Date of Graduation

Summer 2011


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Judith Meyer


geographic information systems (GIS), carbon emissions, alternative transportation, Yellowstone National Park, geotourism

Subject Categories

Geographic Information Sciences | Tourism | Transportation


When Yellowstone National Park became the USA's first national park in 1872, railroads became the primary means of transportation for tourists traveling to the new park. After introduction of the first automobile in the park in 1915, rail travel declined and eventually disappeared altogether. In 1960, the last passenger train brought tourists to West Yellowstone, Montana, a gateway town situated at the park's west entrance. As the U.S. contemplates expanding rail connections throughout the country as an alternative to the ever-increasing number of private cars on the road, it is appropriate to consider the potential benefits of rail travel over automobile travel. This study investigates the benefits of rail travel as opposed to automobile travel in terms of reduced carbon emissions. Specifically, this study utilizes geographic information systems to illustrate through an animated map the difference in carbon emissions of rail versus automobile travel along the historic rail route from Salt Lake City, Utah to West Yellowstone Montana. This study also addresses the recent reinvigoration of heritage tourism, or geotourism, as it relates to historic rail travel and traditional group travel to national parks in general and Yellowstone in particular.


© Carol Grace Minton

Campus Only