A Brief Overview

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park! Renowned throughout the world for its natural wonders, inspiring scenery, and mysterious wild nature, America’s first national park is nothing less than extraordinary. Mud pots roil and boil like witch’s brew, geysers spew their pent-up fury, waterfalls crash over precipitous ledges, and some of America’s rarest and wildest species delegate Yellowstone as their home. It is no wonder, then, that this land of intrigue and oddity has long captured the attention of explorers, scientists, photographers, and tourists from every continent. More than three million visitors are drawn to the park’s magnetic natural personality every year with some faithfully embarking on annual pilgrimages to the acclaimed national treasure.

Including the rugged Continental Divide in its massive 3,472 square miles, Yellowstone covers more area than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Its 2.2 million wild acres are predominantly cradled within Wyoming’s northwestern corner, but the overwhelming land mass extends its mysterious fingers for a slight grasp of south-central Montana and northeastern Idaho.

Recognized as the continental U.S.’ second largest national park, Yellowstone’s voluminous size allows for great topographical variation. Contained within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Yellowstone National Park is unique in boasting the world’s largest intact temperate ecosystem. Over 10,000 geysers and hot springs have earned Yellowstone the right to claim more geothermal phenomena than the rest of the world combined. Despite the familiar pictures touting such wonders, Yellowstone is more than hot pools and steaming fountains. Mountains blanketed with aspen and fir intermingle with arid plateaus, wildflower fields, and fossilized forests. Unbeknownst to most visitors, park elevations range from as low as 5,314 feet near the north entrance’s sagebrush flats to 11,358 feet at the snowcapped Eagle Peak. Perhaps most interestingly, the park rests on a magma layer buried just one to three miles below the surface while the rest of the Earth lies more than six miles above the first traces of magma. 

Yellowstone’s captivating natural appeal is enhanced with an amazing display of wildlife. North America’s largest species, the bison, wanders idly across the park’s terrain and roads while the continent’s fastest species, the pronghorn antelope, speeds purposefully into the horizon. The prehistoric looking moose shares Yellowstone’s mountains and meadows with deer, wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, grizzly bears, and black bears. Soaring above in the breathtakingly crisp azure skies, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, osprey, and whooping cranes scour the fish-laden rivers below for their next meal. Although these and Yellowstone’s other wild inhabitants are regularly glimpsed near the park’s major attractions and highways, most actually shy away from public view. Many of Yellowstone’s animals maintain habitats in the 98% of parkland humans rarely touch.

With the Earth’s powerful geological forces constantly churning, Yellowstone National Park is a testimony to evolution. Those who tour Yellowstone today will find the park quite different than twenty years before, and the cycle of change will continue underneath the feet of curious visitors. Whether individual travel plans call for a brief tour of all the park’s major attractions or an in-depth look at just one corner of Yellowstone, America’s first national park will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression beckoning future exploration. Happy trails as you discover one of America’s most beautiful and mysterious places!

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