10 Things You May Not Know about Yellowstone National Park

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Act of Dedication, creating Yellowstone as the world’s first national park and setting aside over 2 million acres of land for conservation. After early adventurers explored this now famous region in the northwest corner of modern-day Wyoming, editors refused to publish the accounts of their journey thinking that such a place could only be fiction. Now, as we mark the sesquicentennial of “the Serengeti of North America,” check out these 10 facts you may not know about Yellowstone National Park.

1. 2021 was the busiest year on record with 4.86 million visitors to Yellowstone National Park. July 2021 also marked the first time ever that 1 million visitors arrived in one month.

2. Standing at the north entrance in Gardiner, Montana, the Roosevelt Arch reads, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.” President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone. During the outdoorsman’s presidency, Roosevelt established five national parks, including Crater Lake, Wind Cave, and Mesa Verde.

3. Named by Nathaniel P. Langford, Old Faithful doesn’t keep an exact schedule but still erupts with boiling water on an average of every 74 minutes, rising 100-180 feet in the air. Eruptions occur within 10 minutes of the prediction 90% of the time with an eruption lasting between 1.5 to 5 minutes.

4. At over 7,700 feet above sea level, Lake Yellowstone is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America. The lake contains 110 miles of shoreline and reaches nearly 400 feet at its greatest depth.

5. At the heart of the park is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a 24-mile long canyon carved by the Yellowstone River that’s highlighted by two spectacular waterfalls. With a 308 foot plunge, the Lower Yellowstone Falls is nearly twice the height of Niagara Falls. The Upper Falls are 109 feet high.

6. Located at the northern edge of the park, the Mammoth Hot Springs is a complex of beautiful travertine terraces made of crystallized calcium carbonate. Often having a white appearance, travertine is a limestone that was used in the building of the Roman Colosseum and is still used in architecture today.

7. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. Located in the Midway Geyser Basin, the vibrant Grand Prismatic is 370 feet in diameter and 160 feet deep. At around 130 degrees Fahrenheit, the red outer-ring is the coolest and contains the most diverse community of bacteria, while the deep-blue water in the middle is the warmest around 190 degrees.

8. From grizzly bears to bald eagles, Yellowstone is home to more than 200 species of animals, including nearly 60 species of mammals alone. The most popular animals for viewing include bison, wolves, bears, and elk. The best places for viewing wildlife in the park are the Hayden Valley in the northeast and the Lamar Valley between the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake.

9. Over the years, humans have learned how even their best intentions can jeopardize natural order. Many early visitors were thrilled by feeding “beggar bears” who would stand on their two-back feet to be fed, a practice that was finally stopped in 1970. In the parks early history, wolves were killed by rangers in an attempt to limit their destruction of other animals. By the 1970s, wolves were non-existent in Yellowstone, and the gray wolf was listed as endangered. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, and the park’s ecosystem has recovered since their arrival.

10. One of the more rewarding day hikes in Yellowstone is a six-mile there-and-back trail to the top of Mount Washburn. Those who make it to the summit of the 10,259-foot peak are rewarded with stunning views of the northern section of the park and the Teton Range to the south on clear days.

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