Yellowstone is one of the most famous parks in the entire world. It is known for its unique geological features, variety of animals, and of course for its most famous resident: the geyser Old Faithful.
But if you’ve never really studied the intricacies of Yellowstone National Park, you may not be aware of exactly how unique it is.
There are features of Yellowstone that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, so learning a bit about what makes it truly special will help ensure you won’t miss some of the most spectacular parts of the park when you visit.
Much more than a simple forest, Yellowstone contains a wealth of interesting history and natural riches, some of which you may not yet know. Read on to learn more about these fascinating facts about Yellowstone:
15 Incredible Facts About Yellowstone National Park
- Yellowstone Boasts an Incredible Concentration of Mammals
- Yellowstone Contains a “Supervolcano”
- Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1994
- Yellowstone Lake Freezes in the Winter
- Yellowstone is Home to the Oldest Bison Herd in North America
- There Are Almost 300 Waterfalls in Yellowstone
- Half of the World’s Hydrothermal Features are Found in Yellowstone
- Old Faithful is Actually Not Very Faithful
- Yellowstone Was the World’s First National Park
- There Are Between 1000-3000 Earthquakes a Year in Yellowstone
- There are over 1500 Archeological Sites
- Truman Everts Was Stranded in Yellowstone for 37 Days
- Yellowstone was Originally Nicknamed Wonderland
- Yellowstone is Home to the Largest High Elevation Lake in North America
- Yellowstone Has its Own Grand Canyon
1. Yellowstone Boasts an Incredible Concentration of Mammals
There is no other place in the lower 48 states with a larger concentration of mammals than Yellowstone National Park. In addition to the park’s famous white-tail deer, bison, and grizzly bears, the park is home to 64 other species of mammals. Ranging from carnivorous predators to small herbivores, Yellowstone is one of the best places in the US to visit for those who love animals.
2. Yellowstone Contains a “Supervolcano”
While the image you have in your head of a volcano – likely a huge, conical mountain – is what many of them look like, a volcano is actually any geological formation wherein the earth’s magma approaches the surface. Yellowstone sits right on top of one, and it’s one of the biggest volcanos in the country. The Yellowstone Caldera is the living remnant of the most recent super eruption almost a million years ago.
3. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1994
The wolf population in Yellowstone dwindled to zero after colonial settlers began to invade the area. Unable to protect their livestock from wolves, they methodically hunted them until they no longer existed, making the local ecosystem go haywire. This grave mistake wasn’t corrected until 1994 when the National Parks Service led an effort to reintroduce wolves to the park over several years by relocating members of Canadian wolf communities.
4. Yellowstone Lake Freezes in the Winter
Despite the incredibly large areas of intense geothermal features in Yellowstone, it gets so incredibly cold in the winter that its largest lake still manages to freeze over every year. The lake is quite cold year-round with average temperatures hovering around 41º F, but come December and January, the ice that forms on top can get as thick as two feet.
5. Yellowstone is Home to the Oldest Bison Herd in North America
When settlers began to invade the west, demand for resources increased including those for food. Overhunting brought American bison populations to nearly zero, though a handful managed to escape these hunter’s rifles.
The current herd of bison that live in Yellowstone today managed to grow from about 20 individual animals that were left when protections were first introduced by the burgeoning parks service, making it likely the only herd of Bison that has been continuously living in a single territory since prehistoric times.
Thousands of Bison currently live and roam freely in Yellowstone, a far cry from the real threat of extinction they faced just a little over a century ago.
6. There Are Almost 300 Waterfalls in Yellowstone
While many visitors come to Yellowstone to see the thousands of geothermal features in the park, it is also home to, at last count, 290 waterfalls as well. Some can be reached easily, and be seen from a major road or trail, while some require thorough backcountry searching to locate.
7. Half of the World’s Hydrothermal Features are Found in Yellowstone
Yellowstone’s collection of geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs collectively make up half of the world’s geothermal features. They are caused by the combination of vast underground water aquifers and the intense volcanic activity in the area.
8. Old Faithful is Actually Not Very Faithful
While Old Faithful, the world’s most famous geyser, does erupt very regularly, it’s not exactly something you can set your watch by. On average, eruptions occur every 74 minutes, but they can vary by up to 50 minutes between events. The time between eruptions has also lengthened over the years, with the number of events a day decreasing to 20 from 21 after an earthquake in 1959.
9. Yellowstone Was the World’s First National Park
President Grant signed the bill that cemented Yellowstone as a national park in 1872, thus creating the first of its kind in the world. Having seen the unique beauty and value of these lands, returning “expeditioners” proposed a bill before congress to save it from the ravages of immigrant settlers. By preventing these lands from falling into the hands of private owners, it remains available for everyone to enjoy, albeit under the auspices of the National Parks Service.
10. There Are Between 1000-3000 Earthquakes a Year in Yellowstone
There is an incredible amount of seismic activity within Yellowstone that results in up to 3000 earthquakes a year. Most of these are very small – a magnitude 2 on the Richter scale or below – and can only be felt with equipment designed to detect them. Most of these earthquakes occur in swarms, where seismic activity causes more than one earthquake in a small region over days, weeks, or months.
11. There are over 1500 Archeological Sites
Humans have been living in the region that is now Yellowstone National Park for about 11,000 years, and there is a huge amount of evidence of these communities scattered throughout these lands to this day.
Several legitimate archeological investigations have taken place within Yellowstone over the years, and laypeople are known to find the occasional relic like a piece of pottery or an arrowhead.
12. Truman Everts Was Stranded in Yellowstone 37 Days
When Truman Everts was working as a mere pencil-pusher for a then proto-Montana, he was asked to join a Yellowstone expedition to help survey the lands. But as a complete novice outdoorsman, he got separated from the rest of his party, lost his horse, and ended up stranded in one of the many lodge-pole pine forests for 37 days.
Assuming he was already dead, the rest of the expedition left him to nearly starve, freeze, and be burned alive by the forest fire he himself started on accident. In a stroke of sheer luck, he was found in mid-October by a pair of woodsmen, and even though he had only barely survived the ordeal, was actually offered the job of Yellowstone’s first superintendent two years later. It’s probably for the best that he declined the position.
13. Yellowstone was Originally Nicknamed Wonderland
After the creation of the Northern Pacific Railroad that eventually saw hundreds of thousands of tourists safely ushered to Yellowstone, they created an ad campaign to advertise their new service. Attached was the tagline “New Wonderland,” piggy-backing off the eponymous novel by Lewis Carrol that had exploded in popularity after its publishing. Some campaigns even featured the fictional Alice herself, touting the beauty and other-worldliness of the park.
14. Yellowstone is Home to the Largest High Elevation Lake in North America
A high-elevation lake is any that sits over 7,000 feet, and of the ones that exist in North America, Lake Yellowstone is the largest. Covering a vast 136 square miles, it is unfortunately too cold for swimming: visitors are warned that swimming in Yellowstone lake can cause hypothermia, with the average person only able to survive within it for about 30 minutes.
15. Yellowstone Has its Own Grand Canyon
In addition to its vast collection of geothermal features, huge amounts of wildlife, and an incredible number of waterfalls, Yellowstone is also home to one of the world’s largest canyons. Called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, it is up to 1,200 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide in some parts.