YELLOWSTONE FALL 2010
Yellowstone National Park was established by the U.S. Congress as the Nation’s first designated National Park in 1872. Its name is derived from when frontiers people noted that the rocks found in the river were “yellow”. The park is located at the headwaters of that river and hence the name “Yellowstone”. Although there are many beautiful parks to choose from, I find this place to be the most intriguing place to visit. It is located primarily in Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho. When most people think of Yellowstone, they think of Old Faithful Geyser and the many geothermal features that the Park has. Yellowstone is described as actually one super large caldera ( a geologic description of a volcanic eruption that collapses an emptied magma chamber causing a crater to form). This caldera area is the largest super volcano on the continent. Half of the world’s geothermal features are found in Yellowstone. There are theories that when this volcano erupts it will change the face of the planet when it will create a “nuclear winter” which will cool the Earth’s atmosphere because the erupted clouds of ash will block the sun’s heat. This is a sad concept when I consider the amazing biodiversity that exist here. It could be said that Yellowstone is the North America equivalent of the Serengeti. There is an abundance of plant and wildlife species. When a recent bio count was conducted in the Mammoth area it was found that 373 plant species, 86 mushroom types, 46 kinds of bees, 5 different kinds of bats, 24 butterflies and more than 300 kinds of insect species were found in a 24 hour period in a 2 square mile area. This does not include the many different mammal species that are found in Yellowstone to which the Park is famous for. Visitors can expect to see bison, elk, mule and white tailed deer,bighorn sheep, antelope, coyotes and many different raptor species (which include red-tail hawks, cooper’s hawks, kestrels, osprey, peregrine and prairie falcons, great horned owls, great gray owls, bald and golden eagles). And beyond that, one could view wolves, fox, black and grizzly bear, ermines, otters, muskrat, beaver, pine marten, porcupine, badger, mountain goat, moose. And if one is very lucky then maybe a mountain lion, bobcat, lynx or wolverine can be rarely seen.
The Park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone. There are all told hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Its size is very big, encompassing nearly 3,500 square miles; larger than the combined states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Yellowstone Lake is one of the highest altitude large lakes in North America. It sits at 7,700 ft in elevation. In fact, the majority of the Park is above 7,000 ft in elevation. Only the northern area of the Park is at lower elevation. Lamar Valley is at 6,200 ft and that is why in the winter time the herds of bison and elk congregate in that area and with that so do the predators. Hence, it makes the best place to view wildlife. The abundant grasslands situated in and amongst thick wooded forest create an ideal place to find and view many different species of wildlife. It is truly a magical place.