Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the world, and it is needless to explain its beauty and wonders. Established in 1872, it is the oldest, largest, and most renowned national park in the United States. Not only with its current being, but its historical significance extends further than we can imagine.
Yellowstone National Park has an area of 3,472 square miles in Northwestern Wyoming, Southern Montana, and Eastern Idaho. The park boasts the highest concentration of hydrothermal features on the planet, offering a mesmerizing glimpse into the Earth’s inner workings.
The park has been recognized worldwide and designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1976. Also, it is in the list of World Heritage Sites since 1978. And there are no questions regarding the park’s exceptional value and the need to safeguard its fragile ecosystems.
The environmental phenomena we see in Yellowstone National Park are due to the volcanic and seismic activity impacting the region for millions of years. This park is in a hot spot where magma surges near the surface. It does not need an explanation regarding its formation, caused by cataclysmic volcanic eruptions around 2.1 million years ago. The Yellowstone Caldera reminds us of natural phenomena like ancient eruptions – it is located in the western part of the park.
The volcanic plateaus of Yellowstone are over 7,875 feet, with three major mountains in the region; the Gallatin Range, Absaroka Range, and Teton Range—interrupt the otherwise flat terrain. The Absaroka Range proudly boasts the park’s tallest peaks, some reaching elevations of over 10,000 feet.
Talking about the natural resources and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park, it is home to several animals like elk (wapiti), mule deer, black bears, foxes, coyote, brown (grizzly) bears, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, mountain goats, and moose. Lynx and Pumas are also said to be sighted inside this National Park. It is also home to small mammals like badgers, martens, weasels, river otters, hares, and rabbits.
Reports show that more than 1,350 species of flowering plants are found in the park. Among them, roughly 1,150 species are native. Similarly, around 300 different species of birds have been identified in the park. With its vibrant and diverse ecosystem, the national park has been one of the prime sites for scientific research.
To know more about Yellowstone National Park, please read below!
Indigenous History of Yellowstone
If we look at the history of the Yellowstone Region, it appears that the National Park may seem like an untouched wilderness. But the reality is different – several indigenous people have lived in the Yellowstone region for thousands of years. Before modern humankind discovered the place, 27 Native Tribes inhabited the region and had deep connections.
These tribes were known by names like “Aw’Pawishe” and “Pahaska.” Some tribes lived there year-round, while others visited for trade and ceremonies.
Records show that the Yellowstone region was the major point because of its obsidian, a type of volcanic glass used for tools. Many years ago, people used this material to make tools and weapons to hunt animals for survival. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald found over 50 obsidian quarry sites in the park.
After Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, the Native Americans were banned from entering the premises of the region. Park officials wrongly claimed tribes were scared of the geothermal features. Since the main agenda of establishing the National Park was to conserve wildlife in the region, the officials used park rules to stop them from hunting, fishing, and gathering materials.
The government and park officials saw Indigenous people as trespassers because of Yellowstone’s status as a national park.
Pre-Park Era | What Was It Like?
Yellowstone National Park’s history existed before its establishment. It contains the Yellowstone River’s water system; later, it was named after the same river, making it the first National Park in the world. It was nearly the end of the eighteenth century when the French Trappers visited and discovered the river and named it ‘Roche Jaune.‘ It means ‘Yellow Stone River’ in a Native American Language.
People believe the river was named for the yellow rocks in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. However, the source of the Native American name is still unknown.
Research has found that people have lived around Yellowstone National Park and its surroundings for more than 11,000 years. The habitat for humans started when evolution commenced, and Native Americans began to hunt and fish in the region. At that time, people used the rocks to make tools and weapons, which were even found in places around Yellowstone National Park.
It was 1805 when the Nex Perce, Crow, and Shoshone tribes helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the Yellowstone region to the south. However, the discovery was not done yet. A year later, in 1806, one of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, John Colter, joined a group of fur trappers. During the winter of 1807 and 1808, Colter passed through the region of Yellowstone, where the National Park was established later.
He visited a geothermal area near Tower Fall in the park’s northeastern section during his journey. Then, he battled with the Crow and Blackfoot tribes in 1809. He later described this location as the place of ‘Fire and Brimstone.” People knew this place as ‘Colter’s Hell.’
Several mysterious stories surfaced, including the tales of boiling mud, steaming rivers, and petrified trees. However, most were believed to be a myth, not real.
After forty years, in 1856, Jim Bridger reported observing boiling springs, spouting water, and a glass and yellow rock mountain. However, his reports were ignored as he was a known ‘Spinner of Yarns.’
In 1859, the US Army Surveyor named Captain William F. Raynolds embarked on the survey that included the Yellowstone region. A year later, he included geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden and guide Jim Bridger to traverse the Continental Divide over Two Ocean Plateau from the Wind River drainage in northwest Wyoming.
It wasn’t until 1872 that Yellowstone became the first national park in the world. A geologist named Ferdinand V. Hayden convinced Congress to protect this unique place. Others, like Cornelius Hedges and businessman Jay Cooke, also suggested preserving it for everyone to enjoy.
When Was Yellowstone National Park Established?
A year before the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, Ferdinand V. Hayden completely explored the region. He returned to the Yellowstone region again with a larger expedition team with a campaign named ‘Hayden Geological Survey of 1871.’
This expedition helped Hayden make a comprehensive report, including the photographs by William Henry Jackson and Thomas Moran’s paintings. The report helped to convince the U.S. Congress to withdraw this region from public auction.
A year later, in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law called the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act. This action made the Yellowstone region very special and banned the buying and selling of properties around the region.
The first spark of the idea for creating Yellowstone National Park came into mind after people believed that the government should protect beautiful places. Frederick Law Olmstead, who helped design Central Park in New York City, was one of the initiators to bring ideas to the frontline. He thought the government’s main job was to ensure all citizens could find happiness by being in beautiful natural places like parks. He believed this would unite people and ensure everyone had the same opportunities.
The Yellowstone National Park was established successfully but also brought some problems around the surroundings. The nearby communities were directly impacted by the law of protection, which banned hunting in the Yellowstone region.
And most importantly, the native people were excluded from being allowed to enjoy the park. It was done on purpose; maybe the lawmakers were concerned about the survival of the native people by hunting around the region.
Nowadays, we see Yellowstone in different ways because our understanding of Native rights and history has grown. It’s a place that continues to change and challenge our thoughts. Yellowstone is unique because it’s always evolving, which makes it special. It might not always be comfortable, but it’s an important part of the American experience.
Preservation Efforts In Yellowstone National Park
Several preservation efforts are taken to conserve the ecosystem of the Yellowstone National Park. From energy-saving efforts to water and animal conservation, official conservation efforts and campaigns have been initiated. Some of them are as follows:
Yellowstone National Park is working efficiently for energy conservation. For that, the national park is working to use less energy. If you see the statistics of energy sources in the national park, most of them come from coal and fossil fuels, labeled bad for the environment. But the park is trying to be more efficient with energy and use cleaner, renewable energy sources when possible.
While wandering around Yellowstone National Park, many might observe that the park’s buildings must be more energy-efficient rather than using more energy. Most of the buildings in Yellowstone need upgrades to retain heat during winter and cool air during summer.
Newly established landmarks such as the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center are also energy-efficient, which is the new initiation of this role. This center is certified as ‘green’ since its main motive is to offer services, save energy, and care for the environment.
Similarly, other initiatives include solar power, heating water with the sun, and getting more electricity from water in the future are also included.
The nearby Rocky Mountain West region becomes drier while looking at the climate change and the variations that come with the change in weather. The only source of water to it is Yellowstone region, so Yellowstone National Park needs to save water. It will ensure that people’s daily activities won’t be impacted or harm water supplies.
They use over 250 million gallons of water yearly for drinking, flushing toilets, and cleaning.
As of now, water-saving technology has been introduced to use less drinkable water. Fixing old pipes and replacing toilets and faucets are also the main priority. The Mammoth Hot Springs features big lawns in place since 1902. After a century, in 2012, the officials installed smart controllers to overview whether the weather is rainy or the soil is wet.
This initiation has helped reduce water use by 30%, saving more than 3.5 million gallons yearly.
Yellowstone National Park is vital in reducing waste and protecting the environment. Currently, the park follows the regulations of the EPA and focuses on buying reusable and recyclable materials. The park also makes sure not to have harmful chemicals around the region, and the management committee has already mentioned they don’t need a lot of energy to make or transport.
The Yellowstone National Park Committee uses paper made partly from old paper for the official work. These paper towels are made from 100% recycled paper. In addition, the use of plastics has also been minimized significantly. The porch replacement in 2014 was one of the notable campaigns for waste reduction. This has helped them manage the use of products either by recycling or reusing them for other work.
How To Reach Yellowstone National Park?
There are several ways to reach Yellowstone National Park. The first is by air, and the second is by public transportation like bus or rented car. But the best way to reach the National Park is to fly to Yellowstone and hire a car. Here are some of the nearby airports that offer access to Yellowstone National Park:
Yellowstone Airport (WYS) is the nearest airport to the National Park. It is a seasonal airport one mile from downtown West Yellowstone, Montana. Stated seasonal one, it is only open from June to September.
If you look forward to reaching Yellowstone National Park by flight, you can book your tickets from Delta Airlines and its partner, SkyWest Airlines. These Airlines usually operate their flight from Salt Lake City.
Yellowstone Regional Airport
The Regional Airport of Yellowstone (COD) is another nearby airport. Most people confuse it with the Yellowstone Airport in West Yellowstone.
The regional airport is in Cody, Wyoming, on the national park’s west side. The east entrances of the park are closed during winter, so this airport is the only option that provides access to the park from late Spring to Mid-fall.
You can get to Yellowstone National Park via Delta Airlines and United Airlines.
(News Release) If you plan to travel to Yellowstone this summer, #PlanLikeAParkRanger to protect yourself and this wild and awe-inspiring place. Follow the top 10 things to know to enjoy your visit and protect the park for generations to come! Learn more: https://t.co/olr1UgJjOn pic.twitter.com/sHQgGljn4u
— Yellowstone National Park (@YellowstoneNPS) May 25, 2023
Jackson Hole Airport
Another nearby airport is Jackson Hole Airport, located near Jackson, Wyoming. This airport is open every year, and Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines operate the service.
During the peak season, like summer, people reach Yellowstone National Park from all over the United States. But the rest of the year, flights are operated from Salt Lake City, Denver, and Dallas/Fort Worth. This Airport is the only airport located in a national park.
Besides flying via the airport, Yellowstone is also accessible by car. However, the main problem is that there are no routes for public transportation to Yellowstone or around Yellowstone National Park. The management committee of the national park labels this as one of the contributing factors to overcrowding issues in the park.
But you can get a train to the closest train station, Amtrak Station in Salt Lake City. You can get 5-day park tours with all transportation and accommodations from Salt Lake City via several travel agencies.
Another option you can opt for is to get Greyhound Bus Lines to Bozeman, Montana. But there are no public transportation services to the park from Bozeman. During the winter, Xanterra offers shuttles from Bozeman to the Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel and Cabins.
How is Yellowstone National Park a hub for Scientific Research?
Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first National Park, is home to numerous species of wildlife, birds, and other living creatures. It’s evident that it is one of the few places on earth that has been less affected by human alteration, and it’s rich in pristine nature and a unique ecosystem.
It is undoubtedly the perfect landscape to conduct various scientific and research studies. It is acknowledged as one of the sanctuaries of educational resources, which need protection.
The national park has attracted many scientists worldwide to study its natural being and ecosystem. Similarly, the natural phenomena observed in the park raise a curiosity to study the science behind it.
Scientific researchers have found that the Yellowstone region sits on a supervolcano. The hydrothermal features, unique to see, are caused by an underground caldera. It has surely been one of the unique sites for scientific studies, especially for geologists.
The research of its geology, environment, and natural being has been led for over 150 years.
While physical sciences are a significant focus, the park’s remarkable wildlife and biology draw most scientists. Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystem has helped biologists to study plants and animals without human interference.
In 2019 alone, more than 145 permits were issued for scientific research around the Yellowstone region. This research was closely supervised by National Park Service staff. Some of the researches that were performed at Yellowstone National Park are:
- Physical Sciences: 27%
- Biology (wildlife, vegetation): 31%
- Microbiology: 23%
- Ecology: 15%
- Other: 4%
Yellowstone National Park Photo Gallery
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Frequently Asked Questions
How far is Glacier National Park from Yellowstone?
Yellowstone National Park is around 367.8 miles far from Glacier National Park. It requires a 6.5-hour drive from Glacier National Park to reach there.
When does Yellowstone National Park open in 2023?
Yellowstone National Park has already been open in 2023 from May 19. You can get there to cherish the natural beauty of the Yellowstone region and the diverse flora and fauna.
How many waterfalls are in Yellowstone National Park?
There are around 300 Yellowstone waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. Some are Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River, Tower Falls, Mystic Falls, Union Falls, Lewis Falls, and others.
When is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park?
You can visit Yellowstone National Park all year round, but considering the best time to visit depends on your interest. While Spring and fall offer mild weather and fewer crowds, summer is ideal for wildlife viewing and winter for snow sports.
What are the park’s main attractions?
The main attractions of Yellowstone National Park include the Old Faithful geyser, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and an array of hot springs, mud pots, and geysers.
Can I see wildlife in Yellowstone?
Of course, Yellowstone National Park is home to several wildlife, including bison, elk, bears, wolves, and others. Around 1,350 species of flowering plants (roughly 1,150 native) are discovered in the park. Similarly, around 300 different species of birds have been identified in the park.
Can I swim in the hot springs or geysers?
No, swimming in the hot springs or geysers is strictly prohibited. The water in these features is scalding hot and can cause severe burns or even death.
Can I collect rocks, plants, or other natural items as souvenirs?
No, collecting rocks, plants, or other natural items in Yellowstone National Park is illegal. Leave everything as you found it to help preserve the park’s natural beauty.