What’s Going On?
Traveling the off-Interstate “blue” highways is the “in” thing these days. William Least-Heat Moon, in his best selling book, Blue Highways, celebrates back roads which appear as blue lines on state maps. The Yellowstone Trail would be a blue line on many maps, if the map makers knew of its existence. The old auto Trail does not appear on maps any more as an entity of its own. It appears as a numbered part of state highway systems, county roads, an occasional Interstate, and obscure township roads.
The new Yellowstone Trail Association is seeking to uncover the old Trail, to put signs up, to bring to the forefront the existence of this old Trail, the transcontinental highway from history. We publish events past, present or future to stir men’s (and women’s) souls to show what a grassroots movement can achieve in members’ own parts of the Trail.
Join with other State Tourism Departments, Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB), Destination Marketing Organization, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Organizations, together with state and local history groups and museums to promote heritage tourism and economic development along YOUR Trail and literally lead tourists to your door.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE
Seven communities in central Wisconsin are using the YT as a theme in their economic and tourism promotion efforts. The Trail has been marked along a 40-mile route. WI hwy 29 runs past the “front doors” of those communities and county hwy “X” runs along their “back doors” through two counties. Representatives of those communities meet every month to report on economic developments and to plan joint Yellowstone Trail activities such as community-wide thrift sales, Trail clean-up, ad-sponsored restaurant place mats.
“Marketing Historic Roads in Wisconsin Through Partnerships” seminar held in Wisconsin drew folk from Michigan and Minnesota. Enthusiasm, comradery, and ideas for successful partnering resulted.
Highway Markers Are Up
Over 300 Yellowstone Trail yellow and black highway markers are up in seven states. From little Gascoyne, ND and Benton City, WA with their small, one-sign YT memorials to Marshfield, WI with its 24 signs, the Trail is slowly getting marked.
The Aberdeen, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce led a project to mark the Trail across South Dakota.
Antique Cars Are Hitting the Road
There is a fantastic number of antique car clubs in the U.S. and they are usually “hot to trot” to new venues. The Yellowstone Trail is beginning to attract such groups. Four Wisconsin CVBs sponsored an antique car run100 miles along the Trail several years ago.
The Seattle Area Buick Club traveled from their home to Western Wisconsin, following much of the Yellowstone Trail.
The wine country around Benton City, WA attracted a caravan of antiques (cars, that is) for a full day of Trail and wine tasting.
The Vintage Chevrolet Club and Antique Car Club of America (& Minnesota) was out and about for three days of Trail driving, visiting historical sites, picnicing, and hearing speeches. Get this! Cars in the run could not be newer than1926!
The John Mullan Society of Montana gathered to travel some of the Mullan Road (pre-Civil War route from Walla Walla, WA to Fort Benton, MT). The Yellowstone Trail and Mullan Road occupied the same space in parts of northwestern Montana so attendees got a double dose of historic roads.
It Pays to Advertise and Promote
13 Wisconsin CVBs along the Trail received two Department of Tourism grants in three years, allowing them to produce 100,000 brochures featuring tourist destinations. The first grant produced significant tourism publicity, generating over $65,000 in earned print media in newspapers and magazines.
The same 13 participating CVBs placed advertisements for the Yellowstone Trail in their annual Visitors Guides totaling over 600,000 gross impressions.
Advertising the Trail in the form of presentations to civic groups happened - 47 times in 7 states and aboard a cruise ship! !The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preserving the Historic Road in America Division, sponsored speakers in a presentation about the Yellowstone Trail.
The magazine, American Road
, which celebrates old roads, has invited a couple of YellowstoneTrail enthusiasts to be columnists to promote the Trail.
Of Museums and Parks
Marshall County Museum in Plymouth, IN is expanding (adding the building next door) to create a Transportation room, celebrating four old roads that converged in Plymouth. One important road was the Yellowstone Trail. A display will soon be up.
Two Wisconsin towns created and re-named green space “Yellowstone Trail Park” along the Trail in their communities.
Chambers of Commerce, local historical societies, and CVBs have cooperated recently in planning community “Trail Day”” events in several cities. Trail Days have long been a tradition. Ipswich, South Dakota, the home of the Trail, has a successful record of Trail Days. A Trail Day often involves a parade, a caravan of antique cars, open house at museums, picnics. Some people coordinate Trail Days with already established town celebrations. Olivia, MN has “Corn Days” and Yellowstone Trail celebration together.
Trees were planted along the Trail as a beautification effort by a Yellowstone Trail Committee in one state.
Other Outdoor Sports
Two Minnesota Yellowstone Trail afficionados tracked down a small, old bridge in Ortonville, MN that once carried the YT. Hopes run high that the city will preserve the bridge.
Ever hear of geocaching? It is an adult treasure hunt. One provides clues and others try to find the item “cached.” A Yellowstone Trail-lover had hidden Trail-related bits for others to find. Great sport. Look it up on-line for rules.
Books for You (link to .....)
Barry Prichard made a fascinating book, We Blazed the Trail
, out of a diary left by his mother of a 1913 auto trip she took from Minnesota to Yellowstone National Park and a trip in 1914 to Massachusetts. She was just a young girl then, but her father was a unique character, a civic leader and a multiple amputee. Get a taste of travel 100 years ago. Many original pictures.
Mark Mowbray has a booklet out about his late father’s Yellowstone Garage in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. (link to ....to read the whole story)
The late Hal Meeks finished writing On the Road to Yellowstone
shortly before his death. He provides maps of the route of the Yellowstone Trail plus a full story of the times of the Yellowstone Trail, including the history of road building, governmental funding, and other trails. Makes for interesting reading
Lee and Jane Whiteley write about another ‘trail,’ the Park to Park Trail through several national parks in The Playground Trail
. Another of their books, The Yellowstone Highway
, should not be confused with the Yellowstone Trail. The Yellowstone Highway went through Colorado. These books give one a picture of the west and old and new ways to see national parks.
THINGS TO DO YET
Continuing national publicity and significant grants would accompany the designation of sections of the Yellowstone Trail as a National Scenic Byway or All American Road. The Association will work with members to promote the selection of the Yellowstone Trail in the National Scenic Byways Program using the Historical Interest criterion.
Establish local Trail Days in the spirit of the original local efforts to maintain or celebrate the Trail through community effort.
Work with auto clubs to sponsor antique car runs along the Trail.
Place cooperative advertisements for the Trail in major magazines such as American Road, the emerging leader in old road travel.
Promote a Trail Day as a festival for your community.
Produce business-and-Trail-related brochures (e.g. Quilting Along the Trail, or Antique Shops Along the Trail, etc.)or business-and-Trail-related restaurant paper place mats. Display and give away.
Join the effort to place the Trail in the Scenic Byways Program of your state.
Search out local Trail routes and find a way to mark the Trail in your area, perhaps by painting rocks with the black and yellow Trail logo.
Join a proposed project to place the Trail and other historic roads on your official state map and tourist literature.
Join in an effort to create and display a “traveling display” of Trail information to participating museums and other groups.
A mile-by-mile tourism Guide to the Trail in Wisconsin is in the works It is modeled after the the historical Automobile Blue Books produced from 1901 through the 1920's. Three Guides are being planned: one ad-sponsored to be given away free, one not ad-sponsored to be sold in stores, one to be placed on this web site.