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Yellowstone Trail Beats National Parks Highway By 17 Travelers!

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I have gotten back to the National Parks Highway, and have “mapped” it between Seattle and western Minnesota. I use the term “mapped” very loosely. What I have done so far is identify from 1923 Rand McNally Auto Trails maps 150 or more towns it passed through.

 

I have also located two National Parks Highway maps (produced by the National Parks Highway Association), one at Washington State University and one at the Oregon State Historical Society. Incredibly another one was for sale on Ebay about the time we stated this, but I was outbid.

 

The NPH went from Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass (the only auto road over the Cascades at the time), into Ellensburg, north to Wenatchee, up the Colombia and east to Waterville, Davenport, and Spokane.

 

From Spokane the route took three branches or roughly parallel alternatives, all ending in Missoula, Montana. The most northerly route went north to Bonners Ferry, Id and then via what is now US2 to Kalispell, then south to Missoula. The central route went north to Sandpoint on Lake Pend Oreille, then south east through Thompson Falls to Ravalli and then south to Missoula. The southern branch shared the route with the Yellowstone Trail through Wallace, Id to Missoula.

 

From Missoula eastward, the NPH and the YT followed the same route for 50+ miles, but at Drummond, MT the NPH went south to Philipsburg and Anaconda. The NPH and the YT rejoined west of Butte and they apparently shared a common route eastward via Boseman, Billings and Miles City. Near Miles City the YT turned southeast while the NPH continued northward to Glendive, MT.

 

From Glendive the NPH went eastward through Bismarck and Fargo, ND, roughly along the route of today’s I-84 and on the original US10.

 

At first look, it appears that the National Parks Highway can claim a very strong kinship with the original US10. For the entire distance I have “mapped.” US10 and the NPH are one and the same. That may not apply for the sections further east to Chicago, but it will be interesting how much it does.

 

The National Parks Highway and the Yellowstone Trail apparently loomed large in the view of auto travelers. The Ogden Standard Examiner Automobile Section for Sunday, June 20, 1920 states:

 

“Officials of the great transcontinental highways, the Yellowstone trail and the National parks highway have carefully inspected their routes and have just announced that they are in good condition for tourist travel.” Great, indeed!

 

But it isn’t easy to find statistics concerning the volume of travel on the National Parks Highway, or for that matter any auto trail, however an article in the Wednesday, December 12, 1923 Bismarck Tribune describes counts made at key points during the prior tourist season.

 

“At Fallon, Mont, where the southern route (Yellowstone Trail) meets the National Parks Highway the count was 55 [65? -- hard to read the first digit] a day for the National Parks Highway and 72 for the southern route.” (For a little comparison I looked at the Montana DOT traffic counts at the same place today, and it runs about 4000 daily on an annual average.) At Livingston Mont, the vintage count showed 133 a day. The count at Bismarck Bridge was 85 cars a day.

 

If you use the 55 and 72 counts, for a total of 127 a day, and suppose there was 16 hours of daylight, standing beside the combined “great transcontinental” National Parks Highway and Yellowstone Trail in daylight hours at the peak of tourist season in 1922, you would have seen fewer than 8 cars an hour!

 

Sort of puts it all in perspective! :o;):D

 

More to follow after we attend a granddaughter’s college graduation.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

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Dave,

I appreciate all you do for this group. And enjoy the graduation. I hope I live long enough to experience those events (my oldest grandchild is 3 1/2)

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If you use the 55 and 72 counts, for a total of 127 a day, and suppose there was 16 hours of daylight, standing beside the combined "great transcontinental" National Parks Highway and Yellowstone Trail in daylight hours at the peak of tourist season in 1922, you would have seen fewer than 8 cars an hour!

 

Sort of puts it all in perspective! :o;):D

 

More to follow after we attend a granddaughter's college graduation.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

 

 

8 cars an hour - sounds like my kind of road!!! :D

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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Oh this is just delightful! I'm fairly excited to rip into this. It's a shame that there aren't separate alignments for YT and NPH in Washington (that I know of... yet?). But the separate routings though Idaho and Montana is pretty fun.

 

 

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You might note that the National Parks Highway used the route through MN, ND, and MT that Westgard mapped in 1913 and called the Northwest Highway. AAA sponsored him but the AAA never acted in the same sense that the YT Association or the NPH Association did for their routes. It was not a sponsored named highway. Just a named route. I don't remember the exact limits but the part through ND was more often known as the Red Trail. I remember the Red Trail designation showing up on signs when we visited the Medora area a few years ago. I would not be surprised to learn that it had local sponsors in the early times.

 

I'll be back with more maps of the YT through WA in July when this Wisconsin guide is finished and our anniversary trip is complete.

 

yttrailman

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I blew the date of Westgard's pathfinding on the Northwest Trail. It was 1911, a year before the YT was founded, not 1913.

 

yttrailman

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