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Yellowstone National Park, the oldest, one of the largest, and probably the best-known national park in the United States. It is situated principally in northwestern Wyoming and partly in southern Montana and eastern Idaho and includes the greatest concentration of hydrothermal features in the world. The park was established by the U.S. Congress on March 1, 1872, as the country’s first national park. It is also generally considered to have been the first national park in the world, though some naturalists and others have argued that there is evidence that indicates that the creation of Yellowstone was predated by the creation of Bogd Khan Mountain National Park in Mongolia, which may date from as early as 1778. Yellowstone was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage site in 1978.
The park, which forms a squarelike rectangle with an irregular eastern side, is 63 miles (101 km) from north to south and 54 miles (87 km) from east to west at its widest point and covers an area of 3,472 square miles (8,992 square km). The John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, an 80-mile (130-km) scenic roadway that was established in 1972, connects Yellowstone with Grand Teton National Park to the south.
Yellowstone is situated in a region that has been volcanically and seismically active for tens of millions of years. Tectonic movement of the North American Plate has thinned Earth’s crust in the area, forming a hot spot (a place where a dome of magma, or molten rock, comes close to the surface). About 2.1 million years ago a subsurface magma dome that had been building up in the Yellowstone area blew up in one of the world’s most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. Some 600 cubic miles (2,500 cubic km) of rock and ash were ejected, equivalent to about 6,000 times the amount of volcanic material that was released during the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980.
(Observations made in the early 21st century indicated that this single eruption actually consisted of two events about 6,000 years apart: one very large and a second much smaller one. Subsequent massive eruptions occurred about 1,300,000 and 640,000 years ago—the last event (consisting in large part of lava flows) producing about two-fifths as much material as the first one.
Yellowstone’s relief is the result of tectonic activity (volcanism and earthquakes) combined with the erosional actions of ice and water. Most of the park consists of broad volcanic plateaus with an average elevation of about 7,875 feet (2,400 metres). Three mountain ranges, each aligned roughly north to south, protrude into the park: the Gallatin Range in the northwest, the Absaroka Range in the east, and the northern extremity of the Teton Range along the park’s southwestern boundary. The tallest mountains in the park are in the Absarokas, where many summits exceed elevations of 10,000 feet (3,050 metres). The range’s Eagle Peak, on the park’s boundary in the southeast, is the high point, reaching 11,358 feet (3,462 metres).
America’s First National Park
How did Yellowstone get its name?
It’s named after the Yellowstone River, the major river running through it. The river gets its name from the Minnetaree Indians, who called it Mi tse a-da-zi, or Yellow Rock River, most likely due to the yellowish formations of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The name was passed on to French trappers, who called it Roche Jaune, later rendered by American trappers as Yellow Stone.
How big is Yellowstone National Park?
Well, it’s larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. It covers 3,472 square miles, which includes over 1,000 miles of trails, 52 picnic areas, 900 historic buildings and about 290 waterfalls.
Is Yellowstone the largest national park?
No. More than half of Alaska’s national park units are larger, including Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, which is the largest unit (13 million acres) in the National Park System.
What is the highest peak in the park?
At 11,358 feet, Eagle Peak in the southeastern part of Yellowstone is the highest.
Is Yellowstone the most visited national park?
Yellowstone is in the top five national parks for number of recreational visitors.
Is swimming allowed in Yellowstone’s rivers, lakes and geothermal features/hot springs?
Swimming is not recommended in most lakes and streams because they can be dangerously cold. Firehole Canyon, near Madison Junction, has a swimming area popular in summer. Soaking in thermal features is illegal. However, the Boiling River—north of Mammoth Hot Springs—where a large hot spring enters the Gardner River, allows the hot and cool waters to mix into a temperature comfortable enough to soak in.
How many geysers are in the park?
Yellowstone has more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, 500 of which are are geysers (300 active ones). That’s over half of all the world’s geysers.
When does Old Faithful erupt?
Basic prediction of Old Faithful is dependent upon the duration of the previous eruption. The average eruption is every 92 minutes. During visitor center hours, geyser statistics and predictions are maintained by the naturalist staff.
Just how hot is the water in Old Faithful?
During an eruption, the water temperature at the vent has been measured at 204°F (95.6°C). The steam temperature has been measured above 350°F.
Speaking of eruptions, what’s this business about a supervolcano?
The Yellowstone Caldera is a volcanic caldera and a dormant supervolcano located within the park. A “supereruption” from the Yellowstone Supervolcano is not predicted to happen anytime remotely soon.
And while we’re talking about volcanos, what’s the deal with earthquakes in the park?
Yellowstone experiences 1,000 to 2,000 minor earthquakes every year. But fear not…the chances of feeling one are pretty slim.
Is there a lot of wildlife in the park?
Yes. Yellowstone National Park is home to 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, 16 species of fish, six species of reptiles, five species of amphibians and more than seven aquatic nuisance species.
Will I see a lot of wildlife in the park?
That depends on where you are, how long you’re here, what season it is and what kind of mood the wildlife is in.
Why is Yellowstone called Yellowstone?
Contrary to popular belief, Yellowstone was not named for the abundant rhyolite lavas in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone that have been chemically altered by reactions with steam and hot water to create vivid yellow and pink colors. Instead, the name was attributed as early as 1805 to Native Americans who were referring to yellow sandstones along the banks of the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana, several hundred miles downstream and northeast of the Park.
When will the next large earthquake occur in Yellowstone?
Why are there so many earthquakes at Yellowstone?
How hot is Yellowstone?
How fast is the hotspot moving under Yellowstone?
Can we use the heat from Yellowstone for energy?
What is the relationship between volcanism and the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone?
Steaming Geyser Basins
On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders. While fall colors, migrating birds, and snow squalls signal winter’s approach, the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone continue boiling, steaming, and erupting.
Yellowstone is as wondrous as it is complex. The park is at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where nature and culture abound.
The National Park Service works to preserve Yellowstone for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of all people. We are not alone in this endeavor—park partners, volunteers, and visitors all help. Learn how to get involved, the park’s strategic priorities, and substantial successes and challenges over the past two years in the State of the Park report.