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Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA

May 12th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Yellowstone National Park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest intact ecosystem in the Earth's northern temperate zone. Yellowstone became the world's first national park on March 1, 1872. Located mostly in the U.S. state of Wyoming, the park extends into Montana and Idaho. The park is known for its wildlife and geothermal features; the Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most popular features in the park.

More than 1,000 sites of historical significance have been discovered. Native Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. The region was bypassed during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. Aside from visits by mountain men during the next early to mid-1800s, organized exploration did not begin until the late 1860s. The U.S. Army was commissioned to oversee the park just after its establishment. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the National Park Service, which had been created the previous year. Hundreds of structures have been built and are protected for their architectural and historical significance.

Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,472 square miles (8,987 km²), comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-altitude lake in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. The caldera is considered an active volcano; it has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Half the world's geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.

Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened. The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Common animals in the park include grizzlies, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. Forest fires occur in the park each year; in the large forest fires of 1988, nearly one third of the park burned. Yellowstone has numerous recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, boating, fishing and sightseeing. Paved roads provide close access to the major geothermal areas as well as some of the lakes and waterfalls. During the winter, visitors often access the park by way of guided tours that use either snow coaches or snowmobile.

Approximately 96 percent of the land area of Yellowstone National Park is located within the state of Wyoming. Another 3 percent is within Montana, while the remaining 1 percent is located in Idaho. The park is 63 miles (102 km) north to south, and 54 miles (87 km) west to east by air. At 2,219,789 acres (898,317 ha), Yellowstone is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Rivers and lakes cover 5 percent of the land area, with the largest water body being Yellowstone Lake at 87,040 acres (35,400 ha). Yellowstone Lake is up to 400 feet (122 m) deep and has 110 miles (177 km) of shoreline. Sitting at an elevation of 7,733 feet (2,357 m) above sea level, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high altitude lake in North America. Forests comprise 80 percent of the land area of the park; most of the rest is grassland.

The Continental Divide of North America runs diagonally through the southwestern part of the park. The divide is a topographic feature that separates Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean water drainages. About one third of the park lies on the west side of the divide. The origins of the Yellowstone and Snake Rivers are near each other, however on opposite sides of the divide. As a result, the waters of the Snake River flow to the Pacific Ocean, while those of the Yellowstone find their way to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico.

The park sits on the Yellowstone Plateau, at an average altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level. The plateau is bounded on nearly all sides by mountain ranges of the Middle Rocky Mountains, which range from 9,000 to 11,000 feet (2,743 to 3,352 m) in elevation. The highest point in the park is atop Eagle Peak (11,358 ft/3,462 m) and the lowest is along Reese Creek (5,282 ft/1,610 m). Nearby mountain ranges include the Gallatin Range to the northwest, the Beartooth Mountains in the north, the Absaroka Mountains to the east, and the Teton Mountains and the Madison Range to the southwest and west. The most prominent summit on the Yellowstone Plateau is Mount Washburn at 10,243 feet (3,122 m).

Yellowstone National Park has one of the world's largest petrified forests, trees which were long ago buried by ash and soil and transformed from wood to mineral materials. There are 290 waterfalls of at least 15 feet (4.5 m) in the park, the highest being the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River at 308 feet (94 m).

Two deep canyons are located in the park, cut through the volcanic tuff of the Yellowstone Plateau by rivers over the last 640,000 years. The Lewis River flows through Lewis Canyon in the south and the Yellowstone River has carved the colorful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in its journey north.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA

September 9th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Yellowstone National Park is a U.S. National Park located in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Yellowstone is the first and oldest national park in the world and covers 3,470 square miles (8,980 km²), mostly in the northwest corner of Wyoming. The park is famous for its various geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features and is home to grizzly bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. It is the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems remaining on the planet.

Long before any recorded human history in Yellowstone, a massive volcanic eruption spewed an immense volume of ash that covered all of the western U.S., much of the Midwest, northern Mexico and some areas of the eastern Pacific Coast. The eruption dwarfed that of Mount St. Helens in 1980 and left a huge caldera 43 miles by 18 miles (70 km by 30 km) sitting over a huge magma chamber (see Geology section and Yellowstone Caldera). Yellowstone has registered three major eruption events in the last 2.2 million years with the last event occurring 640,000 years ago. Its eruptions are the largest known to have occurred on Earth within that timeframe, producing drastic climate change in the aftermath (See also:Supervolcano).

The park received its name from its location at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. French trappers gave this river the name "Roche Jaune," probably a translation of the Hidatsa name "Mi tsi a-da-zi," and the later American trappers rendered the French name into English as "Yellow Stone." Although it is commonly believed that the river was named for the yellow rocks seen in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Native American source name more likely derived from the yellowish bluffs located near present-day Billings, Montana.

The human history of the park dates back about 11,000 years. The Native Americans that hunted and fished in the Yellowstone region also utilized the significant amounts of obsidian found in the park to make cutting tools and weapons. In fact, arrowheads made of Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, which strongly indicate that a regular obsidian trade existed between Yellowstone Native Americans and tribes farther east.

n 1806 a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition named John Colter left the Expedition to join a group of fur trappers and was probably the first non-Native American to visit the region and make contact with the Native Americans there. After surviving wounds he suffered in a battle with Crow and Blackfoot tribes, he gave a description of a place of "fire and brimstone" that was dismissed by most people as delirium. The supposedly imaginary place was nicknamed "Colter's Hell."

Mountain man Jim Bridger later returned from an 1857 expedition to the park's area and told tales of boiling springs, spouting water, and a mountain of glass and yellow rock. Because Bridger was known for being a "spinner of yarns" these reports were largely ignored. Nonetheless his stories did arouse the interest of explorer and geologist F.V. Hayden, who in 1859 started a two-year survey of the upper Missouri River region with United States Army surveyor W.F. Raynolds and Bridger as a guide. The party neared the Yellowstone region, but heavy snows forced them to turn away. The intervening American Civil War prevented any further attempts to explore the region.

The first detailed expedition to the Yellowstone area was the Folsom expedition of 1869.

Based on the information it reported, in 1870 a party of Montana residents organized the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, headed by the surveyor-general of Montana Henry Washburn. Amongst the group was Nathaniel P. Langford, who would later become known as "National Park" Langford, and a US Army detachment commanded by Lt. Gustavus Doane. The expedition spent about a month exploring the region, collecting specimens, and naming sites of interest. It is during this expedition's discussions just after seeing the geysers of Yellowstone that Cornelius Hedges, a Montana lawyer who was along, is credited with first broaching the idea that Yellowstone should become a National Park.

In 1871, eleven years after his failed first effort, F.V. Hayden was finally able to make another attempt at his exploration of the region. Now government sponsored, Hayden successfully returned to Yellowstone with a second, larger expedition. He compiled a comprehensive report on Yellowstone which included large-format photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran. This report helped to convince the U.S. Congress to withdraw this region from public auction and on March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill into law that created Yellowstone National Park.

"National Park" Langford, a member of both the 1870 and 1871 expeditions, was appointed as the park's first superintendent in 1872. He served for five years, but without salary, funding, or staff, he lacked the means to improve the lands or implement any kind of protection to the park. Without even any formal policy or regulations put into place, he lacked any legal method to enforce such protection were it available to him. This left Yellowstone vulnerable to attack from poachers, vandals, and others seeking to raid its resources. As a result Langford was forced to step down in 1877.

Having traveled through Yellowstone and witnessed these problems first hand, Philetus Norris volunteered for the position after Langford's exit. Congress finally saw fit to implement a salary for the position as well as a minimal amount of funds to operate the park. Langford used these monies to expand access to the park, building over 30 new, albeit crude, roads, as well as further exploring Yellowstone. He also hired Harry Yount (nicknamed "Rocky Mountain Harry") to control poaching and vandalism in the park. Today, Harry Yount is considered the first national park ranger. These measures still proved to be insufficient in protecting the park though, as neither Norris, nor the three superintendents who followed proved effective in stopping the destruction of Yellowstone's natural resources.

It was only in 1886, when the United States Army was given the task of managing the park (see Fort Yellowstone), that control was able to be maintained. With the funding and manpower necessary to keep a diligent watch, the army successfully developed their own policies and regulations that maintained public access while protecting park wildlife and natural resources. When the National Park Service was created in 1916, it would take its lead largely from the army's successful example. The army turned control over to the National Park Service in 1918.

Yellowstone was designated an International Biosphere Reserve on October 26, 1976, and a United Nations World Heritage Site on September 8, 1978.

The Continental Divide of North America runs roughly diagonally through the southwestern part of the park. The divide is a topographic ridgeline that bisects the continent between Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean water drainages (the drainage from one-third of the park is on the Pacific side of this divide).

For example, the Yellowstone River and the Snake River both have their origin close to each other in the park. However, the headwaters of the Snake River are on the west side of the continental divide, and the headwaters of the Yellowstone River are on the east side of that divide. The result is that the waters of the Snake River head toward the Pacific Ocean, and the waters of the Yellowstone head for the Atlantic Ocean (via the Gulf of Mexico). There is a stream about six miles east of the Old Faithful area called "Two Ocean Creek": it begins as a single stream which flows into "Two Ocean Pond," from which two different streams emerge, one flowing to the Snake River and one to the Yellowstone River.

The park sits on a high plateau which is, on average, 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level and is bounded on nearly all sides by mountain ranges of the Middle Rocky Mountains, which range from 10,000 to 14,000 feet (3,000 to 4,300 m) in elevation. These ranges are: the Gallatin Range (to the northwest), Beartooth Mountains (to the north), Absaroka Mountains (to the east), Wind River Range (southeast corner), Teton Mountains (to the south, see Grand Teton National Park) and the Madison Range (to the west). The most prominent summit in the plateau is Mount Washburn at 10,243 feet (3,122 m).

Just outside of the southwestern park border is the Island Park Caldera, which is a plateau ringed by low hills. Beyond that are the Snake River Plains of southern Idaho, which are covered by flood basalts and slope gently to the southwest (see Craters of the Moon National Monument).

The major feature of the Yellowstone Plateau is the Yellowstone Caldera; a very large caldera which has been nearly filled-in with volcanic debris and measures 30 by 40 miles (50 by 60 km). Within this caldera lies most of Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest high-elevation lake in North America, and two resurgent domes, which are areas that are uplifting at a slightly faster rate than the rest of the plateau.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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