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Superlative Yellowstone

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved By Daryl L. Hunter ~ written for and originally published in The Greater Yellowstone Resource Guide


OK let me dig deep into my reservoir of superlatives to adequately describe Yellowstone National Park, it is big, wild stunningly beautiful, and dynamic. Any description of Yellowstone will be filled with superlatives, yet words can never do it justice, but I will elaborate anyway; Yellowstone has the greatest concentration of thermal features in the world, up until 1,978 Yellowstone was the largest National Park in the country, One of the world’s most spectacular canyons, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and its two majestic waterfalls cut 1,600 feet deep into the golden rhyolite laid down by the last major eruption 600 thousand years ago; as Yellowstone is one of the six super volcanoes of the world. It is home of the world’s second largest high altitude lake nestled in the pit of the Yellowstone caldera; Magnificent mountain scenery rings the unique terrain of the Yellowstone volcanic plateaus. It is home to one of the largest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. And of course, it is home to, perhaps, the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful.

Bison, Old Faithful

Bison, Old Faithful, Thunderstorm, Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park was established on March 1, 1872; Yellowstone is the first and oldest national park in the world because it is such a geological wonder.  It has become a blueprint for National Parks set up worldwide ever since. Preserved within Yellowstone are Old Faithful Geyser and some 10,000 hot springs and geysers, the majority of the planet’s total.

Yellowstone is an outstanding mountain wild land with clean water and air, Yellowstone is home of the grizzly bear and wolf, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. It is the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems remaining on the planet.

Yellowstone’s grand vistas, huge mountains, deep canyons, roaring rivers, expansive lush meadows, high plains, and abundant wildlife have been attracting photographers and sightseers since its inception and possibly before.

Below I have listed a few of Yellowstone’s embarrassment of riches but these barely scratch the surface of what is the comprehensive Yellowstone National Park.

The human history of the park dates back 12,000 years. The events of the last 130 years of park history are reflected in the historic structures, and sites associated with various periods of park administration and visitor facilities development.

With half of the earth’s geothermal features, Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. It’s more than 300 geysers make up two-thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features included brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mud pots, and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other. Geyser land, fairyland, wonderland, through the years, all have been used to describe the natural wonder and magic of this unique park that contains more geothermal features than any other place on earth. Yellowstone’s vast collection of thermal features provides a constant reminder of the park’s recent volcanic past. Indeed, the caldera provides the setting that allows such features as Old Faithful to exist and to exist in such great concentrations.

Yellowstone mega fauna: Yellowstone is widely considered to be the finest mega fauna wildlife habitats in the lower 48 states. Animals found in the park include the majestic American bison (buffalo), grizzly bear, black bear, elk, moose, mule deer, pronghorn, wolverine, bighorn sheep, and mountain lion (puma). The Yellowstone Lake Cutthroat Trout is a highly sought after trophy fish by anglers worldwide.

Behive Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Behive Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

A controversial decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the recent (1995) reintroduction of wolves into the park’s ecosystem. For many years, the wolves were hunted until they become locally extinct in the 1930s. The smaller cousin of the wolf, the coyote, then became the park’s top predator. However, the coyote cannot bring down any large animal in the park and the result of this lack of a top predator on these populations was a marked increase in lame and sick mega fauna. Since the reintroduction of wolves this trend has started to reverse.

Yellowstone Fishing: Yellowstone National Park is managed to protect cultural and natural resources and outstanding scenery, and to provide for visitor use. Angling has been a major visitor activity for over a century. Present regulations reflect the park’s primary purposes of resource protection and visitor use.

Yellowstone is also a science laboratory. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory was created as a partnership among the U.S. Geological Survey, Yellowstone National Park, and University of Utah to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region. The Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field developed through three volcanic cycles spanning two million years that included some of the world’s largest known eruptions. Eruption of the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff about 2.1 million years ago created the more than 75-km-long Island Park caldera. The second cycle concluded with the eruption of the Mesa Falls Tuff around 1.3 million years ago, forming the 16-km-wide Henrys Fork caldera at the western end of the first caldera. Activity subsequently shifted to the present Yellowstone Plateau and culminated 640,000 years ago with the eruption of the Lava Creek Tuff and the formation of the present caldera. Resurgent doming subsequently occurred at both the northeast and southwest sides of the caldera and voluminous intracaldera rhyolitic lava flows were erupted between 150,000 and 70,000 years ago. No magmatic eruptions have occurred since the late Pleistocene, but large phreatic eruptions took place near Yellowstone Lake during the Holocene.

Yellowstone National Park is a focal point for cutting-edge microbiology research and how it provides a valuable setting for outreach education. Extremophiles, microbe diversity and evolution are studied here. Scientists who study extreme environments are drawn to Yellowstone because it contains more active geothermal features than any other location on the planet. Those features are also very diverse. Geothermal environments are obviously very hot, but they offer a variety of chemical extremes, some of which are relevant to applications in bioenergy and bioprocessing.

Researchers looking at thermopile bacterial mats in Yellowstone’s thermal pools discovered a new species that uses chlorophyll to convert the sun’s energy into chemical energy.

Mammoth hot spring travertine terraces

Mammoth hot spring travertine terraces

Scientists found the bacteria, called Candidatus Chloracidobacterium termophilum, in Octopus and Mushroom springs and the Green Finger Pool, not far from Old Faithful. The bacterium grows best in temperatures between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit and could help researchers drastically increase production of biofuels.

I have had the pleasure of living in the Greater Yellowstone Region since 1987 and I find new things every time I venture into the park. When I am not there, I still marvel about the Yellowstone that comes to me via newspaper and computer. Dynamic is and understatement for a place that can both blow us up because of it’s volcanic nature or cure our cancer oddly enough because how its volcanic nature produces microbes that are pivotal in medical research.

As I photographer I find the place and its critters pure magic, as an inquisitor of life I find Yellowstone dynamics is pure fascination, as a fly-fisherman Yellowstone has proven to be nirvana.

So as you can see Yellowstone’s superlatives aren’t hyperbole, this magnificent place deserves them all.



Teton Village on Dwellable

4 thoughts on “Superlative Yellowstone

  1. I would like to spend my summer vacation in Yellowstone park and visit the Geysers Caldera.
    Please send me info how to start such a trip – I live in Miami Florida.

    thank you
    mariana A.Oprea

    • Mariana, if I were you I’d Google up Jackson Hole and stay awhile there then head up to Yellowstone to finish off your vacation. The gateway communities offer cheaper lodging than the park and West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and Silvergate all abut the park.

  2. Dave Tipton says:

    Growing up in Missoula I miss traveling into Yellowstone and Glacier. I now travel up each fall and an occasional spring to get my fix.
    Awesome work, thanks for the inspiration.
    I’ll be there next month, I hope our paths cross.
    Dave Tipton

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