7 Fascinating Facts about Yellowstone National Park

When you visit a national park that is larger than the combined states of Delaware and Rhode Island, you’re sure to see and experience some wonderful things. Yellowstone is a beautiful place to explore—especially when you know some of its interesting facts.

Fascinating Fact #1: Those Tree Are Probably Older than Your Great-Great-Great-Grandparents

Lodgepole Pines And Aspens

80% of the trees foresting the park are lodgepole pines, and these hardy specimens can live up to 400 years. Unlike the very large redwoods—a long-living tree found in the Pacific Northwest—lodgepole pines are fairly slender (they average 24 inches or 61 cm in diameter) as well as very tall (up to 70 feet or 21 meters high), so don’t be fooled by their youthful appearance.

Lodgepole pines are great for building because they grow very straight, making them ideal for central lodgepoles and other building timbers in Native Americans’ and early pioneer settlers’ dwellings.

Lodgepole pines are no slouches when it comes to reproduction, either. The seeds stay viable in the cones for a very long time, and some cones won’t open and release their seeds until the air temperature is extremely high, such as in a fire. This is why you’ll see lodgepole pines as one of the first trees to begin growing after a forest fire.

Fascinating Fact #2: Yellowstone National Park Is Older Than the States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming

Ulysses S. Grant Portrait Cutout (clipping Path)

President Ulysses S. Grant designated the Yellowstone area as a national park in 1872, which is 20 years before the three Western states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (in which the park is located) were granted statehood in the United States of America.

Fascinating Fact #3: Yellowstone Includes a Supervolcano

Huge volcanic eruption on land

Yellowstone Lake sits on top of the largest supervolcano caldera in North America. It’s also an active volcano, which is evidenced by the fact that half of all the geothermal features in the world are located in Yellowstone (hot springs, anyone?).

How big is the caldera? It’s a massive 30 x 45 miles (48 x 72 kilometers), and it’s the only one of the 30 supervolcanos in the world that is located on land. It’s had three major eruption events in the last three million years, the last one being 174,000 years ago. Though another eruption event would be devastating to the Western United States and the world, scientists say we’re probably not going to have to worry about that for another 10,000 years or so.

Fascinating Fact #4: Yellowstone Has More Than 300 Active Geysers

Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park

Geysers are vents in the earth’s surface where gouts and columns of boiling hot water and steam erupt, and Yellowstone has more than its fair share of these explosive wonders. Old Faithful, the most famous of Yellowstone’s geysers, erupts every 91 minutes, which makes it an exciting and predictable attraction.

Geysers are actually quite rare throughout the world. Yellowstone National Park contains approximately half of the world’s geysers.

Old Faithful, arguably the world’s most famous geyser, draws in thousands of visitors each year to see its illuminating eruptions. Its must-see display is enough to deter even the strictest vacation schedule! Learn more about how the Yellowstone National Park times Old Geyser’s incoming eruptions:

Fascinating Fact #5: Yellowstone Has Its Own Grand Canyon

View at Lower Falls in Yellowstone Grand Canyon seen from Artist

Although it’s smaller than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is nevertheless absolutely breathtaking. It’s also the much younger sister at only 10,000 to 14,000 years old compared to Arizona’s six million-year-old Grand Canyon.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon is about 20 miles (32 km) long, varies between 1500 to 4000 feet (457 to 1219 meters) wide, and 800 to 1200 feet (243 to 366 meters) deep.

Fascinating Fact #6: We Got Yer Bison Right Here!

Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Bison within the subfamily Bovinae

If you want to see bison, Yellowstone boasts the largest free-roaming herd of them in the world. You can usually catch a glimpse of them in the Lamar and Hayden valleys, as well as near Pelican Valley, Geyser Basin, and Gibbon Meadows.

Bison are also called American buffalo because early settlers easily mistook bison to be buffalo, which are native to Asia and Africa.

In addition to bison, you might also spot a grizzly bear, a black bear, elk, moose, or wolves. Many of these predators are shy and/or nocturnal, so bring a high-power spotting scope and hang around in the right places during dawn and twilight hours.

Fascinating Fact #7: People Were Inhabiting the Yellowstone Area for At Least 11,000 Years

Two Bald Eagles fly near an American Indian with his paint horse on a tall cliff in a mountainous area.

It’s a beautiful place, so why wouldn’t people be drawn to it? Evidence of obsidian mining and ancient arrowheads have placed people in Yellowstone as far back as 11,000 years ago. In more recent times, four tribes of Native Americans hunted and lived in the region around the park: the Crow, the Blackfeet, the Shoshones, and the Bannock. All of them were wary of the Evil Spirit said to reside among the geysers and other thermal features of the area.

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