Mother Nature’s dynamic forces worked diligently to shape the dramatic landscape surrounding the Canyon Village Area. Visitors will find rugged mountains, gushing waterfalls, untamed rivers, and scenic valleys and canyons.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Carved at the same time volcanic forces unleashed their fury to create Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the region’s most impressive geologic features. Existing in its present state for just 10,000 to 14,000 years, the schism is 800 to 1,200 feet deep with widths ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. Erosion is largely responsible for shaping the canyon into its current manifestation, and the canyon’s steep rock walls display a kaleidoscope of yellows, reds, golds, and oranges. Unlike most American canyons, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone also features thermal vents linked to an old geyser basin.
An inspiration to Native Americans and early explorers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone continues to amaze spectators from around the world.
The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. NPS Photo
The Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone
Releasing their mighty thunder and glory down the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone formed when the Yellowstone River eroded soft rock underneath its powerful current. The resulting falls are now regarded as some of Yellowstone’s finest.
The Upper Falls drops 109 feet into a tranquil pool and is viewable from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail as well as Uncle Tom’s Trail. Directly below the cataract, Lower Falls makes its impressive 308 foot leap while releasing anywhere from 5,000 to 63,500 gallons of water per second. Lower Falls is twice as tall as Niagara and can be seen from the South Rim Trail, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, and Lookout Point.
Although hiking and cross-country ski trails are abundant in the area, visitors are reminded that the Upper and Lower Falls reside in bear country. Use extreme caution, and never throw anything into the waterfalls or canyon below.
The Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River originates south of Yellowstone on the slopes of Yount Peak in Wyoming’s Shoshone Mountain Range and is one of the longest undammed rivers in the lower forty-eight states. The river travels through some of Yellowstone’s wildest country before continuing its 600-mile journey to the Missouri River in North Dakota. Popular with both anglers and bears, the Yellowstone River is inundated with cutthroat trout.
Cloaked in a 4,000-foot-thick layer of ice just 10,000 years ago, the Hayden Valley is now an oasis of green meadows and forested riverbanks. The valley’s lush habitat supports a wide variety of wildlife, and viewing opportunities abound. Grizzly bears and bison, which are especially prevalent here, share the valley with elk, coyotes, Canadian geese, American white pelicans, sandhill cranes, northern harriers, ducks, and bald eagles. Visitors should bring along binoculars to capture the best wildlife views.
Casting a 10,243-foot shadow over the western side of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mt. Washburn is the primary peak residing in the Washburn Mountain Range. The mountain formed thousands of years prior to the canyon it guards, and volcanic and erosive forces sculpted the mountain into its present form. Subalpine habitat, wildflower fields, and bighorn sheep line the mountain’s easily accessible slopes. The mountain draws its name from 1870 Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition leader, General Henry Dana Washburn.