Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming
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Overview. Yellowstone is simply the BEST place I've ever been to (as of summer 2004 : ). Established in 1872, it's the worlds's first national park. Yellowstone has everything one can imagine, and more... Canyons, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests, grassland, geysers, hot springs, wildlife... you name it, you got it.
Entering Yellowstone. A piece of advice: don't just stay in the central park, enter and exit at the same place. Although all five entrances are a long drive from the central, they are very different and none of them should be missed.
The north entrance has grand mountain view and leads to the Mammoth Hot Spring.
The south entrance runs along the Lewis river, pass the Lewis Lake. It was in a snowy white world early June.
The west entrance runs along the Madison River, which nourishes all kinds of wildlife. The aftermath of the 1988 fire is still clearly visible along the way.
The northeast entrance is the heaven for larger animals, such as moose and black bear, it also has a canyon and a petrified tree.
The east entrance has a great view of the huge Yellowstone Lake and the forests around it.
Grand Canyon. If you ever wonder why the park is called yellowstone, these picture taken in the Grand Canyon area might give you some clue. The 1,200 feet-deep V-shape valley is carved by glacial movement and melted water starting some 14,000 years ago. It is quite colorful because of the rusting of the iron compound in the volcanic rocks.
The Lower Fall, 308 ft tall. What a beauty!
The Upper Fall, 109 ft tall:
Geothermal Wonders. Long time ago, the yellowstone area was know to be a place "where hell bubble up" because of its frequent geothermal activities, such as roaring geysers, bubbling cauldron, and steaming hot springs. All those geothermal wonders are evidence of Yellowstone being one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.
The Old Faithful. Probably the most popular geyser because of its predictability and spectacular view. Averagely it erupt every 92 minutes (as of 2004). Each eruption splashes up to 8,400 gallons of hot water (about 96 degree C or 204 F) to over 106 feet high, some times even above 180 feet. Let's watch the show at sunset. It lasted about 3 minutes.
Let's do it again, but this time at noon. The white steam just like melt into the clouds above.
We were fortunate to catch the 100 anniversary of the Old Faithful Inn, the oldest building in the park. We got their anniversary stamp as our souvenir.
The Black Sand Basin and the Biscuit Basin are right next the Old Faithful. The beautiful colors are combination effects of mineral and bacteria (thermophiles). The sapphire pool (the last picture), a little deep blue pond, is my favorite.
The Midway Geyser basin and the colorful Fountain Paint Pot are also around the old faithful area.
Mammoth Hotspring. It used to be a huge hot water supplier, but naturally dried up in 1998. Now only a small portion of it still spitting hot water. For the most part we can only look at the dry terrace and their old pictures to imagine what a grand view it had, once upon a time.
This is how it used to look like (a picture I grabbed from the web):
Norris Basin. The hottest, most active hydrothermal area in the park.
The Firehole River area is near the west entrance.
The Mud Volcano and the Sulfur Caldron is probably the best smelling area in the park (not that other areas don't effuse hydrogen sulfite, but the most impressive aroma has to come from around here!). The sulfur caldron is among the most acidic spring the park, with a PH of 1-2 (that's close to one molar of strong acid!).
The Yellowstone Lake. The largest high elevation lake (above 7,000 feet) in North America. Covers 131.7 square miles and has 141 miles of shoreline. At the West thumb area, a number of warm springs and volcanic craters add to the views along the lakeshore.
The 1988 Fire. The summer of 1988 was the driest of the park's recorded history. In that summer, a naturally occurred fire, with a help of strong wind, scorched 1.2 million acres of land. 16 years later, although most of the areas has been naturally reseeded, the aftermath of the fire is still noticeable everywhere.
Wildlife. There are 61 different mammals live in Yellowstone. Flocks of elks and herds of bison (buffaloes) are common scenes around the park. Bison and elks do have the right of the road, and often leisurely walk on the highway and block the traffic.
Elks. They usually appear in small flocks, but we've seen many individual ones. Although elks are usually gentle animal, they can be very mean when annoyed. One female elk living near the trail heading to Mystic Fall might have thought that we invaded her territory, and was threatening to charge us (the last two pictures). That was some heart-pounding experience.
Moose. It's a bit confusing because what we call "elk" in America is called "moose" in Europe, while what we called "moose" here is named something else in Europe. So below we call them by their American names for obvious reason. If you can't tell a moose from an elk, look at these two nice pictures. A moose and an elk are getting along nicely on the same piece of grassland. In the foreground is a moose, with darker fur and different shape of horn.
Moose like water and love eating young willow leaves, so Willow Creek is where they like to appear near nightfall.
Black Bears. Black bears live mostly around the northeast part of the park. Those pictures of young black bears were taken near the Petrified Tree.
Birds. Near the west entrance, there's a nest of bald eagle. Flocks of ducks living near the yellowstone lake and Hayden Valley. swan swimming leisurely on the Madison River.
Hayden Valley, a heaven for wild life located north of the Yellowstone Lake. Every day near nightfall, many large mammals appear on the spacious grassland next to the Yellowstone River.
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