Yellowstone is the world's first national park. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant passed Yellowstone's Organic Act, it set the area aside from settlement or sale. It was to be a place where the public could go to enjoy nature and see its wonders. Students receive unparalleled opportunities to see wildlife in its true habitat. Groups also hike in elevations high enough to see snow in the middle of the summer, hike the Continental Divide, and bask in the majesty of the Tetons.
Yellowstone Geology and Geothermic Features
Yellowstone is a hotbed of geologic activity. All puns aside, the geothermic activity of the region remains vigorous. This activity causes concern in some that a volcanic eruption in the area is imminent. These concerns, however, are unfounded. Scientists believe that an eruption, if it occurs, could be anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years away and they hope to be able to detect it in advance.
Yellowstone is also home to more than half of the world's geothermic features. Three-fourths of the world's geysers can be found in Yellowstone. Steamboat Geyser is the world's tallest geyser and is located in the Norris Geyser Basin. Along with geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles constitute Yellowstone's vast geothermic activity.
Geysers, Hot Springs and Fumaroles Water that originated as rain or snow percolates deep underground where it is heated by magma that is close to the earth's surface. The magma superheats the water but instead of becoming steam, the pressure of the rock and heat keep the water in liquid form. This superheated water then begins rising to the surface due to the pressure and heat of the water and magma below. As it moves, if its path is constricted, the pressure builds until it is eventually forced up to the surface and into the air, forming a geyser. When the path is not constricted, the water is able to reach the surface and pool, forming a hot spring. Fumaroles, also called steam vents, are like hot springs, but without enough water to sustain a pool so by the time the water reaches the surface it is mostly steam.
It's not the tallest, the oldest, or the most regularly erupting, but Old Faithful is probably the world's most popular and well-known geyser. With eruptions of more than 100 feet and intervals generally ranging from 66-90 minutes, Old Faithful attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Yellowstone is all about wildlife. Visitors receive unique opportunities to see numerous wild animals in their undisturbed habitats. It is not uncommon to see black bears, elk, moose, wolves, deer, eagles, bighorn sheep, or bison. Bison (often mistakenly referred to as buffalo) are a story of struggle against adversity. With numbers in North America estimated around 65 million in the early nineteenth century, hunters and poachers slaughtered them to near extinction by the end of that century. An estimated 1,000 remained around 1890. However, thanks to federal protection and preservation, they have experienced a resurgence. Today, wildlife experts estimate that around 3,500 live in Yellowstone National Park.
Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island is the largest of 10 islands in the Great Salt Lake. Visitors have the opportunity to sunbathe, picnic, hike, camp, horseback ride, cross country ski (in winter) and view copious wildlife. Along with its namesake, elk, coyotes, deer, bison, and waterfowl are not uncommon sights.
Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
Located a block away from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a non-profit preserve dedicated to bears and wolves. The wolves provide a vessel into the complex ecology of Yellowstone National Park and the western wilds overall. The bears at the center were removed from their natural habitats because they became too acclimated with human contact or were orphaned in the wild and could not survive on their own.
The bears live in dens and are grouped with different bears regularly to provide social stimulation. Bear handlers also hide food, encouraging the bears to forage. They also stock the ponds with trout to encourage the bears to fish. This helps foster natural instincts and keep the bears wild at heart.
The wolves at the center live together continually on a tract provided for them. Living together allows them to act naturally as a pack. Viewing pack behavior creates a window into the social structure of the wolf and lets visitors and researchers alike better understand the creatures.
Grand Teton National Park
The Tetons are a mountain range in Wyoming about 40 miles long and between seven and nine miles wide. Grand Teton is the highest point, reaching an elevation of 13,770 feet. Animals abound in Grand Teton National Park as bears, wolves, mountain lions, weasels, foxes, moose, bison, antelopes, and plenty more reside there.
Most know the Tetons for their exceptional beauty as geologic forces of glaciers, plate tectonics, erosion, and volcanism all helped form these mighty mountains.