Kevin Costner Reflects on Yellowstone National Park’s Origins Ahead of New Docuseries

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions)

Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery, as well as more than 1,300 plant species and nearly 400 animal species (and, of course, is just hours from the set of the Kevin Costner-led Western Yellowstone). The two million-acre stretch of mountainous land not only dazzles millions of outdoor lovers every year but is also a major milestone in American history.

In 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park in the U.S. and is widely considered the first in the world. From that day, appreciation for the world’s most gorgeous outdoor spaces spread, and, as we learned more about the importance of the natural world, the desire to protect them grew as well. Today, there are more than 400 national park sites in the United States alone, 63 of which have been honored with a “National Park” designation.

Nature lovers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. And believe it or not, Kevin Costner counts himself among them, his love for Yellowstone and the other National Parks of the country expanding far beyond the realm of his hit show Yellowstone.

So, in honor of the historic park’s 150th birthday, Kevin Costner is hosting a Fox Nation docuseries entitled Yellowstone One-Fifty. According to Costner, he was inspired to participate in the docuseries after learning about the momentous creation of Yellowstone National Park.

“We take a lot for granted, but because people risked a lot, we all have much richer lives,” Costner told People. “Contributing my time towards the story seeing more light of day is just a tiny thing.”

Kevin Costner Retraces the Steps of First Yellowstone National Park Explorer

Native Americans have lived within the bounds of what is now Yellowstone National Park for thousands of years. It was the exploration of American geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, however, that led to the creation of the world’s first national park.

The docuseries consists of four hour-long episodes. In each installment, Kevin Costner retraces the geologist’s world-shaping steps. “This was a time in America when all people cared about was what they could extract from the land. What they could get out of it,” Costner says in the premiere episode. “But these pioneers, they came up with an entirely new idea — a new way of finding value in the land. I want to see what they saw. I want to see what changed them.”

In clear admiration of the explorer, Kevin Costner explained that the spectacular park wouldn’t exist without Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden. “Congress commissioned Ferdinand Hayden to go investigate Yellowstone,” Costner said. “He recruited some of the best geologists, cartographers, and zoologists in the world. He also brought along a photographer and a painter to document their findings and the 32 men headed west.”

“Their mission was two-fold: the search for mineral exploits that could benefit the American people and to find a path that could build a railroad that would connect the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.”

“They weren’t here to protect Yellowstone,” Costner explained. “They were here to tear it to shreds in the name of progress. But something happened during their three-month journey. This place, it did something to them — and slowly but surely started to change their minds. And that’s why it’s still here. She’s still here.”