Bill Yenne’s 50 Years in the Mountains of Montana and the West

by W.J. Yenne

With a Foreword by George Ostrom

During his half-century career, William J. Yenne was well known on the trails in the rugged backcountry of the American West, from Grand Canyon to the Idaho Panhandle. He was especially recognized as the most accomplished and knowledgeable outdoorsman who ever rode the back country of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Mel Ruder, the Pulitzer Prize winning founder of the Hungry Horse News, who accompanied W.J. Yenne on many of his back country inspection tours, called him "the man who best knows Glacier National Park’s one thousand miles of trails."

Indeed, his work for the National Park Service took him on virtually every trail in Glacier, nearly every year throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He knew each mile of those trails intimately, and could identify every mountain peak and every glacier at a glance. He was also a renowned storyteller. Those who remember him, recall him both for travels shared in the Glacier back country, and for his amusing and fascinating yarns, spun around campfires and kitchen tables, many of which are preserved in this book.

Mel Ruder described him as having "the lean look of a man who spends many hours in the saddle. A good outdoorsman, he presents the clean-shaven scrubbed look. His physical condition is better than many men half his age, and his dedication to Glacier’s trails, a wonder to behold."

Praise for W.J. Yenne’s Switchback:

There’s tremendous regard for Bill Yenne in and around Glacier National Park. He’s had long identity with Glacier, and no man knows trails in this great trail park better than Bill. As the local newspaper editor from 1946 to 1978 I saw his excellent supervision of Glacier’s trail program and crews. He was a "dad-figure" and expert horseman who knew back country problems, how to serve visitors, and work with young men as well as back country oldsters.
——Mel Ruder, Pulitzer Prize winning founder of the Hungry Horse News, Columbia Falls, Montana

He came in with a book he had published, his cowboy hat pinched in his great bony hands that appeared more sculptured than real. The man appeared as hard as a hitching post and as thin as one. He said his name was W.J. Yenne and when I thumbed through his book, it all fit together. He has been a back-country packer, one of that breed of sinewy men who range the wilderness of Glacier National Park, Idaho’s Panhandle, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. His name is known well among mountain men. If you’ve backpacked in the above areas, you’ve walked his trails and may have stepped aside to let his pack train by.
——Wally Trabing,Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz, California

Bill Yenne is an unusual breed of cowboy. He has the curiosity to probe, the intelligence to remember and the exceptional ability to consummate. The experiences and scenes that Charlie Russell could render on canvas Bill Yenne can interpret with words.
——Phillip R. Iversen, Superintendent (Retired) Glacier National Park

It’s not easy to sit down and write about Bill Yenne. When I knew him he had a "soft government job" — as the Trail Supervisor at Glacier National Park. Glacier Park has a million spectacular mountain acres and over 1,000 miles of hiker and horse trails. All he really had to do was wrangle the men and money for 1,000 miles of maintenance, know all the trails and keep them all passable and safe. Bill brought his attributes of competence, knowledge, enthusiasm and humor to bear on as hard and diverse a job as anyone had in any park.
——James W. Corson, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services (Retired), North Atlantic Region, National Park Service

Bill Yenne, a friend of mine, has been familiar with professional rodeo since the days of the "Turtles," the early years of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He is both a charter and lifetime member of our Rodeo Historical Society and the Rodeo Hall of Fame "Wild Bunch."
——Willard H. Porter, Director, Rodeo Division, National Cowboy Hall of Fame