Yellowstone, Wyoming on the map. National Park Yellowstone (Wyoming state) on the map of US

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Yellowstone, Wyoming on the map. National Park Yellowstone (Wyoming state) on the map of US

Far right: Old Faithful-Yellowstone's most famous geyser. Park visitors count on its regularity, and approximately every hour it delights with an impressive performance of water bursting skyward.

Facing page: The Yellowstone River roars down the falls and through the steep-walled Grand Canyon.

Below: At cliff's edge, a small group of bison stand cloaked in steam.

 

Yellowstone, Wyoming

Established: 1872   Acreage: 2,221,766

The world's first national park—Yellowstone—is located in three states; 96 percent is in Wyoming, three percent in Montana and one percent in Idaho. Yellowstone is a treasure that inspires awe in travellers from around the globe. Although New Zealand and Iceland are known for their geysers, nowhere in the world are there as many active ones as in Yellowstone—200 to 250.

At the heart of Yellowstone's past, present and future is volcanic activity. The magmatic heat from several eruptions, ranging from two million to 600,000 years ago, still powers the park's famous geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. Surface water seeps down into porous rock layers to be heated under pressure and then rises back up as geysers or hot springs. Old Faithful is the world's best-known geyser, whose eruption intervals have long varied around an average of 65 minutes. The world's largest geyser, Steamboat, erupts at irregular intervals of days to years.

Yellowstone has the highest concentration of large and small mammals in the lower 48 states, including the American bison, elk, grizzly and black bears, coyotes, bighorn sheep, mule deer, squirrels and marmots. Bird species include osprey, pelican, trumpeter swan and green-wing teal. In addition, Yellowstone is home to 11 species of fish, five species of reptiles and four species of amphibians. The park also boasts a variety of vegetation types, from near-desert vegetation to subalpine meadows and forests. Although the park has 370 miles of paved roads, the best way to enjoy Yellowstone is on the 1000 miles of trails through the backcountry.

Ancient campsites and stone artifacts found in the park indicate that man has lived on the Yellowstone Plateau for most of the 8500 years since the last Ice Age. At the time written records began (a mere 150 years ago), the only Indians living in the park area were a mixed group of Shoshone and Bannock who, lacking the horses and guns necessary to compete with neighboring tribes, had retreated into the mountains to live furtive, impoverished lives. Yellowstone's recent history resonates with colorful tales of fur trappers, miners, surveyors, photographers and artists. The briefly flourishing fur trade in the Rocky Mountains brought such men as John Colter, Jim Bridger and Joe Meek into the area, but a growing scarcity of good furs, along with changing fashions, ended the fur trade around 1840. Twenty years later, the discovery of gold in Montana brought in exploring parties of miners. In 1869, a different type of exploration, based on curiosity, began. William Henry Jackson's photographs and Thomas Moran's sketches influenced Congress to establish the park, an act which influenced countries throughout the world to preserve their own natural treasures. The disasterous forest fires of 1988 burned one million acres, 1600 square miles of Yellowstone's timberland—nearly half of the park's area.

Yellowstone, Wyoming on the map. National Park Yellowstone (Wyoming state) on the map of US