“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred,” was a statement Theodore Roosevelt once said. And Yellowstone National Park is no exception. Many people hold the opinion that Yellowstone is the most famous park of them all. Its many geysers and animals, its hidden supervolcano, and its fascinating history all attest to the glory that is Yellowstone.
What history is hidden beneath this well known tourist sight? Let’s start with the name. Yellowstone was established in 1872, but Minnetaree Indians inhabited Yellowstone long before the Americas were discovered by the English. Author John Hamilton addresses the subject of Yellowstone’s name: “Many people believe the river got its name from the colorful walls of this canyon, but historians have another explanation. North of the park, the river has long stretches of yellow-colored sandstone bluffs that soar above its banks near present-day Billings, Montana. The Minnetaree Indians who lived in the area, called it ‘Mi tsi a-da-zi,’ which means ‘rock yellow river.'” When French fur trappers converted that, it means: “Yellow Stone.” Secondly, after the US became a country, people like Lewis and Clark began to explore westward. Some found gold near Yellowstone while passing through Wyoming and told rumors of its hydrothermal wonders. Curious people moved to the park and came to believe there were evil spirits living there. Lastly, in 1988, a couple of fires grew to hundreds that enveloped much of Yellowstone National Park and left it in ruins, after the fires officially stopped in November. Alas, the damage was done and about 793, 880 acres of Yellowstone was scorched to some extent. This is but a portion of the history hidden in the many attractions of YNP.
What are geysers and what causes them to do what they do? First, there are many geysers in Yellowstone. Over 200 in fact! But what are geysers? Geysers are known as hydrothermal wonders; something extremely abnormal caused by high heat. Boiling water comes shooting out from them high into the air on a daily basis. Next, what causes this spectacle? When water seeps into the earth, it gets super-heated by magma 3 miles below the earth’s crust. The name for this extremely heated layer is called a “hot spot,” an area on earth that is very near magma. The water vapor eventually gets intense enough to either make a new crack in the earth and explode from it, or come out an old one. Two very famous geysers include Old Faithful and Steamboat. Every 78 minutes, Old Faithful shoots 8100 gallons of steaming water 100 feet into the air! Geysers are the defining image for most Yellowstone lovers all around the world.
Animals are an important part of Yellowstone National Park culture. But maybe it wasn’t always so… First, when early settlers came to the “spirit” invested land, they wanted food and game. Wolves, coyotes and cougars also wanted food. YNP’s natural regulation was disturbed massively when every last wolf was killed by greedy colonizers. In 1995, 14 wolves were released and successful repopulated Yellowstone with 300 of the species. 3000 bison also graze there. Second, there’s a history with bears too. 500 black bears and 200 grizzlies roam the national park. Bears began to catch on to the tourists’ style of leaving trash behind and stuck around. The amount of injuries increased as the trash increased. Bear cubs began to grow up knowing where they could get a free meal. Eventually a new policy was made to stop the trash dumps and tourist junk. It worked and the injury amounts lessened significantly. Tertiarily, there are many other animals that live in Yellowstone National Park. They include bighorn sheep, bison, bull elk, and trumpeter swans; grizzly bears, black bears, and begging bears; wolves, cougars, and coyotes. Animals, as always, are critical to Yellowstone.
Ok, there’s geysers, any other hydrothermal stuff? Yes. First, what’s a caldera without a volcano? A caldera is a word meaning “cauldron.” It is a deep crater-like mesh of debris remains. A caldera was made after the latest explosion of the hidden volcano below Yellowstone. This latest explosion is estimated to have been 600,000 years ago. Scientists also estimate it erupted 2 times before that. Next, just how powerful is this volcano? The volcano of Yellowstone National Park is about 10,000 times more powerful than St. Helen’s explosion. The third explosion gained the title supervolcano to the dominant hill. Lastly, because of the easily eruptible magma in early history, plant life was utterly destroyed several times. The effects of this was petrified trees that eventually turned into stone. The Yellowstone Supervolcano has shaped Yellowstone’s appearance and overall image.
“Arguably the world’s most famous park, Yellowstone would appear to hold few secrets. Every year, millions of visitors pour through the park’s entrances. Surely they must cover it all? Nope. They do not. The park’s 3,400 square miles are filled with places rarely visited and seldom seen,” National Geographic says in Secrets of the National Parks; The Experts’ Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail. First, there’s the mud pots. Mud pots are hot springs with little water. These springs are generally very acidic and have many brownish colors. Bubbles form and pop, leaving a rotten egg and sulfur type smell. Second, there’s the canyon. The canyon of Yellowstone has a river flow through it, and there are two waterfalls. The Upper Falls is about a 108 feet drop. Lower Falls is a 308 feet waterfall. A form of hardened lava called rhyolite is on the banks of the Lower Falls. It also gives the sand a yellow color. Finally, 80% of the trees are lodgepole pines, an easily flammable type of tree. Since rain is rare, Yellowstone is usually very dry. This is what caused the great fires of 1988. Above the magma and heat, there is an amazing and fascinating world full of awesome sights.
Animals in abundance; a ticking time bomb; exploding geysers; fascinating and beautiful spots around every corner! That is Yellowstone. The Yellowstone that, as Teddy Roosevelt says, “unmarred,” is full of majestic beauty. The Yellowstone that over time, has become a monument, a major tourist attraction, and a gemstone of lively fire to this dreary earth. That is Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone that many love.