Yellowstone National Park

Experience incredible nature found no where else in America's first national park.

Old Faithful

Vapor rises from Old Faithful, one of Yellowstone's most popular attractions. Not the largest or the most regular of the park's geysers, Old Faithful erupts more frequently, with each blast expelling between 3,700 to 8,400 gallons (14,000 to 32,000 liters) of boiling water.


A bobcat slinks through the snow in Yellowstone, which protects many species in its role as wildlife sanctuary. Among them are elk, bison, mule deer, grizzlies, black bears, and mountain lions.

Grand Prismatic Spring

The center of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring steams at 199° Fahrenheit (93° Celsius), too hot for the multicolored bacteria clustering on the cooler perimeter. But dead center is no dead zone: Billions of organisms called thermophiles flourish in the scalding water.

Gray Wolves

Originally native to the area, gray wolves in Yellowstone were killed off as part of "predator control" practices, and by the 1970s no wolves were known to be living in the park. A controversial reintroduction program has been largely successful.


Nomadic grazers, bison roam Yellowstone National Park's grassy plateaus in summer and spend winter near warm thermal pools or in the northern section of the park. The huge animals use their heads like a plow to push snow aside in search of food.

Great Fountain Geyser

America’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to wildlife from bears to bison and geological stunners such as hot springs and geysers. The Great Fountain Geyser, pictured here, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet (67 meters) high.

Lower Yellowstone Falls

The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River drop a stunning 308 feet (94 meters) to the canyon floor below—twice as far as Niagara Falls. The Yellowstone begins south of the park, traveling more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) before it empties into the Missouri River in North Dakota. It is the longest undammed river in the continental U.S.

Upper Geyser Basin

Yellowstone National Park's mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) Upper Geyser Basin contains the world's greatest concentration of hot springs and geysers. In the entire park, which spreads out over parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, there are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features—half of all such features in the world.


Elk are the most abundant large mammals in Yellowstone National Park, numbering some 30,000 in the summer. Paleontological evidence shows that the animals have been living on Yellowstone land for at least a thousand years.

Tap images for captions
Location: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana
March 1, 1872
2,221,766 acres

Yellowstone is a geological smoking gun that illustrates how violent the Earth can be. One event overshadows all others: Some 640,000 years ago, an area many miles square at what is now the center of the park suddenly exploded. In minutes the landscape was devastated. Fast-moving ash flows covered thousands of square miles. At the center only a smoldering caldera remained, a collapsed crater 45 by 30 miles. At least two other cataclysmic events preceded this one. Boiling hot springs, fumaroles, mud spots, and geysers serve as reminders that another could occur.

Yellowstone, however, is much more than hot ground and gushing steam. Located astride the Continental Divide, most of the park occupies a high plateau surrounded by mountains and drained by several rivers. Park boundaries enclose craggy peaks, alpine lakes, deep canyons, and vast forests. In 1872, Yellowstone became the world's first national park, the result of great foresight on the part of many people about our eventual need for the solace and beauty of wild places.

Five Must-See Attractions in Yellowstone

In early years, what made Yellowstone stand out was the extravaganza of geysers and hot springs. The wild landscape and the bison, elk, and bears were nice but, after all, America was still a pioneer country filled with scenic beauty and animals. [Visit Yellowstone National Park in Winter with National Geographic Expeditions.]

As the West was settled, however, Yellowstone's importance as a wildlife sanctuary grew. The list of park animals is a compendium of Rocky Mountain fauna: elk, bison, mule deer, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, moose, pronghorn, coyotes, mountain lions, beaver, trumpeter swans, eagles, ospreys, white pelicans, and more.

During the summer of 1988, fire touched many sections of the park, in some areas dramatically changing the appearance of the landscape. Yet not one major feature was destroyed. The geysers, waterfalls, and herds of wildlife are still here. Many places show no impact at all, while those that are regenerating benefit both vegetation and animal life. Side by side, burned areas and nonburned areas provide an intriguing study in the causes and effects of fire in wild places. Yellowstone has witnessed bigger natural events than this and may well again.

Of far greater concern to environmentalists than the fires are the impact of the increasing numbers of visitors, the threatened grizzly bear population, and, on nearby lands, the planned development of natural resource projects. Cooperative management between the park and the six forests that make up the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is essential if wildlife and thermal features are to survive.

Did You Know?

Most of the park rests atop a slumbering volcano that erupted half a million years ago and is showing signs of renewed activity. (Note: No eruption is expected in the near future.)

There are more geysers and hot springs here than anywhere else on Earth. 


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