By George Black, St. Martin’s Press, 526 pages

“These men stood at the unstable intersection of commerce, exploration, and violence.”

For anyone who has visited the nearly 3500 square mile wilderness and recreational area knows, Yellowstone National Park is a land of magnificent scenery, diverse flora and fauna, and extraordinary geological features. Terra incognita for centuries, Lewis and Clark skirted the area in 1806, with exploration beginning in earnest in 1869. Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. Not surprisingly, the narratives surrounding its discovery, exploration and occupation are as remarkable as the landscape itself. In this fascinating account of the park’s origins, environmental author and editor Black offers a revisionist’s interpretation of history focusing primarily on 19th century interaction between the white men who came to the area and the Native Americans whose land and culture were changed forever by the contact. This is a recounting of Yellowstone’s beginnings, unencumbered by folklore or myth, with a large, colorful and violent cast of characters that includes early fur trappers, gold miners, pioneers, politicians, statesmen, thieves, adventurers, soldiers, and Blackfeet, Crow and Nez Perce warriors and chiefs. Well-documented and researched, the story is recurrently tragic but never dull or dry. Recommended reading for those who enjoy realistic accounts of the American West.

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen,