Yellowstone National Park: America’s Jewel

All About Yellowstone

Known as the first national park in the world, Yellowstone National Park is one of the United States’ finest natural areas and has been a staple of American culture for more than 140 years. Yellowstone was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The park’s 3,468 acres are mostly located in Wyoming, with property extending into Montana and Idaho as well.

Natural Features

YellowstoneThe natural features of Yellowstone include numerous ecosystems, but the sub-alpine forest biotic zone is most prevalent throughout the park. There are numerous lakes, rivers, waterfalls, geysers, mountain ranges, canyons, and forests. Hundreds of flora and fauna species call Yellowstone home; Yellowstone is also the “largest and most famous megafauna location in the Continental United States,” featuring grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk. Some of the species found in Yellowstone are endangered or threatened, but wildlife enthusiasts can find some comfort in the fact that Yellowstone is a federally protected area. There are a reported 1,700 separate native species of trees and plants within Yellowstone, and an additional 170 species that are not native to the area. All original faunal species known to first inhabit the region are reported to have been restored to the park.

Threats

Wildfire is a normal occurrence in various ecosystems, and plants within Yellowstone National Park have evolved over time to develop defenses against fires. Some have thick bark that protects the core from fire, while others have special seeds that are only spread when their protective resin is melted by fire – thus ensuring that those particular trees will continue to grow in the park, as their seeds are spread while other plants die. Most of Yellowstone’s natural fires occur from lightning strikes, while fewer fires start as a result of human error or malice. There is an excellent fire management system in place, with trained professionals on staff to evaluate fire conditions and make decisions about fire suppression.

Yellowstone National Park is located on the surface of the Yellowstone Caldera, the volcanic caldera and supervolcano that measures approximately 34 miles by 45 miles. The underground magma chamber has estimated measurements of 50 miles long by 12 miles wide. The last serious eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano was around 640,000 years ago. Because of the volcanic and tectonic activity in the area, Yellowstone experiences 1000-2000 “measurable” earthquakes each year, with the majority falling at a magnitude of 3 or weaker. The underlying volcanic material in Yellowstone National Park is responsible for the beautiful but dangerous geothermal features within the park – more than 10,000 thermal features in total, including the famous colorful hot springs. Besides natural activity, tourists are a threat to the park as well. Morning Glory Pool, arguably one of the most famous hot springs in the park, has fallen victim to littering and vandalism, both of which caused the hot spring to lose its namesake blue hue.

This post was written by a guest contributor for America by Rail, the leading providers of rail vacations and escorted train tours.

 

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