Whether you’re from San Francisco, California on the west coast or Boston, Massachusetts on the east coast, you have probably heard of Yellowstone National Park. As one of the United States’ most famous and well known parks, Yellowstone is an exciting destination for millions of visitors every year. This vast expanse of lively nature is located in what some might call a “quiet” part of the country, with most of the park’s acreage lying in Wyoming and some parts extending into Idaho and Montana, but upon further investigation, there is nothing “quiet” about this park.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone’s beauty extends over almost 2 million acres and sits on top of a dormant volcano. Including this volcano, the park is home to the world’s largest concentration of geysers and thermal features, possessing approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features. This extremely unique feature of Yellowstone makes the park a prime location for hydrothermal research that could certainly have the potential to help with energy production in the future.
Abundant wildlife is an important component that adds to the already extraordinary landscape of this park. Throughout Yellowstone, large North American mammals such as Rocky Mountain Elk, whitetail deer, bison, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats, moose, black bears, and grizzly bears serve hugely as tourist attractions, but they play a larger role in their ecosystem. What is fascinating about Yellowstone is that all parts of the park are interconnected, not just the animals. While the grizzly bear may rely on a thriving whitetail deer population for food, other organisms are supported by the climate and vegetation in the park. For instance, the park’s terrain is covered in snow for a large part of the year, allowing it to support forests dominated by lodgepole pine trees. Sagebrush steppe and grasslands provide essential winter forage for elk, bison, and bighorn sheep. Yellowstone is a living landscape, with every factor working together in order to keep thing running smoothly.
Home to countless attractions, Yellowstone’s most recognizable and famous attraction is certainly Old Faithful, a cone geyser located in the park. This natural phenomenon erupts with water shooting to heights between 106 feet and 185 feet every 45 minutes to 125 minutes. It is the most famous of the nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone, and was awarded its name based upon its frequent eruptions. Although Old Faithful has remained unchanged and consistent through its years, other parts of Yellowstone are not so impervious to human activity.
Yellowstone’s ecosystem has been bombarded by humans for years. Human presence in the park has led to many animals becoming vulnerable to disease, which has unfavorable effects on populations. Whiring disease, an illness originating in Europe, is one example of this. Cutthroat trout are very susceptible and can transfer this disease to bears and other predators. Littering, which gives animals the opportunity to eat unsafe trash, and vehicle use, which can affect air quality, are also examples of human activities that impact Yellowstone’s environment negatively.
Since 1872, Yellowstone has been a wonderful destination for visitors of any age. In today’s superficial culture, this national park stands as place one can escape to in order to see some natural beauty, and if an effort is made to keep the park healthy, this beauty will last far longer than anything we can imagine.