Yellowstone National Park
Peace and beauty abound in the rich landscape of this high plateau. The diversity of this place is hard to imagine - high mountain terrain to low sweeping valleys, deep gorges to geyserland - there is much to see and many, many miles of park about you. From bison to bears, geysers to colorful canyons, open meadows to endless stands of lodgepole pine, delicate shooting star wildflowers and hearty sagebrush - awaken your senses to the power of nature at work!
“Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher." - William Wordsworth
Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and an international symbol of natural preservation. Within the 2.2 million acres of this wild place, there are more geysers and hot springs than anywhere else in the world. Yellowstone protects the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states. The reintroduction of the gray wolf in 1995 brought all the large animals species together again and created an ecosystem that had all of its players back in their roles, reflecting the richness of historic times as it was when the first European Americans arrived in the west. Yellowstone not only protects animals and geysers, it also protects our ideas about wildness and it’s importance to the human soul.
“A thousand Yellowstone wonders are calling, look up and down and round about you. Then, with a fresh heart, go down to your work, and whatever your fate, you will remember these fine, wild views, and look back with joy to your wanderings in the blessed old Yellowstone Wonderland.” —John Muir
Above photos by Anna Nichols
1. Is Yellowstone the biggest 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 in the National Park System at 13 million acres. Until recently, Yellowstone, at 2.3 million acres, was the largest national park in the contiguous states. But in 1994, Death Valley National Monument was expanded and became a national park; it has more than 3 million acres.
2. How cold is Yellowstone in the winter?
Average winter highs are 20 – 30°F; average lows are 9 – 0°F. The record low was –66 °F at Madison on February 9, 1933.
3. What is the highest peak in Yellowstone?
Eagle Peak is the highest with an altitude of 11,358 feet.
4. Were Native Americans afraid of geysers?
Not at all. The affiliated tribes of Yellowstone state and their people have used the park as a place to live, to collect food and other resources, and as a passage through to the bison hunting grounds of the Great Plains.
5. Where are the bears?
People who visited Yellowstone prior to the 1970s often remember seeing bears along roadsides and within developed areas of the park. Although observing these habituated bears was very popular with park visitors, it was not good for the people or the bears. In 1970, the park initiated an intensive bear management program to return the grizzly and black bears to feeding on natural food sources and to reduce bear-caused human injuries. Among the measures: garbage cans were bear-proofed and garbage dumps within the park were closed. Bears are still sometimes seen near roads and they may be viewed occasionally in the wild. Grizzly bears are active primarily at dawn, dusk, and night. In spring, they may be seen around Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, and the East Entrance chasing after the trout spawning creeks in these areas. In mid-summer, bears are most commonly seen in the meadows between Tower Roosevelt and Canyon, and in the Lamar Valley. Black bears are most active at dawn and dusk, and sometimes during the middle of the day. Look for black bears in open spaces within or near forested areas. They are most commonly observed between Mammoth, Tower, and the Northeast Entrance.
6. What is the caldera line on the park map?
The caldera line marks the rim of a crater, or caldera, created by a massive volcanic eruption in Yellowstone approximately 640,000 years ago (this date changes as scientists fine-tune their ability to determine events in geologic time). Subsequent lava flows filled in the crater.
7. What is the Continental Divide?
The Continental Divide is the crest of the continent. Theoretically, when precipitation falls on the west side of the Divide, it eventually reaches the Pacific Ocean. When it falls on the east side of the divide, it eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
8. What is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?
None. In North America, both terms refer to the American bison. The scientific name is Bison. Early European explorers called this animal by many names. Historians believe that the term “buffalo” grew from the French word for beef, boeuf.
9. How much of the park burned in 1988?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres, or 36 percent of the park. Most of these acres sustained ground surface burns. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.
10. How many rangers work in Yellowstone?
Approximately 180 rangers work in the park during the peak summer season; less than 100 year-round. Park rangers perform duties in interpretation, education, resource management, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and back-country operations. Many other people work in research, maintenance, management, administration, trail maintenance, fire management, and fee collection. In total, approximately 800 people are employed by the National Park Service in Yellowstone.
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