Yellowstone was placed under protection in 1872 and is the oldest national park on earth. The Yellowstone River has cut into a 300 m deep gorge in the almost 9000 km² large, volcanic area. The park is of impressive beauty with up to 4000 m high mountains, forests, rivers, lakes and around 300 geysers. The best known is certainly the Old Faithful Geyser, which shoots a 30 m high water fountain into the sky every 60 to 90 minutes.
Yellowstone National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Yellowstone National Park|
|Natural monument:||since 1872 national park with 8983.59 km², of which 6500 km² is forest; formed by three cycles of eruptions 2.2 million, 1.2 million and 630,000 years ago; approximately 250 active geysers and 10,000 thermal formations; largest North American lake at 2375 m height the 119 m deep Yellowstone Lake (371.27 km²)|
|Country:||USA, Wyoming / Montana / Idaho|
|Location:||southern part of the Rocky Mountains, south of Great Falls|
|Meaning:||a “reference work” of volcanic activity over the past 55 million years with impressive geothermal activity|
|Flora and fauna:||80% forest area, predominantly rotary pines; more than 1,000 other plant species, including seven conifer species and Agrotis rossae, a grass species found only in Yellowstone; around 200 grizzly bears, as well as black bears, bisons, bighorn sheep, elks, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, pronghorns, white-tailed, mule and elk deer, mountain goats|
America’s steamy witch’s kitchen
The hunter and trapper John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) to the hitherto unknown American Northwest, was believed to be the first white man to see the natural wonders of Yellowstone. When he talked about geysers and bubbling mud pools after his return to civilization, his stories were taken for pipe dreams. Another expedition to the Rocky Mountains was soon undertaken on behalf of the government, which confirmed the incredible stories upon their return. In 1872, the US Congress finally decided to establish Yellowstone as the first national park in the world, thereby realizing a nature conservation idea that has now become popular.
The national park in the northwest of the state of Wyoming is about 80% covered by forests. The largest lake is Yellowstone Lake, created by volcanic and glacial forces. From here the Yellowstone River flows north through the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with the water plunging into the depths over two magnificent falls.
Even if the wooded landscape may be picturesque, the park became world famous for its thermally active areas, the truly “hot regions” of the Rocky Mountains. 600,000 years ago a huge eruption blew itself up there. After this natural disaster, only a huge crater basin remained of the former fire mountain. The earth’s crust is only a few kilometers thick in this so-called “caldera”. Through cracks and fissures, water penetrating the ground can heat up so much that it evaporates and shoots up from the depths as a fountain. From time immemorial, the Old Faithful Geyser has been predictably spewing a column of boiling water up to 30 meters high into the sky about every 65 minutes. After this short-lived spectacle, the most famous of the Yellowstone geysers prepares for its next appearance. But the earth is also working incessantly in other places: gray mud simmers in troughs in the earth – Mud Volcanoes. Elsewhere, gases hiss from crevices in the earth and leave sulfur-yellow deposits in their surroundings. For more than a century, the Excelsior geyser in the Midway Geyser Basin has not been discharging with tremendous forces, no longer rising high into the sky, but instead lets its boiling water flow from the earth’s interior into a seething basin year in and year out – around 15 per minute 000 liters. The “Grand Prismatic Spring” hot spring has created a shallow pond, the bottom of which has transformed differently colored bacteria and algae into a breathtaking “palette of colors”. Another way of showing the power of the earth is at Mammoth Hot Springs at the northwest exit of the park. The heavily calcareous water flowing out there gave rise to sintered terraces. It seems as if vanilla ice cream from an underground confectioner’s kitchen has penetrated to the surface of the earth and solidified.
In addition to thermal activities, Yellowstone has made a name for itself as one of America’s most beautiful wildlife sanctuaries. In many cases one encounters stately herds of bison. These shaggy giants, which were practically exterminated in the USA towards the end of the 19th century, apparently feel particularly at home in Yellowstone and have increased steadily, so that there are now more than 2000 animals. Gray wolves, which disappeared from this part of the Rocky Mountains and were released years ago, roam individually and in smaller packs. Long-lasting yodelling calls are an unmistakable sign that the elk stags are in heat. Every now and then you can hear a muffled roar for hours: in their rank fights, bighorn rams beat with their horns. Sluggish and always taking in the weather, moose roam in search of tasty greenery. In clearings that offer sufficient cover, extremely shy mule deer graze, always on the lookout for their natural predator, the coyotes.
The king of the animals is the grizzly bear, who lives mainly on carrion and prefers sick and weak prey, which he can bring down with a single swipe of the paw. North American black bears are not safe from him either.