Yellowstone National Park...
Sep 25, 2012
|Today's post is full of information on Yellowstone National Park for those of you that have never visited. Or for those, like us, that visited several years ago and forgot everything we knew about it except that it was amazingly diversified and beautiful! I promise in future posts I'll share a small amount of info with a large amount of pics!
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. State of Wyoming. Widely held to be the first national park in the world, it is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser. Yellowstone spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles and is comprised of lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
At an elevation of 7,733 feet above sea level, Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest 'super volcano' on the continent. The Caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Half of the world's geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone. The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining, nearly intact ecosystem in the Earth's northern temperate zone.
Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened. The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Yellowstone is widely considered to be the finest wildlife habitat in the lower 48 states. There are almost 60 species of mammals in the park, including the gray wolf, the threatened lynx, and grizzly bears. An estimated 600 grizzly bears live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with more than half of the population living within Yellowstone. Other large mammals include the bison (buffalo), black bear, elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mountain lion. The Yellowstone Park Bison Herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Population figures for elk are in excess of 30,000—the largest population of any large mammal species in Yellowstone.
The park is located at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, from which it takes its historical name. Paved roads provide close access to the major geothermal areas as well as some of the lakes and waterfalls. Rivers and lakes cover 5 percent of the land area, with the largest water body being Yellowstone Lake at 87,040 acres. Yellowstone Lake is up to 400 feet deep and has 110 miles of shoreline. For those wishing to spend time in this wonderful area, camping is available at a dozen campgrounds with more than 2,000 campsites.
Approximately 96 percent of the land area of Yellowstone National Park is located within the state of Wyoming. Another 3 percent is within Montana, with the remaining 1 percent in Idaho. The park is 63 miles north to south, and 54 miles west to east by air. Yellowstone is 2,219,789 acres in area, larger than the states of Rhode Island or Delaware. Forests comprise 80 percent of the land area of the park; most of the rest is grassland.
The Continental Divide of North America runs diagonally through the southwestern part of the park. The divide is a topographic feature that separates Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean water drainage's. About one third of the park lies on the west side of the divide. The origins of the Yellowstone and Snake Rivers are near each other but on opposite sides of the divide. As a result, the waters of the Snake River flow to the Pacific Ocean, while those of the Yellowstone find their way to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico.
The park sits on the Yellowstone Plateau, at an average elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level. The plateau is bounded on nearly all sides by mountain ranges of the Middle Rocky Mountains, which range from 9,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation. The highest point in the park is atop Eagle Peak (11,358 feet) and the lowest is along Reese Creek (5,282 feet). Nearby mountain ranges include the Gallatin Range to the northwest, the Beartooth Mountains in the north, the Absaroka Range to the east, and the Teton Range and the Madison Range to the southwest and west. The most prominent summit on the Yellowstone Plateau is Mount Washburn at 10,243 feet.
Yellowstone National Park has one of the world's largest petrified forests, trees which were long ago buried by ash and soil and transformed from wood to mineral materials. This ash and other volcanic debris, are believed to have come from the park area itself. There are 290 waterfalls of at least 15 feet in the park, the highest being the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River at 308 feet.
Three deep canyons are located in the park, cut through the volcanic tuff of the Yellowstone Plateau by rivers over the last 640,000 years. The Lewis River flows through Lewis Canyon in the south, and the Yellowstone River has carved two colorful canyons, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone in its journey north. The Yellowstone Caldera is the largest volcanic system in North America. It has been termed a "supervolcano" because the caldera was formed by exceptionally large explosive eruptions. The current caldera was created by a cataclysmic eruption that occurred 640,000 years ago, which released 240 cubic miles of ash, rock and pyroclastic materials. This eruption was 1,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens!!!
The most famous geyser in the park, and perhaps the world, is Old Faithful Geyser, located in Upper Geyser Basin. Castle Geyser, Lion Geyser and Beehive Geyser are in the same basin. The park contains the largest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin. There are 300 geysers in Yellowstone and a total of at least 10,000 geothermal features altogether. Half the geothermal features and two-thirds of the world's geysers are concentrated here. In 2003, changes at the Norris Geyser Basin resulted in the temporary closure of some trails in the basin. New fumaroles were observed, and several geysers showed enhanced activity and increasing water temperatures. Several geysers became so hot that they were transformed into purely steaming features; the water had become superheated and they could no longer erupt normally. In 2006, it was reported that the Mallard Lake Dome and the Sour Creek Dome— areas that have long been known to show significant changes in their ground movement— had risen at a rate of 1.5 to 2.4 inches per year from mid–2004 through 2006. As of late 2007, the uplift has continued at a reduced rate. These events inspired a great deal of media attention and speculation about the geologic future of the region. Experts responded to the conjecture by informing the public that there was no increased risk of a volcanic eruption in the near future. Well, Larry finds that debatable & commented about sitting on a powder keg several times today!
For three months in 1985, 3,000 minor earthquakes were detected in the northwestern section of the park, during what has been referred to as an earthquake swarm, and has been attributed to minor subsidence of the Yellowstone caldera. Beginning on April 30, 2007, sixteen small earthquakes with magnitudes up to 2.7 occurred in the Yellowstone Caldera for several days. These swarms of earthquakes are common, and there have been 70 such swarms between 1983 and 2008. In December 2008, over 250 earthquakes were measured over a four day span under Yellowstone Lake, the largest measuring a magnitude of 3.9. In January 2010, more than 250 earthquakes were detected over a two day period. Seismic activity in Yellowstone National Park continues and is reported hourly by the Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. Glad somebody's watching, lol!
Whew, now that was a mouthful! And the only reason I posted all of the above is because as we're traveling through this amazing National Park we keep asking each other "gee, I wonder how high that is?" Or "what river/fall is this, there are so many" Or "how big do you think this park is?" Or?, well, you get the idea! We have had an amazing few days here and tomorrow (Wednesday) will be our final day to explore. I have taken over 950+ photos so far and it has been amazing. I can't wait to share some of the better ones with you! We have seen so much it's hard to believe that it can all be within a few miles distance. Today we saw our first bear! Yaaaay, we've been hoping to add that to our 'critter' list! So, please keep checking back in periodically. I'll do my best to wow you with some amazing sights, especially if you've never visited Yellowstone before! Thanks....