Over 3 million eager people visit Yellowstone National Park’s 2.2 million acres every year! It’s the world’s first national park, established in 1872 by the U.S. Congress. 96% of the park lies in the northwest corner of Wyoming, while Montana claims 3% percent of the territory, and Idaho boasts 1%. The 3,472 square mile land mass is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
Yellowstone offers mind-boggling scenery.It serves as an open refuge for diverse and unique wildlife, and promises lifetime memories and activities for all interests and fitness levels. 80% of the park is forested, 15% is grass, and 5% is covered by water in the form of lakes, rivers, and of course — Old Faithful! The world’s most renowned geyser and 300 fellow geysers blow visitors’ minds on an hourly basis. You’ll find more active geysers at Yellowstone than anywhere else on the planet.
Bison, Gray Wolf, and Bears…Oh My!
Yellowstone is a designated Biosphere Reserve and the huge diversity of wildlife that call Yellowstone home will provide the biggest thrill for many people. You’ll cross paths with 67 species of mammals, including the threatened Canada lynx and grizzly bear. Yellowstone’s endangered gray wolf has a long and heated history. Elk, bighorn sheep, moose, deer, American bison, black bear, and coyote all prowl the park and roam the ranges. Bird watchers delight over the 322 different species, while fish enthusiasts have 16 species to ooh and aah over. Six different reptiles and four kinds of amphibians complete the menagerie.
Thar’ She Blows!
Yellowstone lies on a volcanic hot spot and is one of the most seismically active regions in the Rocky Mountains, experiencing thousands of earthquakes every year (don’t panic though, virtually all are undetected by humans!). There are over 10,000 hydro-thermal features such as geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. Old Faithfulis the most popular attraction in Yellowstone National Park. Although not the highest or most regularly erupting geyser, it does blow the most often! Be patient as you may have to wait around 65 minutes, and up to 92 minutes for the Big Show. An eruption lasts two to five minutes, expels up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water, and reaches heights of up to nearly 200 feet.
Cascading Falls and Meandering Trails
Yellowstone offers hikers over 1,000 miles of backcountry trails, 92 trail heads, and 301 backcountry campsites. Find your way to the General Store and take the short hike to the overlook of Tower Fall, a popular waterfall in the park. You can hoof it down to the waterfalls’ base on a short, but very steep, trail. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers love using Tower Fall as a destination point for winter treks. Photo opps abound!
Cultural and Archaeological Riches
The park contains approximately 1,600 archaeological sites and has affiliations with 26 American Indian tribes. There is no better way to get the lay of the land, literally, of centuries past then at the Albright Visitor Center and Museum. The Jackson Gallery contains original 1871 photographs by William Henry Jackson. Museum exhibits include Native Americans (pre-1800), The Mountain Men (1807-1840) and Early Exploration (1869-1871).
Park Rangers show film and video presentations every half hour during the summer. Year round you can catch two short films. The Challenge of Yellowstonerecounts the history of Yellowstone and the evolution of the national park idea. A short piece from 1997 titled Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran details his contribution toward the establishment of the national park.
There is no shortage of lodging options at Yellowstone! Nine hotels offer over 2,000 rooms and cabins, seven National Park Service campgrounds host over 450 sites, and five concession-operated campgrounds exist.
While you plan your first trip to Yellowstone, keep an eye on the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’spage to track seismic activity and get the inside scoop from the scientists overseeing the volcanic monitoring.
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