Yellowstone National Park

Many people feel that Yellowstone is the single greatest National Park in the country. And there is little doubt that their opinion is valid.

Yellowstone is filled top to bottom and side to side one of the broadest array of natural wonders in close proximity to each other than anywhere else in the world.

Geysers, Springs, geological sites, pristine wilderness and a rich and lengthy history are just a few of the attractions that can be seen in Yellowstone, along with over 1100 miles of trails and a history that is open for your perusal and dates back over 12000 years.

Old Faithful Geyser Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park - Old Faithful Geyser

Endless broad acres of pristine wilderness that would take literally years to traverse await you in the Park. Yellowstone became the first and oldest National Park in the world by an act of Congress made on March 1st in 1872, and was dedicated by the President of the United States, “dedicated and set apart as a public park, or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and for preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, wonder and their retention in natural condition.

The amazing features that led to the interest in and preservation of Yellowstone as a natural park were primarily geological. The geothermal phenomena, including geysers and hot springs here are more numerous in this small area than those which exist in the rest of the world.

Including the wonders viewable here are the very colorful and interesting Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River as well as fossil forests and the elevation and grand size of the Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Caldera, a 28- by 47 mile cone of a collapsed volcano which last erupted about 500,000 years ago are also well worth seeing.

The park’s geysers, hot mud pots, fumaroles (vents of steam) and hot springs are kept bubbling by an underground pressure cooker of sorts that is filled with magma. One geophysicist described Yellowstone as “a window to the earth’s interior.”

The human history of the park as stated previously dates back nearly 12000 years, however it is a minimal part of the parks overall attractiveness. Over 99% of the park itself remains completely undeveloped, which accounts for about 3400 square miles of wilderness waiting to be explored.

One of the North American continents largest and most diverse mammal population ever gathered in one place exists in Yellowstone Park. It is a true wilderness, with nearly the entire original park lands dedicated remaining as they were at the time of its dedication, where you can meet nature on her own terms. A month is not long enough to view all that’s here. IN fact a year is probably not lengthy enough to see all of the attractions that exist in this area.

The Primary human inhabitants were the Shoshone Indians, who found all that they needed to survive in the land surrounding this area.. Buffalo and sheep were the main dietary sources here and also provided clothing and blankets for the indigenous peoples.

They left many signs of themselves in and around the park. The valleys that are part of Yellowstone provided what was a natural corridor to the great herds of buffalo in Montana. This became a major trail, called the Bannock trail that was used by the Indians. The natives lived a primarily modest lifestyle, unaffected by the advent of the arrival of white settlers. They were without horses and metal when the first trappers came upon them in the early part of the 19th century.

The first white people to meet the Shoshone were two trappers, Joseph Dixon and Forrest Hanock. And Discovery Corp member Colter, who spend the winter near the mouth of the Clarks fork River. As spring began to come to the surrounding lands they met a soldier named Manual Lisa, who talked Colter into building a trading post near the mouth of the Big Horn.

Yellowstonewinter Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park - Winter Scene

“The Yellowstone Area is one of great seismic and volcanic activity. Many scientists believe there was once a hotspot beneath Yellowstone, the same type of geological process that has formed the Hawaiian Islands.

Yellowstone has erupted violently three times in its history, the most recent having occurred approximately 600,000 years ago. The magma chamber spewed its contents into the air and onto the earth’s surface; eventually the overlying material collapsed into the empty chamber, forming a gigantic caldera measuring approximately 45 miles by 30 miles and was several thousand feet deep. Molten lava soon oozed through cracks in the earth and filled in the caldera. This caldera now makes up nearly one third of the park.

Hayden did the first geological survey of the area in 1871. He was among the first to note that the area was a centerpiece for volcanic activity and also noted the frequent occurrence of small to moderate magnitude earthquakes. In 1959, the largest intermountain region earthquake in recorded history shook the area with 7.5 magnitude jolt. While the Yellowstone region makes up less than 0.1% of the continental US, it releases nearly 5% of the total thermo-energy of the United States.”

Yellowstone’s weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become stormy with wind, rain, sleet and even snow. Lightning storms are common. During these storms, get off water and away from beaches, and stay away from ridges, exposed places and isolated trees.

Heinrich Berann NPS Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park - Illustration

Attractions:

Back Basin
The huge, though infrequent, Steamboat Geyser is one of the attractions at Back Basin, a big geyser area. Steamboat only performs about once a year but when it does, it shoots 300 feet into the air.

Mammoth Hot Springs
At this hot springs, you’ll find multicolored travertine terraces formed by slowly flowing hot mineral water. Grazing nearby, elk are frequent visitors.

Midway Geyser Basin
The Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater are two of the features at Midway, which has some beautiful, richly colored, “bottomless” pools.

Norris Geyser Basin
The hottest and oldest such basin in Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin is constantly changing. Some geysers or hot springs might suddenly stop flowing, but others blow and hiss into life. Among the features at Norris are Whirligig Geyser, Whale’s Mouth, Emerald Spring and Arch Steam Vent.

Old Faithful
The long-standing centerpiece of Yellowstone is Old Faithful. The mysterious plumbing of Yellowstone has lengthened Old Faithful’s eruption cycle somewhat in recent years, but the geyser still spouts the same amount of water, sometimes reaching to 140 feet, and pleases spectators every 80 minutes or so. Sometimes it doesn’t shoot so high, but in those cases the eruption lasts longer.

Upper Geyser Basin
Marked trails and bridges lead to Geyser Hill and you can visit Castle Geyser and Morning Glory Pool as well as the Giantess Geyser and Giant Geyser. Elk and buffalo commonly share the area. In winter, cross-country ski trails converge at Old Faithful.

Porcelain Basin
This basin is a small geyser area and a 1 mile boardwalk. A lot of people visit here, but it’s a good place to watch the ground bulge from underground pressure.

West Thumb
A small geyser basin and views of Lake Yellowstone are worth stopping for at West Thumb, which also has a visitor center and a warming hut if you’re here in winter.

Yellowstone Lake
Sitting in the bowl of a 600,000 year old volcanic caldera, Yellowstone Lake is a wild and mysterious phenomenon. You can boat and fish in Yellowstone Lake or simply sit along the shore and watch the waves. In the winter, you will sometimes see otters and coyotes, on the ice at lake’s edge.

WolfRunningInSnow Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park - Gray Wolf

Activities:

Biking
Many visitors tour parts of the park by bicycle every year, despite the fact that Yellowstone’s roads are typically narrow, rough and without shoulders. Some 300 miles of roadway are available to bicyclists, but bikes are prohibited on trails and in the back country. Blacktail Deer Plateau Road, near Mammoth, allows two-way bike and one-way auto traffic. Bicyclists face stiff climbs at Craig Pass, between Old Faithful and West Thumb; Sylvan Pass, between the East entrance and Fishing Bridge; and Dunraven Pass, north of Canyon.

Hiking
There are 1,210 miles of trails and 85 trailheads in Yellowstone. Don’t be surprised to find some trails closed temporarily due to weather conditions or bear activity. For more information on specific areas of the park, contact the visitor center in that area.

Paddling
Boating is allowed on Yellowstone and other lakes, but you must have a permit. Yellowstone Lake is subject to sudden high winds and its waters are extremely cold.

Winter Sports
During the winter, there are unlimited places for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Start at Old Faithful, the easy Lone Star Geyser Trail passes thermal areas and links to several other trails ranging from easy to difficult. The Riverside Trail starting at the west entrance follows the Madison River and involves one traverse up a short, steep hill. The Canyon area has trails for beginner to intermediate skiers with some awe-inspiring rim side views, as well as dangerous switchbacks for advanced skiers only. Downhill skiers can head to the slopes in Jackson Hole.

In The Area:

Craters of the Moon National Monument
The Craters of the Moon Lava Field covers 618 square miles and is the largest young basaltic lava field in the lower 48 states. Established in 1924, Craters of the Moon National Monument preserves 83 square miles of it for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The park contains more than 20 volcanic cones including outstanding examples of spatter cones. There are 60 different lava flows on the surface and they range in age from 15,000 to just 2,000 years old.

National Elk Refuge
The National Elk Refuge, on the southern border of Grand Teton National Park, provides a winter home to nearly 7,500 elk. Late in October and early in November when snow comes to the high country, elk begin their traditional migration from their summer range in the Tetons and Yellowstone to the winter range in the valley. The heavy snows forcing the animals to lower elevations in search of food. Elk stay on the Refuge for about six months. In winter, horse-drawn sleigh rides are available to take visitors for a close-up look at the elk herd.

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