This month’s featured park is none other than Yellowstone National Park, a sprawling 2.2 million acres of natural geothermal bedspread based in the northwestern corner of Wyoming and certain parts of Idaho and Montana.
This vast ecological center is seated on top of the Yellowstone Caldera, a massive supervolcano stretching between 35–45 miles. Not to worry, though; the last recorded eruption was approximately 70,000 years ago, and our technology has since improved so that you’re highly unlikely to be caught in the fireworks so to speak.While there are various debates on where the park attained its name, the two outstanding theories are that it may be named after the Yellowstone River from the Minnetaree Indian name Mi tse a-da-zi (Yellow Rock River). However, based on common lore, there is also the possibility that the name was derived from the yellow rock surrounding the area. French trappers came and called the river “Roche Jaune” (Yellow Rock) which, when later translated, was what stuck with travelers and led it to be referred to as “Yellowstone.”
Ferdinand V. Hayden primarily headed the expedition, discovery, and the park’s eventual designation as a protected natural area. It was a slippery discovery that lasted an approximate 30 years before it stepped past the label of myths and folklore. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant officially signed what was considered The Act of Dedication that protected the park’s area from settlement and occupancy. Since then, the park has been successfully conserved for almost two centuries and is the leading (and arguably most important) geothermal resource in the entire world.
Yellowstone is well known for its geothermal and hydrothermal system and its many geysers that can be found within the park. A study in 2011 estimated the park to have approximately 1,200 geysers with about 400 of them active annually. Impressively, the park is estimated to contain 10,000 geothermal features, meaning that 2/3 of the world’s geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone.
One of its most famous geysers is Old Faithful, which erupts at a rate of 45–120 minutes.Aside from Old Faithful, other famous geysers in the park include Castle Geyser, Lion Geyser, Beehive Geyser, and the Norris Geyser Basin. You can visit the park at any point throughout the fall and winter to witness these amazing spectacles.
Because the park’s ecosystem is one of the most primitive and well-preserved on Earth, it makes for a suitable environment to house a diverse population of wildlife. All across its mountains and acres of space, various mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish can be found dwelling within this natural ecospace.
Among the mammals that can be found in Yellowstone are coyotes, wolves, the largest purebred bison herd in the Americas, and antelope. Bears are also commonly encountered in Yellowstone, so it is highly advised to read up on safety methods before visiting. Coming near or disturbing the animals is not advised, and visitors are recommended to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from any other mammals in Yellowstone.The park is also home to 311 species of birds, including bald eagles, ravens, and even whooping cranes (though the recorded sightings of those are rare). One can also spot harlequins, ducks, ospreys, and peregrine falcons.
Fishing is allowed in Yellowstone, and 18 species of fish can be found here, including lake trout, cutthroat trout, and mountain whitefish. Be sure to check the Rules & Regulations as well as the seasons and bag limits if you wish to go fishing in this reservoir.
Reptiles can be found within the park, including about six types of snakes such as the rubber boa, wandering garter snake, and the prairie rattlesnake. And additionally, amphibians can be found on the park grounds as well. Boreal chorus frogs, boreal toads, and blotched tiger salamanders are only three examples of what can be found within Yellowstone.
Early Winter in Yellowstone
Now that winter is coming, Yellowstone is probably the first park to trudge deep into the season. With its wonderfully arched slopes and miles upon miles of trails, Yellowstone is premium for winter adventuring. Tons of snow piles on top of the surroundings so that the whole scene is a gorgeous blanket of white surrounded by pine trees adorned in silver. It’s particularly beautiful when the setting or rising sun’s soft shades of red, purple, orange, and yellow hug the skies. These same colors illuminate the blanket of snow, truly making for a breathtaking sight.Meanwhile hot springs decorated with tufts of snow erupt in their usual frequency, providing a sense of heat. Coyotes, wolves, bison, and bears trudge through the snow and leave behind paw prints on the winter grounds.
Despite the cold freeze, Yellowstone is a marvelous place for various winter activities, offering miles of perfect, snow-filled trails for skiers and commercially-guided snowmobile tours. Other opportunities include winter ranger programs, guided ski and snowshoe tours, and cross-country skiing.
If you wish to visit Yellowstone, check out the following links to help guide you in your adventure!
- Opening and closing dates of facilities: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/ocd_locale.htm
- Park road closures: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm
- Visiting Yellowstone in fall: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fall.htm
- Visiting Yellowstone in winter: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/visiting-yellowstone-in-winter.htm
And as always, let us help you! The Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide features a comprehensive guide of Yellowstone National Park. Find us in Apple Store and Google Play, and go adventuring today!