Yellowstone’s Artist Point Name Was a Mistake

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Lower Falls from Artist Point.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Lower Falls from Artist Point.

Lean over the rock walls of a cliff 700 feet over the Yellowstone River and you’ll see a steamy canyon of pastel yellow, pink, and orange colors. There is a huge waterfall smack in the center of your view. I’m talking about Artist Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its grand waterfall, Lower Falls.

Many people think that this was the spot where famous artist Thomas Moran painted to inspire Congress in 1872. Yellowstone Park photographer F. Jay Haynes thought the same thing. He mistakenly named the overlook in his 1890 guidebook and on his hand-colored postcards.

However, Moran’s paintings were actually created at the north rim overlook named Moran Point by the first Hayden Survey in the 1870s. There is more confusion here – Moran Point is also called Lookout Point, Mount Lookout, Lookout Rock, and Prospect Point. On current day official park maps, it’s called Lookout Point.

Yellowstone Canyon, 1872, by Thomas Moran

Yellowstone Canyon, 1872, by Thomas Moran

Thomas Moran's "The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" presented to Congress

Thomas Moran’s “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” presented to Congress

Despite all the confusion over names, the Artist Point name stuck.

Today Artist Point is one of the must-see views at Yellowstone. Many families choose it as the perfect family vacation photo backdrop. It’s a short 1/10th mile walk on a paved trail from the South Rim Drive. The lower level with the waterfall view is wheelchair accessible.

Climb the short stone stairs to the upper level with a view of the bleached wall of the North Rim between Inspiration Point and Grand View Point.

May of Grand Canyon area of Yellowstone

Download a map of Yellowstone National Park


Related Article: Hike Uncle Tom’s Trail to the Lower Falls in Yellowstone