Yellowstone National Park

Intro

Yellowstone National park is located in the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (U.S.). It is one of the most famous national parks in the world (if not the most famous) and may also be the oldest, having been established in 1872. Within an area of 3,468 sq mi (8,983 sq km), visitors can find canyons, lakes, mountain ranges, and rivers. Yellowstone ecosystem is the biggest one in the northern hemisphere to have remained almost intact and it has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

How it Got Here

It is believed that the area is inhabited by humans in the last 11,000. One of the first human cultures to have developed here is the Clovis, a Native tribe who have left different tools for contemporary archaeologists to study. When the region was discovered by European explorers, the area was inhabited by the Crow, Nez Perce, and Shoshone tribes.

As more and more explorers came into the area during the 19th century, the federal government gradually became aware of stories about boiling springs, petrified trees, steaming rivers and spouting water. Later, in 1869, the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition took place-an expedition that involved a systematic observation of the ecosystem, including naming places of interest and collecting specimens. This expedition was followed by the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, conducted by Ferdinand V. Hayden. This expedition collected even more data than the previous one and helped convince the Congress to create the Yellowstone National Park.

Clime

Average temperatures vary significantly by location, as there are important differences in altitude. The average daytime temperature during the summer is 75 °F (23.8 °C), while the average daytime temperature during winter is around 10 °F (-12.2 °C). The differences between daytime temperature and nighttime temperature can be significant, including during the summer.

Precipitations also vary from area and the annual average is 20.38 in (517.6 mm). If you enjoy seeing snow during the summer, you will be glad to know that it is not totally unusual to see snow during July, especially at high altitudes. On average, Yellowstone national park gets 150 in (3,800 mm) of snow per year in areas of lower altitude such as the Yellowstone Lake, and much more at higher altitudes.

geyser in Yellowstone during winter

Geyser in Yellowstone during snow season 

Wild Wild Life

In terms of wildlife diversity, there’s arguably no better place in the U.S. than Yellowstone National Park. There are around 60 mammals, including the bison, bighorn rams, black bear, Canadian lynx, courage, elk, gray wolf, grizzly bear, gray wolf, mountain goat, mountain lion, mule deer, pronghorn, and white-tailed deer.

buffalo bison Yellowstone National Park

American bison that may have seen the camera

As you might suspect, many of those who visit Yellowstone National Park want to see the American bison. While the continent may have once had as many as 60 million bison, today few are left and many of them are located at Yellowstone (around 3,000). The bison found in the park are also rare in the fact that they have not interbred with cattle, which means they are about the same as bison were centuries ago. The bison can move with a relatively high degree of freedom through Yellowstone but making selfies with them is not recommended. When thinking about getting close to bison you must keep in mind the following: they can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (907 kg) and run 35 miles (56 km) an hour!

Yellowstone National Park is also a comfortable habitat for several types of birds, including the common loon, harlequin duck, nesting bald eagles, osprey, the trumpeter swan, and whooping cranes (presumably, only three whooping cranes live in the park!).

whooping crane-americana grus

Whooping cranes

There are six known species of reptiles that live in the park: the bullsnake, common gartersnake, prairie rattlesnake, rubber boa, prairie rattlesnake, and terrestrial gartersnake.

prairie rattlesnake

Prairie rattlesnake

Do you like trees? The Yellowstone National Park has more than 1,700 species, including conifers (e.g., lodgepole pine) and deciduous trees (e.g., quaking aspen). Forests cover around 80% of the park! Do you like flowers? At Yellowstone you will find many, including the arnica, bluebells, glacier lily, yampa, twinflower, and wild strawberry.  A particularly exotic plant is the sand verbena, which can be found in the sandy soils located in the proximity of Yellowstone Lake. This plant is a bit odd in that it is related to species that can be found in significantly warmer climates and nobody understands what is doing at Yellowstone.

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River and pine

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River and pine

Key Locations

Some of the nicest places to visit in Yellowstone are Old Faithful Geyser/Upper Basin, Yellowstone Lake, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, and Lower Geyser Basin. There are plenty of other spectacular places in Yellowstone that are to be covered more extensively in a different place.

The area of Old Faithful Geyser/Upper Basin is particularly interesting due to its high number of geysers, including Castle, Daisy, and Riverside. Some also like the area because it is often visited by bison and elk. The Old Faithful Geyser is arguably the most popular attraction in Yellowstone, as it erupts about every one hour and a half and its eruptions can last as much as 5 minutes. During the eruption it can expel as much as 8,400 gallons/32,000 liters of boiling water. The eruption can reach a height of 184 ft (55 m).

Old Faithful Geyser

Old Faithful Geyser (in action )

Yellowstone Lake covers 136 square miles (350 square km) and has a maximum depth of approximately 390 ft (120 m). The lake offers great views of mountains which are often fully or partly covered in snow. During the winter most of the lake freezes and some people actually prefer the view it offers during its icy days. The popularity of the lake is not only given by the size and the views it offers but also by its rank as the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 ft (2,100 m) in North America.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Gran Canyon of the Yellowstone is another location of the park that both amateur and professional photographs love. The canyon has an approximate length of 20 miles (32 km), a width that varies between 1,500 (457 m) and 4,000 ft (1,219 m), and a depth that varies between 800 (243 m) and 1,200 ft (365 m). The north and the south side of the Canyon offers distinct views, meaning that if you only visit one of the sides you can’t confidently say you have seen everything that this canyon can offer.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Hayden Valley is located in the middle of Yellowstone and it is popular among tourists due to the relatively high presence of grizzly bears, elks, and bison. Driving across the valley is not challenging at all, and the views are quite cool; besides the relatively high chances of seeing wild animals, you can also see the Yellowstone River and-at some turnouts-what many people may call spectacular views.

Hayden Valley and Yellowstone River

Hayden Valley & Yellowstone River

Lower Geyser Basin is about 11 square miles (17 km) and includes many hot springs, as well as geysers that erupt on a regular basis. Another big attraction of this place is the mud pool-which not everyone would find pretty (but some certainly will!) but almost everyone would find it interesting. An important thing you should not miss if visiting the Lower Geyser Basin is the Great Fountain Geyser. This geyser is interesting in that its eruptions are predictable, unlike any other geyser from Yellowstone where a car can take you.

Ojo Caliente thermal spring Lower Geyser Basin

Ojo Caliente, Lower Geyser Basin

Hiking & Camping in Yellowstone National Park

For information and tips about hikes in Yellowstone National Park check here. If you are interested in camping check here.

Explore

 

See Yellowstone National Park and surroundings in 3D with FatMap. Find hiking trails and plan your next trekking day.

Use Google Maps to find any address. Street View or photos available for key locations.

 

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