I will be breaking this day into 2 posts as we covered a lot of ground during our all day adventure.
1800s Accounts From Out West
For decades, fur trappers and mountain men told stories of the lands out west. To folks living back east, all of the accounts must have seemed fantastical, yet today we know that some of the accounts were quite accurate (and some embellished works of fiction). How do you go about determining the truth of a story?
Here are some excerpts from people who explored the region now known as Yellowstone. Which do you find realistic? Which do you find fantastical?
“Boiling fountains having different degrees of temperature were very numerous; one or two were so very hot as to boil meat.”—Alexander Ross, 1818
“There is also a number of places where the pure suphor is sent forth in abundance one of our men Visited one of those wilst taking his recreation there at an instan the earth began a tremendious trembling and he with dificulty made his escape when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder.”—Daniel T. Potts, 1827
“The general face of the country was smooth and rolling, being a level plain, dotted with cone-shaped mounds. On the summits of these mounds were small craters from four to eight feet in diameter. Interspersed among these, on the level plain, were larger craters, some of them from four to six miles across. Out of these craters issued blue flames and molten brimstone.”—1868 account by Joseph L. Meek of his time in the region in 1829
Yellowstone National Park is located in the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Established as the first United States National Park on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone is also held to be the first national park in the world. The park is known for its geothermal features.
Native Americans have called the Yellowstone region home for at least 11,000 years. Aside from visits by early explorers during the early-to-mid-19th century, it was not until the late 1860’s that exploration of the area begins. The Secretary of the Interior held control and management of the park although between 1886 and 1917 the U.S. Army was to control the management of the park due to illegal hunting, trapping and looters. The National Park Service took over control in 1917.
Yellowstone National Park’s lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges comprise an area of approximately 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km). Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles call this land home. Grizzly Bears, wolves, bison and elk are the largest animals in the park and are not to be taken lightly. Yellowstone Pledge.
During the summer months paved roads provide access to the major geothermal areas as well as some of the lakes and waterfalls. During the snowy winter, visitors can only access the park by way of guided tours that use either snow coaches or snowmobiles.
We all got up early to leave the cabin about 7:30 for an early start to beat some of the crowds. It didn’t work. After our 30-minute drive to the entry station, the 4 entry lines were already 10 cars deep each. We had our yearly and senior National Park passes so we were able to skip straight to the express line that was still 10 cars deep but moved much faster.
Our first stop was Fountain Paint Pots to walk along the boardwalks and view the many sites along the paths. At this stop you will see different types of Yellowstone’s volcanism from those that have water (hot springs and geysers) to those that have a limited amount of water (mud pots and fumaroles). We parked rather easily although 45 minutes later as we left the parking lot was full with a waiting line to find a parking spot.
Continuing on our lower loop we stopped at Midway Geyser Basin to explore The Grand Prismatic Spring before heading to Old Faithful. At 250×380 feet (76.2×115.8 meters) Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest in the world, New Zealand holding the two largest. Grand Prismatic sits upon a wide mound where water flows evenly on all sides forming small stair-step terraces with colors ranging from deep blue in the center to paler blues on the edges. Outside the terraced rim a band of yellow fades into orange. Red then marks the outer border. Brilliant colors reflect in, the steam often shrouds the spring. Grand Prismatic discharges an estimated 560 gallons (2,466 liters) per minute into the nearby Firehole River. Also there is Excelsior Geyser in this area although since its 300-foot (91.5 meters) eruptive activity in the 1880s, is only a productive thermal spring, presently discharging 4,050 gallons (17,840 liters) per minute. Since it’s 1880’s eruption in the 1880s there have been no major eruptions, except in 1984 when it suddenly erupted for 2 days.