Yellowstone National Park - Bears, bison, and bubbling springs in the first national park (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Yellowstone National Park
EVEN THE ROUGH MEN who conquered the American West and rode fearlessly over its terrain realized there was something special about Yellowstone Country. Perhaps it was the geysers and bubbling mud pools, the giant canyon and its double-tiered falls, or the profuse and fascinating wildlife, but in 1872 the U.S. government decided to protect Yellowstone, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that made it the world’s very first national park.
Sprawling across nearly 3,500 square miles (9,065 km2), Yellowstone is also one of the largest parks in the United States. Most of the reserve is tucked up in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with small sections spilling over into Montana and Idaho. More than four million visitors have flocked to the park annually in its busiest years, though most stick close to the roadways. But a few hardy souls head out into a vast backcountry that remains virtually unchanged from when the park was first created.
Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features are the stuff of legend, a seething ensemble of more than 10,000 geysers, hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and travertine terraces. Old Faithful Geyser, one of the globe’s most photographed natural features, shoots a forceful stream of water into the air every 60 to 110 minutes (the visitor center staff maintains statistics and predictions on eruptions). The equally photogenic Grand Prismatic and Emerald Springs are nature’s charming equivalent of tie-dye. These hydrothermal features derive from a still active supervolcano that lurks beneath about a third of the park. Tumbling more than 400 feet (122 m) down double cascades, the Yellowstone River carves a tremendously deep canyon through the middle of the park; a multicolored gorge more than 20 miles (32 km) long. Draining into the river is Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-elevation lake in the lower 48 states, and a haven for boaters, fishermen, and swimmers (those who don’t mind chilly water).
And then there’s the wildlife: Large bison and elk herds, reintroduced wolves, and the formidable grizzly bear live in the park; so do nearly all of North America’s other large predators, including cougars, lynx, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, black bears, and wolverines. In fact, Yellowstone has the nation’s largest concentration of mammals outside of Alaska. More than 300 avian species have been spotted darkening Yellowstone’s skies, and about 150 bird species nest in the park.
Yellowstone is paradise for the outdoor enthusiast, a place to hike, camp, and horseback ride during the warmer seasons, or cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile during winter.