Yellowstone National Park
Last Updated: 26th Nov 2013
by – Alex McCarty, Tour Manager, North America
The most amazing thing about Yellowstone is something most people hope never to see in their lifetime. Just beneath the surface of the world’s first ever national park is a bubbling, roiling cauldron of the molten magma – a super volcano.
According to many of the world’s leading geologists, if this beast were to ever explode, life as we know it the world over, would forever be changed. Until such an event however, the buffalo shall continue to roam freely, the most consistent geyser on the planet (Old Faithful) shall continue to erupt on schedule and almost 3 million people every year shall continue to visit this amazing 2 million plus acres of natural wonders.
Very Brief History
The eruptions of an exceedingly large volcano two miles beneath the earth’s surface has pocked the landscape of Yellowstone with plateaus, mountains and meadows with elevations ranging from about 6,000 feet to about 12,000 feet above sea level.
An eruption about half a million years ago formed a crater 40 miles (64 km) long and 30 miles (48km) wide, and this crater was gradually filled in with melting glaciers and snow – forming Yellowstone Lake. Over the course of millions of years, features like the Norris Geyser Basin (the world’s single largest geyser), Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, the Midway Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone formed. These are however just a few of the natural features formed by the large, red hot mass of magma churning just below the surface.
In the early 1800’s the first American surveyor, a man named John Colter, a ward of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, decided to stay behind and further explore the wonders of Yellowstone. His notes and reports on the wildlife, the underground thermal activity and the plant life being supported by the ecosystem were couriered back to Lewis and Clark, who then forwarded the information to Washington D.C.. In 1872 the region was named ‘Yellowstone National Park’ after the color of the rock exposed at the banks of the Yellowstone River while it’s title also made it the first National Park in the world.
The Grand Canyon at Yellowstone
This is easily my favorite feature of the entire park! There are enormous sulfur deposits throughout the park, most of which rise to the surface, revealing a curious yellowish orange color in the walls of this canyon. It stretches for about 20 miles (32 km) and reaches a depth of almost 2,000 feet (600 meters) in some places. The Yellowstone River snakes through the canyon and forms two spectacular waterfalls, Lower Falls (over 300 ft/90 m) and Upper Falls (110ft/30m). Take Uncle Tom’s trail to gain the best views.
Norris Geyser Basin
This basin is chocked full of geysers big and small. It is the hottest and most active thermal area in the park and its main attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which has the highest recorded eruption of water ever (at over 400 feet), but it eruptions are extremely sporadic.
Upper Geyser Basin
Morning Glory Pool at Upper Geyser Basin is worth the price of admission alone. The colors revealed in this (very) hot spring are curious reds, blues, yellows, oranges, violets and looks very much like the flower after which it is named.
‘Old Faithful’ however is probably the most identifiable thermal feature in all of Yellowstone. It gets its name from the reliability of its eruptions, by which, it is said, you could set your watch. Every 80 minutes or so, Old Faithful spouts about 100 feet of hot water into the air for around 90 seconds and has been doing so since the early 1900’s.
A short walk from the viewing area of Old Faithful is Old Faithful Lodge, a newly renovated hotel that is over 100 years old. There, you will also find a gift shop, a cafeteria, a couple of nice restaurants, a grocery store and an outdoor outfitter boutique.
The first time I ever saw a grizzly bear in real life was at Yellowstone National Park. We heard these muffled grunts and growls outside our cabin in the distance and went outside to see what it was. We shined tiny flashlights into the woods just across the cabin grounds and saw a mother and her two cubs feeding on an elk. The mother stopped to look up at us and we froze, thinking she’s definitely coming for us next. A couple of park rangers drove up in a jeep and scared them away, thankfully, just in time, but still an incredible experience.
Herds of buffalo roam throughout Yellowstone as if they own the place. They share the park with wolves, deer, elk, moose and several species of birds.
Always keep in mind, the park is home to the wildlife, you are only a visitor and never feed the wildlife!!
by – Drew Walker, Tour Manager, USA
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most unique places in the world. From the breathtaking beauty of Yellowstone Lake to the exciting fury of Old Faithful, one of the largest and most predictable natural geysers in the world, Yellowstone is a treasure of natural wonders. It is also home to the largest concentration of free-roaming animals in the temperate zones. It’s not unusual to see American bison (buffalo), elk, deer, cute chipmunks, and the odd moose. Yellowstone inspires and leaves one with a new appreciation for the natural forces that formed our world.
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Do not jump into the hot springs…aside from scalding water and caustic chemicals everyone will laugh at you. Nonetheless, hikes along the provided paths through basins of hot springs and geysers are an amazing experience reminiscent of an alien landscape.
Yellowstone National Park has a pattern of weather unto itself. Even in the middle of the summer, visitors may find this high elevation park can be a bit cool. So pack a light jacket and hat!