Photo above: Pink Cone Geyser at sunset in Yellowstone National Park. Newsflash - Steamboat Geyser erupts after years. Watch now. Sometimes dormat for up to 50 years; sometimes erupting 29 times in one year. Amazing nature at its finest.
Yellowstone National Park
It was the nation's first national park over one hundred thirty years ago, starting the trend of protecting the natural and historic treasures of the United States of America that now span the nation from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, and for many, the eldest and still the best. Dedicated in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, the bounteous beauty of this huge park encompasses a natural landscape that includes so many features, it almost seems superfluous to list them. Geysers, paint pots, majestic waterfalls that dip between rocky cliffs and verdant green forests, and a collection of wildlife in such a large habitat that it almost seems endless; bison (over 3,500 of them according to the latest census), grizzly bear, wolf, moose, and elk, to name a few. They trod over this amazing landscape, culled from a huge volcanic eruption only 640,000 years ago, beside visitors pulled from all corners of the world and all walks of life.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
When you glide through one of the entrance gates of Yellowstone National Park for the first time, a sense of wonder invades your spirit. Catch a glimpse of a large moose standing in a river below the next turn and a tingle spins up your spine. See a mother bear trot her cubs in front of the family car, suv, or recreational vehicle and you're going to wonder why you ever thought going to the mall for shoes was part of a vacation. And that's before you get to the parts of the park where steam hisses into the atmosphere and deposits liquid to earth in colorful hues only a magical painter could create. Then look across the barren landscape toward a group of buffalo who thought warming themselves in the steam was just the greatest thing on the planet to do. Later, when the day gets long and you feel a bit tired, stumble down the park roads into the construction inside Yellowstone, the historic Old Faithful Inn for example, and open the front door. Almost impossible not to marvel at the logs of lodging pulled from these woodlands that is awe-inspiring to say the least. You may not even want to sleep.
Yellowstone is a very large park, three thousand four hundred square miles of wilderness, (almost three times the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined) and will take more than a couple days to see even one percent of it. It is a geothermal panoply of more geysers and springs than are found anywhere else on earth.
How popular has Yellowstone been over the years. Well, recreational visits have been counted since 1904 when 13,727 people came to the park. By 1915, over 50,000 came for the first time. In 1923, 138,352 recreational visitors found the environs of Yellowstone to their liking for the first year over 100,000, but it took only six years for that number to swell to over 200,000. By 1940, 526,437 took in park sites, and six years after that, with a significant dip during the war years in between, over one million visitors were counted. It took until 1965 for over two million to show up and until 1992 for 3 million to come for the first time. Since then, just over or under 3 million recreational visitors have come to Yellowstone every year on a Yellowstone vacation.
Photo above: Old Faithful from the patio of the Old Faithful Inn. Courtesy National Park Service, Jim Peaco.
Yellowstone National Park Then
Old Faithful Geyser - The most famous of the geysers in the park, Old Faithful erupts punctually, now at 80 minute intervals. Spraying water and steam one hundred and eighty feet in the air, each show last from one to five minutes and is well worth the wait. Old Faithful's timetable has changed over the years, the most recent being in 1998 when an earthquake added four minutes to the span. Thirty years ago, the time span between eruptions was even shorter, at about sixty-five minutes. What the eruption time was in 1872, the first year of the park's existence and shown in the photograph below from one of Hayden's surveys, is anyone's guess.
Old Faithful Inn - The massive sixty-five foot ceiling engulfs the rustic lobby of this inn that was built in the winter of 1903-4 and now contains 327 guest rooms. The Inn was financed by the Northern Pacific Railway at a cost of $140,000 for construction. It was designed by Robert C. Reamer, whose other works in national park architecture included the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the Grand Canyon Hotel. The inn overlooks the Old Faithful Geyser basin.
History of Yellowstone National Park Itself - Congress approved the creation of the park on March 1, 1872, but it was the photographs and work of several expeditions, the last in 1871 by Ferdinand Hayden and renowned photographer William H. Jackson that convinced Congress that this geothermal anomoly just had to be protected.
Nez Perce Indian Trail 1877 - On August 23, 1877, seven hundred Indians from the Nez Perce tribe entered Yellowstone National Park as they fled the six hundred man Army troops of General Howard, who was attempting to round the Nez Perce onto reservation land after they had left the Wallowa Valley in June. After battling at Big Hole, their flight through Yellowstone included the killing and capture of several by the Nez Perce, before they headed north toward Canada and capture by General Nelson Miles. All told, the Nez Perce flight to avoid capture had taken them 1,700 miles.
Mammoth Hot Springs - This heralded historic attraction drew visitors to an early commerical attraction due to its mineral waters and later became home to Fort Yellowstone, whose buildings housed the U.S. Army cavalry from 1891 to 1918. They had been sent there in 1886 to safeguard the park from developers, souvenir hunters, and opportunists. These buildings are now historic attractions themselves.
Yellowstone National Park Now
Today's Nature - The colors that erupt from the paint pots and geysers almost seem as if they are from another planet. At Clepsydra, the "water clock" geyser, it erupts continuously into a pool of yellow and green. For those with a more traditional natural bent, the spectacular Lower Yellowstone Falls spills into verdant green valleys and visitors can often walk out onto an overlook just a few feet from the rushing waters. Near the grand Old Faithful Inn, the most famous natural attraction of them all at Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Geyser is still around, now erupting every eighty minutes to the delight of millions of tourists every year.
Photo above: Valley of the Yellowstone, 1871, by William Henry Jackson, Hayden Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Yellowstone National Park
1. The film, "The Challenge of Yellowstone" a twenty-five minute presentation on the history of Yellowstone and the national parks idea, at the Albright Visitor Center.
2. Take in an everning program from the Rangers at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.
3. How about taking in the wild west side of Yellowstone, with western cookouts, stagecoach rides, and even horseback trail tours.
4. Find the Fountain Paint Pots, located south of Madison on the way to Old Faithful. It is a real treat.
5. At almost every turn it seems, trails and boardwalks dip from parking areas into the Yellowstone panorama. Take these walks and marvel at their sites. They include Old Faithful Geyser Loop and Mystic Falls, plus a wide variety of others. Ask at each visitor center what the best each area has to offer.
6. On your way to the park, check out the gateway towns, including West Yellowstone, Montana, where history abounds at places like the Yellowstone Historic Center. The Yellowstone Historic Center, a ten acre complex that tells the history of the park from a distinct point of view; the tours and their historic stagecoach, train, and bus transport.
Photo above: Lion Group in winter at Yellowstone National Park. Courtesy National Park Service, Jim Peaco.