Megan Kate Nelson, Author - Saving Yellowstone

Megan Kate Nelson, Author
Saving Yellowstone


Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden saw the Yellowstone Basin and fell in love; and to better protect, preserve and understand the astonishing landscape he adored, he sparked the movement that turned Yellowstone into America’s first National Park.

All true, and by itself enough of a narrative to sustain a streaming video series or a major motion picture. But the exploration of Yellowstone is itself part of bigger stories in American history: like how America filled in the blank between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast with railroads, settlers and tourists.

And how federal power grew during Reconstruction, and how quickly it discovered its limits, and Down South, went away, and shifted its focus Out West.

After winning reelection to a second term, President Ulysses S. Grant abandoned his first term mission of protecting the rights of African-Americans in the former Confederacy, and moved from negotiating to dictating the rights of Native Americans from Minnesota and Oklahoma to Oregon and Arizona.

And then came the financial crash of 1873, which changed, or at least stalled everything.



Megan Kate Nelson is a writer, historian, road cyclist, and cocktail enthusiast. Her new book is Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America will be published by Scribner in March 2022. She is also the author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner, 2020), which was a Finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History.

She has written articles about the history of the American Civil War, the U.S. West, and popular culture for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, and Civil War Times. Her column on Civil War popular culture, “Stereoscope,” appears regularly in the Civil War Monitor.



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