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Treasures Of The National Parks: Yesterday & Today

Author : Paul Horsted
Published : 2017-11-01

There have been many times as I have visited a national park over the years that I have wondered how the landscape has changed.

What was it like in a world before walkways, hotels, gift shops and parking lots? How would it have been to visit Yellowstone before it was a wildlife reserve; the Grand Canyon when it was more of an obstacle than a wonder of the world; Yosemite when you had it to yourself?

Fortunately, a cadre of pioneer photographers took their cumbersome equipment to record images from that time. Their fragile glass plates, poisonous chemicals, and heavy gear were transported by pack animals, and black-and-white exposures were often counted in minutes, not fractions of a second. Today things are a bit easier.

So, it was with great interest that I received a copy of the new Paul Horsted book: Treasures of the National Parks: Yesterday & Today. Horsted has produced similar books on the Black Hills and Yellowstone, but this book is a trip back in time to 24 of our premiere national parks, with modern day images taken from the exact spot historic images were produced so long ago.

This is a fascinating large format full-color comparison of then and now. Over the space of five years, Horsted hiked more than 200 miles to find the exact vantages of the historic photographs. Designer Camille Riner’s design mimics the cardboard stereoscopic photo mounts of the past, with old and new photographs side by side. It’s a beautiful book.  

The author writes, “When I look at historic landscape images of our National parks, I hope to find that exact spot where someone placed their camera 100 years ago, and see what’s there now. I want to see what has changed and what remains from the past.”

Some are iconic views, such as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Yosemite’s Glacier Point. There are comparisons from well-known viewpoints, now and then, such as the view of the eruption of Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Inn or Sequoias famous tunnel Tree, in 1938 and present day. 

Other vantages are not quite as well known, like the comparison of California’s Mount Lassen during its 1915 eruption and what it looks like today, and Charlie’s Bunion in Great Smoky Mountains in Tennesee.

One thing that is obvious in many of these comparisons is that while rocks and mountains and cliffs are sometimes only slightly different, it's easier to see changes in the vegetation, with more trees and shrubs visible in modern times, perhaps due to the suppression of wildfires. Sometimes timber blocks the original view, like the view from Yosemite’s Inspiration Point.

Horsted also writes about the subject, the conditions present when the original photograph was taken, and how he was able to find the original location and recreate the view. Some of these included quite arduous hikes, and definitely off the beaten path, such as his view of Granite Gorge from Pyrites Point in the Grand Canyon.

“I finally located this photo site about half a mile to the west of Plateau Point (as the condor flies, or about a mile and a half on foot), above a hair-raising drop at the edge of the Granite Gorge….The hike down a side canyon to reach this point was also quite extreme," he writes.

There are 170 views in 240 pages. It’s produced by Golden Valley Press, and retails at $45. It’d make a great gift for a national park or history fan, or a gift to yourself for your own shelf. 

Paul Horsted in the field/Courtesy Paul Horsted



Love these photos. Thank you.

Thank you for the kind review, Patrick! I'm really proud to see this independently-produced book written up on National Parks Traveler.

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