An area covering

An area covering parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, which had been inhabited by Native Americans for 11,000 years, came to be referred to as Yellowstone by early colonists. In the 1880’s, it was designated the first national park in the United States. To encourage tourism to this newly designated romantic-sublime landscape, the Park and members of some of the large railroad companies met to plot ways to connect visitors via rail. The Northern Pacific railroad built a spur from Livingston, Montana, to the northern entrance of the park. Except for a small fragment out of Livingston, the 50-mile spur has not (yet) been converted to a trail; we explored it in hopes of riding a significant portion of it: what we found were grassy vestiges of the railroad bed, much of it behind barbed wire. Until we met up with a river-running photographer beside the Yellowstone River, as we were scouting for an access point along a gravel road, who told us of a ridable 13-mile stretch a little ways south of us. We bicycled along the gravel road until we'd passed the last country house; I thought I saw a faint outline of a rail bed close to the river, across a field studded with thistles, so we walked our bikes gingerly across it, and yes! it was the old rail bed. We rode it to the northern entrance gate of Yellowstone National Park.

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