Shipwrecked in Yellowstone

Aug 25, 2016

Wrecked in Yellowstone by Mike Stark
Credit Riverbend Publishing

It’s a fascinating story about a really flawed person whose legacy is a shipwreck in Yellowstone National Park.

Mike Stark, former Billings Gazette reporter, wrote Wrecked in Yellowstone: Greed, Obsession, and the Untold Story of Yellowstone’s Most Infamous Shipwreck.  It’s a book about the early history of Yellowstone National Park and entrepreneur E-C Waters.

Stark called Waters a "deeply flawed" and ambitious man. 

“He wanted to do great things and be a great businessman in Yellowstone, “said Stark, “and yet he could not get through a conversation without getting into an argument.”

Waters managed to anger park supervisors, his customers, members of Congress and even then President Teddy Roosevelt. But the author said Waters was a guy who loved Yellowstone and who wanted to do something big.

“And I admire that about this grand vision, and maybe a grandiose vision,” Stark said. “So that part I admired, but would I want to be married to him, spend every day with him. Probably not.”

This included steamboat trips on his first steamboat, Zillah, on Yellowstone Lake, which he did for a decade. But he had an even grander plan. It was a steamboat, named after him, the E-C Waters, even bigger, better 

Steamboat E.C. Waters

  and more opulent than Zillah. But it never carried a paying customer because he was forced to leave.

And that’s Waters’ legacy in Yellowstone, the shell of the steamboat that to this day sits on Stevenson Island in Yellowstone Lake.

It was the shipwreck that caught Stark’s attention.

“I think Yellowstone has always been a fascinating place and I think what we have here is another strange, fascinating chapter in Yellowstone’s history,” said Stark.  

His book covers a time of great chaos in Yellowstone, the first 20 years of its existence. The Department of Interior was trying to run its first national park thousands of miles away from Washington, D.C and trying crazy ideas.

“Every kind of scammer trying to come in and make a buck. And Yellowstone and the Department of the interior were learning as they go, all the way through,” Stark said.

Quite a different picture from the park of today.

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