Lee H. Whittlesey’s forty-five-year studies in the history of the Yellowstone region have made him an expert on Yellowstone’s vast literature and have resulted in numerous publications. He is the author, co-author, or editor of sixteen books and some sixty journal articles, including “Off with the Crack of a Whip”: Stagecoaching Through Yellowstone and the Origins of Tourism in the Interior of the American West, volume one (2022, Riverbend Publishing) and This Modern Saratoga of the Wilderness: A History of Mammoth Hot Springs (2022, National Park Service).
In 2000, Whittlesey published The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery (Westcliffe Publishers) in which he and two co-authors revealed to the world for the first time the existence of more than 300 previously unknown waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. For this accomplishment, he was featured on ABC News, NBC News, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, and People magazine.
In 2015, Whittlesey published a new edition of his book about Truman Everts entitled Lost in the Yellowstone, a new edition of his well-known book Death in Yellowstone, and his book Gateway to Yellowstone: The Raucous Town of Cinnabar on the Montana Frontier (Rowman and Littlefield with Two Dot Books). In 2020, the two-volume The History of Mammals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1796-1881: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Thousands of Historical Observations by Whittlesey and NPS Interpreter Sarah Bone was published by Kindle Direct Publishing of Seattle. This book entailed thirty years of research.
Whittlesey served as Archivist and then Park Historian for the National Park Service at Yellowstone National Park for thirty-seven years, and previously served in that park as Ranger Naturalist/Interpreter, Law Enforcement Ranger, and in numerous other positions. He has a master’s degree in history from Montana State University and a law degree (Juris Doctor) from the University of Oklahoma.
On May 19, 2001, because of his extensive writings and long contributions to Yellowstone National Park, Idaho State University conferred upon him an Honorary Doctorate of Science and Humane Letters. On May 3, 2014, Montana State University awarded him an honorary Ph.D. in history. From 2006 through 2011, he served as an adjunct professor of history at Montana State University.
Whittlesey has often appeared in television programs to talk about Yellowstone’s history. He appeared in Ken Burns’s six-part special, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on PBS, and the Arun Chaudhary film shot for President Obama’s White House. He starred in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s hour-long program entitled “Unnatural Histories—Yellowstone,” and on Montana PBS’s history of Yellowstone. He is also a frequent speaker at history conferences.
Whittlesey retired as Park Historian for the National Park Service at Yellowstone National Park in 2018. He now lives in the Livingston, Montana area, where he writes in retirement.
Other books by Whittlesey are: Myth and History in the Creation of Yellowstone National Park (with Paul Schullery, 2004, University of Nebraska Press); A Yellowstone Album: Photographic Celebration of the First National Park (1997, National Park Service); Storytelling in Yellowstone: Horse and Buggy Tour Guides (2007, University of New Mexico Press); Yellowstone Place Names (1988, 2006, Montana Historical Society); Ho! for Wonderland: Travelers Accounts of Yellowstone, 1872-1914 (with Elizabeth Watry, 2009, University of New Mexico Press); Images of America: Yellowstone National Park (2008) and Images of America: Fort Yellowstone (both with fellow historian Elizabeth Watry, Arcadia Press); and the voluminous library- manuscript Wonderland Nomenclature (1988, Microfiche from Montana Historical Society).