Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yellowstone National Park

A natural museum of geographical features

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US

yellowstone national park in winter

Yellowstone National Park in Winter

A natural museum of geographical features

The Yellowstone is the first designated national park in the United States; established in March 1, 1872; it has an area of 8987 sq miles. This park is mainly located in Wyoming State with some of the portions come under Idaho and Montana. The Yellowstone Lake, volcanic caldera, endemic wildlife, famous geysers like the Old Faithful, strange volcanic stone formations are its main attractions. It may seem strange that this whole area remained unknown to the outside world till 1860. The place was home to the native Indians since 9000 BC; people known as the ‘Mountain Men’ were the only visitors from the civilized society to this area, they were set to forest to hunt beavers for their fur.


The Yellowstone Region is extremely rich in history; it was home to the Paleo Indians who belonged to the ‘Clovis’ culture (ancient American of the 9500 BC period); these people used the obsidian that is abundant in this region to make weapons like spear and arrow heads, knife etc. They built houses and temples with the stone; there are still more than one thousand remnants belonging to this culture in the Yellowstone. In 1806 John Colter happened to reach there by an accident; he told about the strange phenomena existing at Yellowstone; but Colter’s -he was a member of the Lewis Clark Expedition- stories were taken as mere hallucination and called this unknown area as Colter’s hell by the modern world.

Bridges Spinning Yarn!

morning glory pool yellowstone national park

Morning Glory Pool at the Yellowstone National Park

In 1856; fifty years after Colter’s ‘hallucination’; John Bridges reported about the ‘boiling springs and the spouting water’ of this land; that too was taken for ‘spinning of yarn’! It was Ferdinand Vandeveer Haydenwent to explore but the weather did not let it to complete. Folsom Expedition in 1869 alone could convince the doubting toms of that time; it surveyed the entire area from Yellowstone River to Yellowstone Lake. At this time the world was really amazed and clamor for establishing a national park for the protection of the ecosystem was arose from all corners. Bowing to the public demand the area was notified as a National Park in March 1, 1872 with Nathaniel P Longford as its first Superintendent.

nathaniel p langford

Nathaniel P. Langford, the first superintendent of yellowstone national park.


Though there are many things in this park quite exclusive; the geysers may perhaps the most attractive and a natural feature that made this park so famous. Yellowstone is one of the earth’s volcanic hot spots with a long history of violent eruptions. The present activity of the volcano is heating up the ground water and emitting it violently to the air; there are geysers (that works under pressure as a hot water fountain), hot springs (pressure is lower and hence water flows), fumaroles (extreme temperature sends only steam out – there are gaseous fumaroles also) and mud-pots (this is a strange feature where muddy water in a pit bubbles with hot steam). Altogether there are about 10,000 geothermal sites in this park.

Old and Faithful

yellowstone national park

Historical poster of Yellowstone National Park from 1938

The Yellowstone Park has more than 300 geysers and all these features like mud-pots and fumaroles but theOld Faithful is the most famous among its geysers. It was Old Faithful that got a name first among the numerous geysers (named by Washburn-Longford - Daone Expedition). This was the first comprehensive expedition by a team of three who explorers to the Yellowstone region in 1870. They did extensive mapping of its wildlife, geyser basins, mountains, lakes etc; they named the geyser so as to express its regularity of its eruption.

Marvelous timing!

The Old Faithful geyser’s eruption is intermittent erupts for a while then pause for few minutes and repeat the process. The water jet may shoot up 3700 to 8400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 180 feet. It erupts in every 90 minutes apart and each eruption can last up to 100 minutes. Researchers who have made observations about its timing have found for the last 150 years there have been little change in the timing of its eruption.

In quantity of water discharged and the height of water jet there is one who can excel the Old Faithful; theSteam-Boat Geyser located in the Yellowstone itself; although a bit remotely placed; the Steam Boat is the biggest geyser in North America.

Yellowstone Lake

The Yellowstone Lake that lies centered on Yellowstone Caldera is the biggest one among high altitude lakes (7732 feet above sea-level); it is 136 sq miles in area with a shoreline of 110 miles. Its deepest portion measures 390 feet. This lake is home to Trumpeter Swans –the largest among swans in size (6 feet long with 10 feet wing span). The trout fish of the lake is immensely tasty and hence expensive. During winter (December to May) this lake gets covered under 3 feet thick snow excluding the areas where there are hot springs.


yellowstone castle geysir

Castle Geyser eruption at the yellowstone national park

The Yellowstone is a plateau about 8000 feet above sea-level and 80% of its area is forests, 5% lakes and rivers and the rest grasslands. It is highly mountainous and more than five mountain ranges stand in guard of the area like, Gallatin, Bear tooth, Madison, Teton, Absaroka etc; its highest mount is Mount Washburn which is 10,243 feet high. Its water is mainly drained by the Yellowstone and the Snake River; while Yellowstone River falls in to the Atlantic the Snake River flows in to the Pacific.

The Grand Canyons and Yellowstone

The Yellowstone Park has two Grand Canyons of its own! (The real Grand Canyon is at Arizona; what Yellowstone has is its pocket edition) Formed by the erosion activities of the rivers; they are with classic ‘V’ shaped banks. The bigger one made by the Yellowstone River is 900 feet deep and half a mile wide. Its steep cliff has exposed rocks with iron compounds that give the rocks a characteristic yellow color; these rocks must be the reason for the place to be called Yellowstone.

The Yellowstone Caldera

The Yellowstone is the largest volcanic caldera in this continent with 40 miles diameter; often called a super volcano because of the intensity of its eruption (one eruption occurred 64,000 years back released 240 cubic miles of ash, stones and pyroclastic materials! A caldera is formed when the pressure under the ground of a volcano intensifies and bursts swallowing the entire volcanic cone making a circular pit like that of Ngorongoroin Africa famous for the Serengeti Migration.


yellowstone national park bison

Bison graze near a hot spring at the yellowstone national park

The Yellowstone National Park is at the center of the Greater Yellowstone Eco-System which includes the Greater Teton National Park which is the largest continuous reserve in the US after Alaska. The wild life protection has been so serious that almost all the animal species that were eliminated by rampant poaching have been reintroduced successfully and they all thrive in this park. The Trumpeter Swan itself is an example the population that dwindled to about 100 have been revived and at present there are more than 5000 swans at the Yellowstone Lake and its surroundings.

Water falls of Yellowstone

The Yellowstone is famous for its numerous waterfalls; there are more than a hundred fall of substantial heights. Most of them are accessible by roads and some of them only visible only after hiking,

Fairy Falls is located in Midway Geyser Basin and it is one of the tallest of the falls from a height of 197 feet; the fall plunges in to a shallow pool down with a thunder.

Kepler Cascades is named after Kepler Hoyt the son of Wyoming’s Territorial Governor. The Boy happened to tour this park with his father John Hoyt. The fall is located about two miles from the Old Faithful Village and it can be seen form the roadside. The Kepler Falls fall to 50 feet depth in three stages.

Gibbon Falls is located between Norris Geyser Basin and Madison Junction in the Gibbon River. It is accessible and offers great vantage points to view the falls; parking spaces are also available to visitors.

Fire Hole Falls is along the Fire Hole Canyon Road about one and a half mile from Madison Junction. It is a forty feet high fall and offers great sight during spring and early summer seasons.

Tower Falls is one of the most beautiful sites of this park; the volcanic pillar like formations which abound the area is reason for getting the falls the name ‘Tower Fall’. In winter the entire fall gets frozen like an ice pillar and the area can be accessed by skiing; there by offering a great opportunity for skiing enthusiasts. The fall is 132 feet in height and located seventeen miles from North Canyon near Roosevelt.

The Upper Falls located south of Canyon Village can be reached via Uncle Tom’s Parking area to its trail head. It is 109 feet long and one of the most exquisite falls of the park. The Lower Falls, Mystic Falls, Lewis Falls, Undine Falls, Virginia Falls and Union Falls etc are all locations of Yellowstone National Park area visited by tourists.

A virtual Garden of Eden

The Yellowstone is not a cluster of hills, spring or waterfalls; it is a very much living environment; hundreds of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles thrive there as if in a mega garden of Eden. Its grizzly bears (that has a coat of mixed black and grey fur), wolves (Mackenzie Valley Wolves) Elks, bisons were all threatened at a time have been successfully rehabilitated and they have started multiplying to their original strength. This park is home to numerous endemic plants like Douglas fir, White bark pine etc; altogether there are 1700 types of plants in these forests of the Yellowstone.

Preserved wilderness

What the park authority first did was to repair the damages; they brought back many threatened and endangered animals back to its previous strength that is before the arrival of ‘civilized’ men and guns. When at the park one can feel the difference thousands of sq kms of land are left for wilderness itself and no ‘development’ of any sort is allowed as whole the area land is entirely allocated to its original inhabitants –its animals.

Tourist friendly

yellostone national park wolf

A reintroduced gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park

For tourists this wilderness coupled with numerous natural wonders offer a life-time experience; there are all sorts of packages offered by tour companies just a phone-call away, packaged tour for one week, one day, half day, guided tours on horse back, on sledges etc are all available along with lodging, spa, restaurants etc.

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