Yellowstone Waterfall Project

Beginning as early as the late 1970's Yellowstone National Park archivist and historian, Lee H. Whittlesey, was already underway on a project to document the history of all the known waterfalls in Yellowstone (about 50). In the 1980's, park employee Mike Stevens began an independent mission to photograph all of these waterfalls. Then in the 1990's when Paul Rubinstein came aboard, the three began a new quest to survey as many of the previously unexplored rivers and creeks in the parks remotest backcountry as possible. They had no idea that their ten years of exploring the Yellowstone wilderness would yield so much new information. Their seven years of research and thousands of miles of off-trail exploration has provided the most new, large feature, geographical information to the contiguous United States map in the last half-century.  

Lee Whittlsey

The two waterfalls shown on the left are 300 and 150 feet high respectively. While the one shown shown on the right is nearly 90 feet in height. They are all located in Yellowstone's rugged northeast corner.

Paul Rubinstein, Lee Whittlesey, and Mike Stevens have discovered and first-time documented more waterfalls than anyone in the history of North America. 

These two falls are both undocumented and unmapped. Not one word about them has ever appeared in any book, article, or map on Yellowstone. They have remained essentially unknown in a distant, remote alcove of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Mike Stevens

The Yellowstone Waterfall Expedition is a project with a pull for exploration and unique historical dimension which has captured the attention of PBS and fine-art connoisseurs alike.  Producer Mike Gualdoni will follow the the team in their efforts to bring the discovery to light.


Poulsen's goal in this project is to first and foremost do what he was born to do, paint, and through his work, inspire. But what creates good art? "Passion. Love for nature and the experience, history, and a strong sense of meaning." Poulsen remarked. To inform, educate, and illustrate through right action is what defines his life.  "What truly moves me as an artist are the stories and characters behind the pieces. I've always had a special place in my heart for the outdoors. Even greater is my love for the native american story.  Their love for our mother earth shown through their actions stands in bright contrast to the tidal wave of issues we face in America today.  We have in many ways lost touch."


Poulsen's waterfall series will be part of Yellowstone's Centennial celebration, as well as a traveling exhibition centered around education, discovery, and social responsibility. "We are stewards of these natural wonders, to love them, you must experience them."  Paintings can be purchased and donated to the Yellowstone Park Foundation to fund education and conservation projects.  

Yellowstone, it was said, contains roughly 50-60 waterfalls. Their research has uncovered 6 times that many.

To perpetuate the continued discovery and documentation of these natural wonders, Poulsen has opened the 'sponsor a waterfall' program. Fine-art can be purchased and donated to the Yellowstone Park Foundation for the Childrens Education Fund.  Their purpose; to educate the public, support research and fund conservation efforts to preserve Yellowstone's ecosystem and equilibrium with park visitors.


Poulsen has painted a few of the more impressive Yellowstone waterfalls that have gone unsung until now.  The finished pieces will be compiled into a traveling museum exhibition to major museums around the US and Europe.  


Please contact Poulsen Studios for more information.

Special thanks to our sponsors and in-kind donors

See how these companies have contributed to the success of the project on our developing page coming soon.

Thomas Moran's vision of the Western landscape was critical to the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In 1871 Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the United States Geological Survey, invited Moran, at the request of American financier Jay Cooke, to join Hayden and his expedition team into the unknown Yellowstone region. Hayden was just about to embark on his arduous journey when he received a letter from Cooke presenting Moran as "an artist of Philadelphia of rare genius".[5] Funded by Cooke (the director of the Northern Pacific Railroad), and Scribner's Monthly, a new illustrated magazine, Moran agreed to join the survey team of the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 in their exploration of the Yellowstone region. During forty days in the wilderness area, Moran visually documented over 30 different sites and produced a diary of the expedition's progress and daily activities. His sketches, along with photographs produced by survey member William Henry Jackson, captured the nation's attention and helped inspire Congress to establish the Yellowstone region as the first national park in 1872. Moran's paintings along with Jackson's photographs revealed the scale and splendor of the beautiful Yellowstone region more than written or oral descriptions, persuading President Grant and the US Congress that Yellowstone was to be preserved.


Albert Bierstadt's trip to the Yellowstone region in 1871 yielded numerous drawings of the area's geysers and picturesque topography. These works were instrumental in convincing the United States Congress to pass the Yellowstone Park Bill in 1872, thus establishing the first national park in the world.   

Following the footprints in history: Artists Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt