Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the first and oldest national park in the world, covering nearly 3,500 sq. miles of northwestern Wyoming as well as parts of Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone's South Entrance is approximately 90 miles north of the town of Jackson.
An important, self-sufficient ecosystem and home to a huge variety of free-ranging wild animals - including bison, elk, wolves, moose, and bears (both black and grizzly) - Yellowstone also sits on top of an ancient supervolcano, which scientists believe last erupted about 640,000 years ago. Spewing more than 600 cubic miles of volcanic material into the air (covering most of North America in ash!), a series eruptions over the past 2 million years have created a massive caldera, or volcanic basin, measuring 34 by 44 miles across and nearly three-quarters of a mile deep.
Tall, rugged mountains including the Gallatin, Absorka, Washburn and Beartooth Ranges rim the park's volcanic plateau. Yellowstone also sits on the Continental Divide, with water from its numerous lakes and springs draining towards opposite sides of the United States. As a result, the Snake River and Yellowstone River both have origins within the park; the Snake flows westward towards the Pacific Ocean, and the Yellowstone flows eastward towards the Atlantic. The various rivers in the park have carved their way through the landscape with spectacular results. Most notable is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is 900 feet deep and a half-mile wide in certain spots, with cascading waterfalls and brightly colored red and yellow walls, a result of geothermal and chemical reactions to the iron in the rock.
With easy access to hundreds of miles of roads and even more (seemingly endless!) backcountry trails, Yellowstone is a powerful, beautiful, priceless national resource that everyone should see. It's one of the last places in the world that's truly alive. But words and descriptions only go so far - ultimately, Yellowstone begs to be experienced, explored, and discovered...
- The National Park Service's Official Yellowstone Site
- National Geographic - Pictures and Information for Kids