Yellowstone National Park

Nature's Wonderland

Yellowstone, WY
(also in MT & ID)

July 22nd, 2006

So much has been written about Yellowstone National Park that I hesitated to even try to create something new and interesting.  After a week spent wandering from top to bottom and from side to side I was sure there could be much more said about this unique point on earth, where nature has done some very strange things.  This story is based in ancient history. History starting some 2 million years ago when volcanoes were common, and eruptions were going on everywhere.  Magma from under the earth was being spewed out on top of the earth, while mountains were being pushed up all around. Nature settled down for a while then did it again, then 640,000 years ago it really blew up and dumped an estimated 240 cubic miles of debris  about the place.  This left a large open area far underground while substantially increasing the weight of earth above.  What happened next was really terrific. In what may be the largest sink-hole on earth, 30 to 45 miles in the center of the mountains collapsed into the hole below.  This created the Yellowstone basin and the conditions which make this area so unique.  That is, it has water or steam geysers.  Not just one, or two, but bunches.  I'm not sure anybody knows exactly how many geysers are actually active inside Yellowstone NP, but there are almost 100 different ones listed on various internet sites.  This doesn't count the number of hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots that seem to be everywhere.  To say the park is big is an understatement. Every trip we took into the park took all day and over 100 miles in driving.  The are 4 way into the park, North, through Livingston MT. South, coming up through the Grand Teton National Park, WY. East, through Cody, WY. and West from Ashton, ID.  These 4 roads join one of two loop roads, one on top of the other, which make up the major  roads in the park.  As we had been traveling west along I-90 through Bozeman, MT, we took the north entrance.  At Livingston we turned south for about 25 miles and camped in an RV park, on the banks of the Yellowstone River.  This is a fast moving river, framed by majestic mountains, which has its headwaters at Yellowstone Lake, in the middle of the park.  It is a fisherman's paradise with some 13 different fish dominated by cutthroat and rainbow trout. Fly fishing is very popular.  Another 30 miles south of the RV park lies Gardiner, MT, and the North entrance to the park. Just past the town at a sharp turn in the road stands the Roosevelt Arch.  Built back in 1903 when access was by train to Gardiner then stagecoach rides through the park, this 50 foot entrance was considered a grand approach for those arriving.  It is inscribed with the words "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People" which personified the National Park Service attitude.  Just a quarter mile in from that monolith so inscribed, you get the Park Service's other attitude.  A whopping 25 dollar a car entrance fee for those not so privileged as to have a pass. With this unpleasantry out of the way, it was off to our first glimpse at Nature's diverse and powerful attractions.  We didn't have long to wait.  Five miles down the road we passed through Hot Springs Village where the Park Headquarters is located.  Yellowstone Park has its own post office.  A formidable looking structure with large stone letters carved into its upper face declaring it to be the Yellowstone Park Post office.  It's easy to find in the complex, just look for the tourists poising in front of it, but watch out for the wandering moose that frequent the same area. A few 100 yards out of the Village are the Mammoth Hot springs, and what a sight they are!  The best of the openings is the one closest to the Village.  There is a short boardwalk to a point just below the opening.  The water actually runs under the boardwalk and I scooped up some to see what it tasted like.  To my surprise it was quite delightful, with no mineral test in it.  It was about body temperature. The sight from the closest point is captivating.  Water flowing out of the top has not been constricted so it has had time to cool.  The  minerals suspended in it form a white to orange crust on everything it passes over.  When  dried it brakes into a fine powder.  It has formed terraces as it has flowed down over the centuries.  The various minerals have created a paint pallet like design of red, orange and white.  Here and there are pools of crystal clear water just waiting for the bathers who will never come. There are mineral baths available in other places but none with such a spectacular view. Soon we are back in the car and continuing our trip south down the west side of the upper loop road.  Just a few miles down the road and we hit our first  "natural" roadblock.  That is, a bear came out to eat some of the vegetation along side of the road and all the cars just stopped right where they were.  There was no getting by. We simply sat there until the people in the car in front of us had had their fill of bear pictures and had moved on.  This scenario was to be repeated over and over again for each Elk, Buffalo and Mule Deer that we came upon.