146 years ago, the first national park of the United States was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone National Park was established.

Lands previously occupied by Native Americans for some 11,000 years saw mountain men starting to visit in the early 19th century and regular exploration began in the 1860s.

While the area is rich with wildlife, striking canyons, pristine rivers, alpine forests, hot springs, and geysers, we proved we can’t have nice things.

Even before the National Park Service existed, people were throwing crap into the geysers. They used Old Faithful like a washing machine. They put their clothes in pillowcases, tossed them in, and then they were steam cleaned and shot into the air by the geyser. You can guess how Chinese Spring got its name.

People have disrespected the park features for the last 150 years, throwing in stones, horseshoes, bottles, algae and bacteria-killing soap, coins, stumps and other garbage. Morning Glory Pool had the nickname Garbage Can. In 1950, they cleaned out “$86.27 in pennies, $8.10 in other coins, tax tokens, logs, bottles tin cans, seventy-six handkerchiefs, towels, socks, shirts, and underwear.”

Once upon a time, Handkerchief Pool was a glorious as Old Faithful, but after so much crap was thrown in, it stopped erupting around 1930. In 2014 a visitor from the Netherlands crashed a drone into Grand Prismatic Spring. Drones are banned in all national parks.

Even with the protection of the National Park Service, people still flip cigarette butts into the features. I shudder to imagine if it had not been made “Yellowstone National Park.”

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