Natural Highlights of the Tower-Roosevelt Area

The desert plateaus, fertile valleys, and lush forests of the Tower-Roosevelt Area house an array of Mother Nature’s finest offerings, including waterfalls, hot springs, and petrified trees.

Specimen Ridge
Recognized as home to the world’s largest concentration of petrified trees, Specimen Ridge is located east of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road. The area is an estimated forty-five to fifty million years old. Scientists have found over twenty-seven different petrified forests in the area with tree species including walnut, hickory, maple, oak, dogwood, redwood, pine, and magnolia. Leaf impressions, pollen, and conifer needles have also been discovered and indicate that Yellowstone’s climate was much different than today. Nature tours of the area are offered, and interested parties should contact a park visitor center for days and times.

Petrified Tree
The Petrified Tree Exhibit situated near the Lost Lake Trailhead is just one of the Tower-Roosevelt Area’s many eerie reminders of Yellowstone’s violent volcanic past. The ancient redwood is easily accessible to all visitors.

Petrified trees form when volcanic eruptions bury trees under piles of ash. Over time, dissolved silica travels through the trees and replaces their original structure with minerals. The trees are preserved down to their unique cell structures, and leaves and pinecones are even occasionally trapped in time.

Although the tree once stood out in the open, vandals thoughtlessly removed two other trees in the area. As a result, the remaining petrified tree has been fenced to preserve the natural attraction for generations to come.

Tower Falls. NPS Photo

Tower Falls
Tower Creek plunges 132 feet through eroded volcanic pinnacles. Visitors, artists, and photographers from around the world have noted the idyllic setting framing the waterfall, and the cataract maintains itself as Tower-Roosevelt Area’s most prominent natural feature. Early Native Americans passed by the tumbling creek while traveling the Bannock Trail, and Thomas Moran’s painting of the waterfall helped inspire Congress to designate Yellowstone as the nation’s first park. An overlook offers views of the waterfall and surrounding canyon. Those who are physically fit may also opt to take a short hike down to the waterfall’s base where Tower Creek tumbles into the Yellowstone River.

Calcite Springs
The Calcite Springs Overlook provides visitors with insight into the volcanic forces that helped shape the Tower-Roosevelt Area. Sightseers can peer nearly 500 feet down to the thermally charged springs located on the downstream portion of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. Rocks smattered with color from hydrothermally altered rhyolite draw attention to the steep basalt walls and craggy spires forming the famous canyon. The overlook reportedly inspired one of Thomas Moran’s famous paintings that were presented to Congress in 1872 in hopes of designating Yellowstone a national park. Today, the overlook, gorge, and surrounding canyon walls are home to osprey, red-tailed hawks, and bighorn sheep. 

Yellowstone River and its Tributaries
Flowing through Yellowstone to the heart of Montana’s Paradise Valley, the Yellowstone River and its tributaries are one of Yellowstone’s most noted and used water features. The natural attraction provides plenty of angling opportunities along with habitat for several fish and bird species.

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