Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is unique yet unstable. It is a land of geysers and boiling hot springs, mud pots and red bacteria mats. It is a land full of all kinds of green life in the summer, and frozen under deep snow in the winter. It is a land with a spirit to it. It is a land that came from fire, and a land that will return to fire. This is Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is fleeting, a moment of life between deaths. Geysers and hot springs are remnants of a cataclysmic eruption, 650,00 years ago. Yellowstone sits on an ancient, massive caldera. At 40 miles wide around, it is easily the biggest volcano in the world. And it is still active.
The reason for these eruptions is a moving hot spot in the earths crust. Once located in Eastern Oregon, it has moved to Yellowstone over the past 17 million years. The last eruption utterly destroyed the area for miles around, and sent ash all over the continent. The remnants of the caldera today contain most of the thermal features in the park.
Yellowstone is home to many different animals, but is most famous for its large mammals such as bison, elk, and bears. The bison in particular are seemingly unconcerned with any human activities, walking right in the road at times. Squirrels and chipmunks run along logs. Eagles glide high in the sky. Ravens are everywhere and vocal with their croaking calls. Wolves run in the distant hills, and ducks paddle along the rivers. The wildlife in Yellowstone is abundant and visible, with a large variety of creatures.
Pine forest dominates most of the park, not surprising considering most of the park is 6,500 feet and above. What type of pine tree also varies with the elevation. Lodgepole pines make up about 80% of the forest. Large swathes of grassland patch the forest, full of golden grasses. Creek and rivers cut through the landscape, some more then others. Like the Yellowstone river carving a thousand-foot deep canyon.
In the geyser basins, some trees have had hot, bacteria-filled water pour over their roots. This leads to the trees dying, turning bleached, with white markings around their bottoms. These trees are known as Bobbi sock trees, after their resemblance to the sock.
Yellowstone Lake is nearly 20 miles long, with a surface area of 136 square miles. It is the largest mountain lake in the world. The main body of the lake is part of the Yellowstone caldera, but the smaller West Thumb bay part was formed in a smaller eruption, similar to Crater Lake in Oregon. The whole lake is cold, with tempatures in the depths never rising to 40 degrees.
Geysers are the main attraction in the park, and for good reason. They are impressive, shooting hot water high into the sky at certain times per day. Geysers work because of the pressure under the earth. Water trickles into the earth just like anywhere else, except here the molten core of the earth is closer to the surface. So as the water falls, it heats to temperatures up to 400 degrees, without boiling. The hottest water circulates to a point where the pressure isn’t as intense, and then begins to bubble. The bubbles rise, pushing water in front of them. Sometimes the water only spurts out in small amounts, but sometimes it rushes to the surface with a roar and throws superheated steam high in to the air. Old Faithful, named because its reliably timed eruptions, is one example of the second type.
Hot springs, on the other hand, are formed with a steady flow of hot water instead of a fast and quick flow. Colorful they are, with reds and yellows and brilliant aqua blues form minerals from inside the earth. In the cold, steam is constantly coming off, sending plumes of it upon the air that can been seen from ways away.
Mud pots are made from acid groundwater melting the soil into clay. Hot gases make the mud bubble and pop with a hilarious belching noise. Fumaroles are like geysers, except instead of water, they only shoot steam out of the vents.
Yellowstone is unique and amazing. A place where the earth breathes, and the mist hangs heavy over the valley. A place where the earth is cracked, and the water is too hot to touch. A place where the bison roam, and the wild wolves still howl at night. A place where the waters are vast but still ringed by high peaks, a place where the land is big but the skies are bigger, a place where no one lives but everyone visits. A place where the wild is never far away.