Attractions in Yellowstone Park
geysers, steam vents, and hot springs to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
©Kevin Sanders 2004
made the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh He rested...I'd
like to think that on the seventh day while He rested, He slept and
dreamed of a wild and beautiful place. And when he awoke, there was
a grizzly and a land we now call Yellowstone."
There are 7 major areas, or districts
within Yellowstone Park where all of the major attractions are found.
Most will be located on the "lower loop".
in 1872, Yellowstone Park is the first national park established in
America and remains one of the largest; encompassing 2.2. million
acres or 3,472 square miles.
larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and lies
in three states - Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Some 350 miles of paved
road wind through the park, crossing the Continental Divide three
times and looks much like a figure 8; the upper and the lower grand
Elevations range from
approximately 5,300 feet to almost 12,000 feet. Most roads lie at
around 8,000 feet.
The Madison district
is best known for its fly fishing, and wildlife.
district is where you will spend most of your time viewing geysers,
hot springs, steam vents "fumaroles", and paint pots, views
along the Firehole River as well as wildlife.
The Lake district would
include Yellowstone Lake as well as hot springs, fumaroles, and possibly
Within the Canyon
district you will find one of the better high elevation grazing meadows
in Yellowstone; Hayden Valley. Your best bet at finding a bison during
August. The Canyon district is also best known for its famous waterfalls,
deep canyon, high elevation mountain pass and sweeping vistas as well
as bears, elk and other wildlife.
The Norris district
will include Norris Geyser basin, one of the more dynamic geothermal
basins within Yellowstone as well as open meadow scenes with wildlife
and views along the Gibbon River.
is home to Yellowstone Park headquarters and historical buildings
as well as wildlife, and the famous travertine terraces.
The Tower / Roosevelt
district is best known for its wildlife, waterfall and river scene
as well as geologic evidence left behind by past volcanic eruptions.
This district is considered low elevation for Yellowstone, and is
spring/winter range for numerous specie of wildlife.
- Mention Yellowstone Park and
visitors usually think first of "Old Faithful." Fact is, Old Faithful
is only one of 10,000 unique thermal features found in the 2.2
million acre park. The world's greatest concentration of geothermal
features is located in Yellowstone - hot springs, steam vents,
mud pots, and about 250-300 geysers.
- The number of geysers
can vary almost daily due to earthquake activity. Each time the
park experiences a quake, much of the underground plumbing system
changes or shifts which then effects many of the geysers in the
- A classic example of
this change in activity can be found at Echinus geyser located
at Norris Geyser basin. In the mid-80's Norris received a 3.5
quake which triggered a very active and predictable eruption schedule
for Echinus. Then in May of 1999 Norris received a 4.5 quake which
then made Echinus unpredictable and at the same time created new
activity just uphill at the worlds largest geyser; Steamboat.
Update: Steamboat erupted for the first time in 10 years on May
4th, 2000! and has erupted once per year since then.
Old Faithful Geyser
Yellowstone park, as a whole, possesses
close to 60 percent of the world's geysers. The Upper Geyser Basin
is home to the largest number of geysers found in the park. Within
one square mile there are at least 150 of these hydrothermal wonders.
Of this number, only five major geysers are predicted regularly
by the naturalist staff. They are: Castle, Grand, Daisy, Riverside,
and Old Faithful. There are many frequent, smaller geysers to be
seen and marveled at in this basin as well as numerous hot springs
and one recently developed mud pot.
large area of geothermal activity can be viewed by foot along the
boardwalk trail at Fountain Paint Pots and by car along the three
mile Firehole Lake Drive. The latter is a one-way drive where you
will find the sixth geyser predicted by the Old Faithful staff:
Great Fountain. Its splashy eruptions send jets of water bursting
100-200 feet in the air, while waves of water cascade down the raised
terraces. Patience is a virtue with this twice-a-day geyser, as
the predictions allow a 2 hour +/- window of opportunity.
Fountain Paint Pot trail
is one of my favorite thermal areas to visit, and contains all four
types of thermal features found in Yellowstone. They are: hot springs,
mud or paint pots, steam vents, and geysers.
geyser basin, though small in size compared to its companions along
the Firehole River, holds large wonders for the visitor. Excelsior
Geyser reveals a gaping crater 200 x 300 feet with a constant discharge
of more than 4,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River.
Also in this surprising basin is Yellowstone's largest hot springs,
Grand Prismatic Spring. This feature is 370 feet in diameter and more
than 121 feet in depth.
Star Geyser Basin
backcountry geyser basin is easily reached by a 5-mile roundtrip
hike from the trailhead south of Old Faithful. Lone Star Geyser
erupts about every three hours.
There is a logbook located in a raised
wooden cache near the geyser for observations of geyser times and
types of eruptions. There are minor eruptions every 1.5 hours. When
you look at the logbook you will note that all of the eruptions
recorded by visitors are "major" :-)
The trail is an old road which
visitors in the 20's and 30's were able to drive on and is a very
easy hike. While hiking in, ask the hikers you pass on their way
out if they had witnessed Lone Star erupt. You can then estimate
the next eruption based on their recorded eruption. Note: all of
those asked will say they saw a "major eruption".
Shoshone Geyser Basin is reached by a 17-mile round trip hike
that crosses the Continental Divide at Grant's Pass. This basin has
no boardwalks and extreme caution should be exercised when traveling
through it. Trails in the basin must be used. Remote thermal areas
should be approached with respect, knowledge, and care. Be sure to
emphasize personal safety and resource protection when entering a
backcountry basin. The easiest way to view this basin is to canoe
into Shoshone lake via Lewis lake and camping out. A permit is required
to camp here as well as all other backcountry campsites. see Backcountry Camping
river derives its name from the steam (which they thought was smoke
from fires) witnessed by early trappers to the area. Their term for
a mountain valley was "hole," and the designation was born. The Firehole
River boasts a world-famous reputation for fly-fishing. Brown, rainbow,
and brook trout give the angler a wary target in this stream. Fishing
permits are required to fish in Yellowstone park. Click Here for more information on fishing permits.
What causes this geothermal activity?
The earth's crust
here is less than 40 miles thick (the average is closer to 90 elsewhere).
Molten magma 3-4 miles below the surface results in volcanic activity,
geyser eruptions, and hot springs.
eruptions in Yellowstone Park have occurred 3 times, almost every
16,000 years. The first super eruption, which occurred 2.1 million
years ago was the largest of the three and massive in size. Ash deposits
15 feet deep have been found as far south as Mexico, and as far east
This first, massive
eruption has been estimated to have been about 6000 times more powerful
than the blast of Mt. St. Helens in 1981. The Yellowstone volcano
is the largest in the world and is classified as a super volcano.
Only 30 super volcanoes exist in the world, and Yellowstone is the
only one on land. The remaining 29 are scattered over the worlds oceans.
After the last
eruption, which occurred about 640,000 years ago, the remaining earths
surface collapsed in on itself leaving a large 50 mile long X 25 mile
wide high elevation flat plateau, or caldera under which lies the
worlds largest magma chamber. Since the last major super eruption,
Yellowstone has experienced 30 smaller volcanic eruptions. Evidence
of these smaller eruptions can be found throughout the park.
There is no evidence
at this time, that Yellowstone is about to erupt.
Hot Springs are the main attraction of the Mammoth District. These
features are quite different from thermal areas elsewhere in the park.
Travertine formations grow much more rapidly than sinter formations
due to the softer nature of limestone; up to 12" per year. As hot
acidic water rises through limestone, large quantities of rock are
dissolved by the hot water, and a white chalky mineral (calcium carbonate)
is deposited on the surface. When the water reaches the surface, it
has a balanced ph of 7.0 due to the large amount of calcium carbonate
which the acid water has dissolved.
are sometimes confused by the rapidly shifting activity of the hot
springs and disappointed when a favorite spring appears to have "died,"
it is important to realize that the location of springs and the rate
of flow changes daily, that "on-again-off-again" is the rule, and
that the overall volume of water discharged by all of the springs
Most of the geothermal
features found in the park average 200° F. Some are much hotter.
Stay on the boardwalks and marked trails. Each year a few visitors
are seriously burned, some have died. The boardwalks are there for
your safety and protection.
Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic
of Yellowstone Park's thermal areas. The highest temperature yet recorded
in any geothermal area in Yellowstone was measured in a scientific
drill hole at Norris: 459 degree's F just 1,087 feet below the surface!
There are very few thermal features at Norris under the boiling point
(199F at this elevation). Norris shows evidence of having had thermal
features for at least 115,000 years.
in the basin change daily with frequent disturbances from seismic
activity and water fluctuations. The vast majority of the waters at
Norris are acidic, including acid geysers which are very rare. Steamboat
Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world (300 to 400 feet) and Echinus
Geyser (pH 3.5) are the most popular features.
Echinus has been under change for the past couple of years. The pH
has changed from acidic to more neutral and has been testing at around
6.5, also increasing in temperature -- 172 degree's, which has allowed
algae beds to form in the run-off channel.
The basin consists
of three areas: Porcelain Basin, Back Basin, and One Hundred Springs
Plain. Porcelain Basin is barren of trees and provides a sensory experience
in sound, color, and smell; a 3/4 mile dirt and boardwalk trail accesses
this area. The Back Basin is more heavily wooded with features scattered
throughout the area; a 1.5 mile trail of boardwalk and dirt encircles
this part of the basin.
One Hundred Springs
Plain is an off-trail section of the Norris Geyser Basin that is very
acidic, hollow, and dangerous. Travel is discouraged without the guidance
of knowledgeable staff members. The area was named after Philetus
W. Norris, the second superintendent of Yellowstone, who provided
the first detailed information about the thermal features.
At Norris Geyser Basin*
Following several swarms of earthquakes in the
Norris Geyser Basin area in May of 1999, some of the Basin's geysers
are now displaying changes. The most noticeable change is with Echinus
Geyser, one of the Park's most popular and most predictable geysers.
The time between eruptions of Echinus since May of 1999 has been unpredictable,
whereas the geyser had been erupting prior to 1999 roughly every 70
The worlds largest
geyser, Steamboat, erupted for the fourth time in just over a year
on April 27th, 2003. Prompting new questions about increased activity
for the worlds biggest geyser.
eruptions at Steamboat -- famously unpredictable and spectacular geyser--historically
range from about four days to 50 years. After a relatively quiet two
years following an eruption in May 2000, Steamboat erupted April 26,
2002; Sept. 14, 2002; March 26, 2003 and again on April 27, 2003.
July 2003: Due to
some major changes within the back basin, park rangers closed off
most of the boardwalk.
Sept. 2003: The boardwalk in the back basin reopened with the
addition of a new boardwalk, and conditions improved, but keep in
mind that change in Yellowstone is constant, and you may encounter
a sudden increase in thermal activity with little or no notice. Always
think safety while touring one of our many geothermal areas.
Home || to Top
Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the more impressive
sights found in Yellowstone Park and one of the most popular. It is
famous for its colors, shapes, and waterfalls. The canyon contains
just two of 400 waterfalls found in Yellowstone, but they are the
The best time
of year to photograph the Canyon is the first two weeks of October.
The sun has set far enough on the horizon that it highlights one side
of the canyon in light and shades the opposite side. The North rim
is better photographed in early morning in Oct. and the South rim
in the afternoon.
The Grand Canyon
of the Yellowstone is the primary geologic feature in the Canyon District.
It is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the
Tower Fall area. Depth is 800 to 1,200 ft.; width is 1,500 to 4,000
The canyon as
we know it today is a very recent geologic feature. The present canyon
is no more than 10,000 to 14,000 years old, although there has probably
been a canyon in this location for a much longer period. The exact
sequence of events in the formation of the canyon is not well understood,
as there has been little field work done in the area. The few studies
that are available are thought to be inaccurate. We do know that the
canyon was formed by erosion rather than by glaciation.
story of the canyon, its historical significance as a barrier to travel,
its significance as destination/attraction, and its appearance in
Native American lore and in the accounts of early explorers are all
important interpretive points. The "ooh-ahh" factor is also important:
its beauty and grandeur, its significance as a feature to be preserved,
and the development of the national park idea.
Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone
The falls are
erosional features formed by the Yellowstone River as it flows over
progressively softer, less resistant rock.
The Upper Falls is upstream
of the Lower Falls and is 109 ft. high. It can be seen from the Brink
of the Upper Falls Trail and from Uncle Tom's Trail.
The Lower Falls is 308 ft. high and can
be seen from Lookout Point, Red Rock
Point, Artist Point, brink of the Lower
Falls Trail, and from various points on the South Rim Trail. The Lower
Falls is often described as being more than twice the size of Niagara,
although this only refers to its height and not the volume of water
flowing over it. The volume of water flowing over the falls can vary
from 63,500 gal/sec at peak runoff to 5,000 gal/sec in the fall.
falls can be found in the canyon between the Upper and Lower falls.
Crystal Falls is the outfall of Cascade Creek into the canyon. It
can be seen from the South Rim Trail just east of the Uncle Tom's
River is the force that created the canyon and the falls. It begins
on the slopes of Yount Peak, south of the park, and travels more than
600 miles to its terminus in North Dakota where it empties into the
Missouri River. It is the longest un dammed river in the continental
Just South and upstream of the upper falls is Hayden
Valley. This valley was once thought to be part of Yellowstone Lake
farther upstream. The theory is a large glacier blocked off the Yellowstone
river somewhere near the upper falls and forced silt to fill in that
section of the lake forming Hayden Valley. In late July and all of
August Hayden Valley is the home to the majority of bison in the park
and is their historical mating ground.
Yellowstone Park is also home to abundant
and varied wildlife, unlike anywhere else in America. Nearly all wildlife
species that inhabited the park when it was first explored over 100
years ago survive today. Click here to view just a sample of a few.
"Roadside History of Yellowstone
Park". by Winfred Blevins, Mountain Press Publishing Company
"A Field Guide To Yellowstone's
Geysers, Hot Springs, and Fumaroles", by Carl Schreier, Homestead
"Yellowstone, A National
Park Waterfall Guide". by Charles Maynard, Panther Press
"Nature's Yellowstone". by
Richard A. Bartlett, The University of Arizona Press
"Mountain Time, Man Meets
Wilderness in Yellowstone". by Paul Schullery, Simon and Schuster
"A Yellowstone Album, A Photographic
Celebration of the First National Park". Lee Whittlesey, et al, Yellowstone
HOMEPAGE || to Top
yellowstone major attractions, yellowstone park geysers,
yellowstone park hot springs, yellowstone park geothermal activity,
major attractions of yellowstone park, what are the major attractions
found in yellowstone park, what are geysers, yellowstone park volcano,
super volcano yellowstone, how many earthquakes in yellowstone park,
old faithful geyser in yellowstone park, geysers and hot springs of
yellowstone park, yellowstone park, grand canyon of the yellowstone,
what are the major attractions of yellowstone park. what kinds of
things to see and do in yellowstone park, what state does yellowstone
park occupy, when was yellowstone park established, when was yellowstone
national park formed, what date was yellowstone park founded, how
many states does yellowstone park, date yellowstone national park
founded, what date was yellowstone started, what national park is
the first, when was yellowstone park created, yellowstone national
park first national park, what national park in the world was the
first, when was yellowstone national park created. date yellowstone
park started. yellowstone park volcano, super volcano in yellowstone
park, where to see the volcano in yellowstone parkAnti