Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Yellowstone National Park is the flagship of the National Park Service and a favorite to millions of visitors each year. The park is a major destination for all members of the family. By driving the grand loop road, visitors can view the park from the comfort of their vehicle and also take a rest at one of the many roadside picnic areas. For the active visitor, the park has thousands of miles of trails from day hikes to backcountry explorations. The main attractions are all located on the grand loop road and here are some of the top reasons to visit the park.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the most breathtaking sight in Yellowstone National Park. This awe-inspiring canyon can be 4,000 feet wide in some areas and as deep as 1,200 feet. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park was created some 600,000 years ago, when huge volcanic eruptions occurred in the area, emptying a large underground magma chamber. The canyon was blocked by glaciers that formed lakes filled with sand and gravel. When the glaciers melted, the flooding water re-carved the canyon, making it deeper and removing most of the sand and gravel.
Yellowstone Lake State Park is in the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin. This 1,000-acre park, with an additional 455-acre lake offers visitors ample space to enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, biking and picnicking. In winter the park is open to ice fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The lake is stocked with game fish on a regular basis. The park has 128 family campsites, five group sites, nine picnic areas, a reserveable shelter building, a swimming beach, two boat landings, and a canoe launch.
Grand Prismatic Spring
A hot spring, the most common hydrothermal feature of Yellowstone, is an area where heated water can easily rise through cracks and fractures in the earth’s surface. The movement of water is not blocked by mineral deposits. Very hot water cools as it reaches the surface, sinks, and is replaced by hotter water from beneath. This circulation of water is fairly continuous and does not result in geyser eruptions. At Grand Prismatic Springs, siliceous sinter is precipitated from the silica-rich water and is deposited along the edge of the pool. This is represented by the white mineral deposits furthest from the colorful edge of the hot spring.
The breathtaking colors are attributed to the various species of thermophilic bacteria living in the spring. The blue water in the center is very hot, but it may support chemotrophic life (a chemotroph is an organism that uses chemicals for a source of energy.) As you move farther from the heat source of the spring, life begins to flourish. The cyanobacteria and aquatic photosynthesizing bacteria that live at the edges of Grand Prismatic Spring cover the color spectrum including yellow, green, orange, red, and brown.
Old Faithful may be the world’s most famous geyser. Members of the 1870 Washburn Expedition first noticed the geyser’s regular eruptions, and gave it the name it bears today. Oddly enough, Old Faithful is neither Yellowstone’s biggest geyser (Steamboat Geyser is) nor its most predictable, but it has name-brand recognition, and people like watching it so much that more than 85% of Yellowstone visitors stop by to see it go off.
Beehive Geyser is a geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. The 4-foot (1.2 m) tall cone resembles a beehive. Beehive’s Indicator is a small, jagged cone-type geyser located about 10 feet (3.0 m) from Beehive. Eruptions of Beehive Geyser last about 5 minutes and are 200 feet (61 m) high. The fountain maintains its full height for the duration of the eruption, dropping just slightly near the end. A roaring steam phase concludes the eruption and can be heard a quarter-mile away. The interval between eruptions range from 8 hours to one day during the summer. Winter eruptions are very erratic. There are occasions in both summer and winter that there are a series of eruptions that are quite regular. These eruptions have an interval of 10 to 20 hours with longer intervals near the end of the series. As of summer 2009 Beehive was having predictable eruptions every 11 to 14 hrs.
The Terraces, one of Yellowstone’s fastest-changing hydrothermal areas, are one of the world’s few active travertine (limestone) terraces. Building for thousands of years, the terraces at Yellowstone are still growing and their hot springs can deposit up to two tons of travertine daily.