Interesting Facts About Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the United States and the world. As the first national park established in 1872, Yellowstone is known for its rich wildlife, stunning landscapes, and extraordinary geothermal features. Here are some fascinating facts and frequently asked questions about this beloved natural wonderland.
10 Interesting Facts About Yellowstone
- Yellowstone is mainly located in Wyoming but spreads across three states. While 96% of Yellowstone is within Wyoming, the park extends into small areas of Montana and Idaho as well. Yellowstone was the first national park in the world established across multiple jurisdictions.
- Half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone. Thanks to its location atop an active supervolcano, Yellowstone contains over 10,000 geothermal features including iconic geysers, hot springs and fumaroles. Nowhere else on Earth contains such a diversity of these rare features.
- Old Faithful may stop erupting one day. The famous Old Faithful geyser has erupted consistently around every 90 minutes since 2000. However, the geyser’s activity has changed over time and it may eventually cease eruptions if underground hydrothermal activity shifts. Park geologists closely monitor all geysers for activity changes.
- Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high altitude lakes in North America. Centrally located Yellowstone Lake spans 136 square miles and has 110 miles of shoreline. At over 7,700 feet in elevation amidst the Rocky Mountains, this expansive lake is a rare and breathtaking feature.
- The park is one of the last intact large ecosystems in the northern temperate zone. Yellowstone provides unbroken wilderness habitat for a wide array of wildlife year-round, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, moose, elk, and antelope. Protecting this ecosystem is a core part of the park’s mission.
- Millions of people visit annually. As one of America’s most popular national parks, Yellowstone received around 4 million recreational visits in 2021. Even with huge visitation, most visitors congregate in a few key areas allowing the vast majority of the park to remain undisturbed wilderness.
- Yellowstone was a leader in wildlife conservation history. After early overhunting, the park implemented policies in the late 1800s like halting hunting and feeding wildlife artificially. This allowed species like bison to recover from near extinction and helped shape modern conservation ethics.
- The park is seismically active with over 1000-3000 earthquakes annually. Sitting atop the Yellowstone supervolcano, the national park has never-ending small earthquakes and ground deformation. While concerning, this is simply the volcano recharging and does not suggest imminent eruption that would drastically impact the whole globe.
- Winter transforms Yellowstone into a frozen wonderland. Harsh winters help keep crowds down in the cold months. For hardy adventurers, snowcoach and snowmobile tours allow unique winter experiences in the park between December and March. Wildlife viewing remains excellent despite the cold.
- NASA monitors Yellowstone’s ground deformation from space. Using radar satellites, NASA closely tracks minute elevation changes across Yellowstone year-round. Combined with ground data, this helps geologists build detailed models of the volcano’s underground hydrothermal and magmatic system.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big is Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone covers 3,472 square miles, equivalent to over 2.2 million acres. This makes it larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Over 96% of the park sits within Wyoming.
What is the lowest and highest elevation within the park?
The lowest point in Yellowstone is the Reese Creek area at 5,282 feet. The highest point is atop Eagle Peak reaching 11,358 feet, part of the rugged Absaroka Range.
How many visitors does Yellowstone receive each year?
Yellowstone had over 4 million recreation visits in 2021. Visitation generally ranges from 3 to 4 million annually depending on seasonal weather impacting accessibility. Summer is the busiest season.
What is the average temperature in Yellowstone?
Being located at a high elevation, Yellowstone has cold winters and mild summers. Average highs range from 83°F (28°C) in July to 33°F (1°C) in January. Nighttime lows can dip below 0°F (-18°C) in winter.
When did Yellowstone become a national park?
Yellowstone was designated as a national park on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. It was the first national park in the United States and the world, paving the way for global conservation.
How many thermal features are in the park?
Yellowstone contains over 10,000 thermal features. These include an incredible 500 geysers, over 10,000 hot springs, and 200 waterfalls. The most famous geyser is Old Faithful.
What major species live in Yellowstone?
Yellowstone is home to iconic wildlife like grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, cougars, coyotes, bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and more. Protecting this intact ecosystem is crucial.
When will the Yellowstone supervolcano erupt?
Despite occasional concerning activity, experts believe the chances of a major Yellowstone eruption in our lifetimes is extremely small. Lava flows the past million+ years show eruptions every 600,000-700,000 years, and the last was 630,000 years ago.
Is it safe to visit Yellowstone?
Yellowstone is very safe if visitors follow park rules. Dangers include scalding thermal waters, irritated wildlife, and slipping near cliff edges. Stay on marked trails and walkways, maintain distance from wildlife, and exercise caution near features like geysers and hot springs.
What is the best time of year to visit Yellowstone?
Spring (May-June) and fall (September-October) are excellent times with warmer weather and fewer crowds. Wildlife like bears are active but snow remains in higher elevations. Summer is busy with all trails accessible but more crowds. Winter offers a unique experience but very limited access.
That covers some of the most interesting facts and common questions about the magnificent Yellowstone National Park! From its wealth of geothermal features to diverse wildlife, this natural wonder has captivated visitors since becoming America’s first national park 150 years ago.