America’s First National Park
by Rebecca Henke
In the summer of 2009 my family went on a two week long road trip through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. My parents, my twin older brothers, and I were trapped in a car together for way too long but, the trip was well worth it. We visited many national parks such as Mesa Verde, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Crater Lake, The Grand Tetons, Olympic National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and my favorite of all the ones we visited: Yellowstone National Park. I enjoyed Yellowstone the most because there was so much to discover, especially wildlife.
Yellowstone was the first national park in America, made a national park in 1872 mainly because of its collection of geysers. “A mountain wild land, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone (National Park Service).” Yellowstone is also unique in that it reaches into three states; 96% of the park lies in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho. The park made it onto the World Heritage list in 1978 based on criteria vii, viii, ix, and x.
I have always been fascinated with nature and when we were visiting Yellowstone every turn we took revealed something beautiful. Yellowstone is home to a vast variety of wildlife. During our trip we spotted buffalo, deer, elk, bald eagles, black bears, grizzly bears, jack rabbits, and a wolf. The buffalo were everywhere in the park and the elk were also easy to spot but we were lucky when traffic was held up because there was a huge grizzly bear to close to the road. We were also very lucky to have spotted a wolf (or what we claim to be a wolf but could very well be a coyote) in a field while driving. When Yellowstone was established as a national park there was no protection for the wolves and the government had programs set in place that were meant to control predator populations. Hunters would kill the wolves in attempts to control the population and the last wolves were killed in Yellowstone in 1962. However, in 1995 thirty wolves were reintroduced into the park and thrived. Today there is an estimated wolf population of 300 in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is also home to some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes. The park is a volcanic ‘hot spot’. The geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles get their heat form crystallizing magma. This magma came from the last eruptive cycle when the active magma chambers erupted and collapsed. The park contains 200-250 active geysers and 10,000 thermal features. The most famous would be Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1.5 to 5 minutes long. Its height ranges from 90 to 184 feet high. Some to the other more known landmarks are the Lower Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone Lake, and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Lower Yellowstone Falls is the highest of more than 40 names waterfalls in the park and Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake at high elevation in North America. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone varies from 800 to 1.200 in depth and from 1,500 to 4,000 feet in width. It is approximately 24 miles long and the steam cents and geysers are still working on the canyon walls.
All of the other national parks we visited were just as spectacular as Yellowstone and each had its unique claim to fame but Yellowstone has a variety of things that make it so special. It has something for all nature lovers, whether they’re interested in ecosystems, birds, landscapes, animals or anything in between. However, you don’t have to be a nature lover to appreciate the beauty of Yellowstone. The wonders of Yellowstone will inspire any person who visits.