spot by selecting a time to book. Once done, you’ll be able to see your reservations on your Trips page and we’ll send you an email confirmation with a link to join the tour.

For the best viewing experience, please join on a computer using Google Chrome.

Roosevelt Arch

In 1903, most Yellowstone visitors arrived in Gardiner by train where they boarded stagecoaches for the journey into Wonderland. Gardiner had just built a beautiful train depot in the rustic architectural style, and both park administrators and Gardiner civic promoters felt that something special was needed to improve the dusty staging area. During the spring of 1903, a fifty-foot high basalt arch was built to face the train depot. Today, the Roosevelt Arch has become one of the great symbols of the national park idea. Throughout the United States and around the world, places of natural and cultural importance have been set aside for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. The arch serves as a symbol for what has been called "America's Best Idea."

Erected by National Park Service and Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Parks & Recreational Areas.

Location. 45° 1.797′ N, 110° 42.532′ W. Marker is in Gardiner, Montana, in Park County. Marker is on U.S. 89 west of 3rd Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2819 US-89, Gardiner MT 59030, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Wildlife Paradise (approx. 0.9 miles away) Yellowstone's Northern Range

Decline, Demolition, and the Chittenden Memorial Bridge

Although the bridge was completed in 1903, it wasn’t until 1912 that the Park started referring to the structure as the Chittenden Bridge. It enjoyed great popularity carrying motorists across the Yellowstone River to the other side of the rim. Although not the largest Melan arch in the world (as the 1928 Haynes Guide erroneously claimed), it was still, in all likelihood, the best bridge style for Yellowstone: functional, unobtrusive, not overpowering the scenery.

Alas, by the early 1960s, it was apparent the original Chittenden Bridge had run its course. Accordingly, the National Park Service (after much debate and some protests on the part of visitors who admired the bridge design) decided to tear down the Chittenden Bridge. They also decided not to build a Melan arch, opting instead for “a more modern reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch.” Once completed, this new structure was dedicated as the Chittenden Memorial Bridge.

The Chittenden Memorial Bridge, of course, still stands to this day, conveying visitors across the Yellowstone. And while some may mourn the loss of a historic structure like the original bridge, the spirit of Chittenden’s construction lives on.

Watch the video: 360 Yellowstone -- The Roosevelt Arch.


  1. Chochuschuvio

    Moscow was under construction not at once.

  2. Malagore

    And like him to understand

  3. Nathan

    Yes, the not bad variant

  4. Eddis

    delighted, respect to the author)))))

  5. Omeet

    Sorry, I can't help you. But I am sure that you will find the right solution. Do not despair.

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