Grizzlies, geysers and hot springs, could sum up what you get to see in Yellowstone, but in no way prepare you for the extraordinary colors and sights. Yellowstone has many different facets. Read and see what makes the magical landscapes of Yellowstone so unique and beautiful in this photo essay. This article coincides with the US National Park Service`s 100th anniversary on 25th August 2016.
Yellowstone is located on the Continental Divide and most of the park is on high plateaus surrounded by mountains and several rivers. The geysers, hot springs and fumaroles are attributed to Yellowstone’s location atop a hot bed of volcanic activity that occurred half a million years ago. In 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park.
The four most common geothermal features are geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. In total, there are over 10,000 hot springs and geysers here making it the largest number in the world. The most stunning of them all is the Grand Prismatic. Aptly named, its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The reds and oranges are due to the thermophilic microbial community that grows in these conditions and changes according to the seasons. The center of the pool is blue and reaches up to 160 °F.
The Prismatic is not by any means the only colorful formation, here`s Celestine pool with shades of blue and known to be as hot or hotter than Prismatic.
On of the most enigmatic hot springs is the Morning Glory pool, possibly named for its resemblance to the flower. Oh, and it is really difficult to get a picture in its gorgeous entirety because there is no area to view it from higher up. It took a lot of trail and error and improvising to get this bird`s eye shot from just the platform around it.
The result of the love affair between the hot springs and limestone rock is an ecosystem like nowhere! Travertine terraces are formed from limestone rock. Thermal water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of the dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate). And the thermophiles work their magic imparting color.
Perhaps the most famous of the geographical features are the geysers! Birthed as bubbling water below the surface and slowly raised up by the steam pressure, they in reality are hot springs with constrictions. Tremendous amounts of steam force water out of the vent, and an eruption begins..
Freed from its immense pressure, the water gushes out to great heights. Old Faithful, certainly the most iconic geyser is one of the hundreds of small and big ones in Yellowstone. Though born of the same water and rock, each one is unique and is a treat to watch them erupt surrounded by their mist and steam.
The eruption of most of the popular geysers is predicted to a great degree of certainity by the park rangers! So check the times and be sure to catch one erupt!
The non-geothermal landscapes of Yellowstone are equally beautiful. The powerful Yellowstone River has sculpted this canyon over millions of years. The rocks around are all rhyolite lava flows and they have subtle hues of various colors.
Grizzlies are almost as popular as the geysers in Yellowstone. No trip is complete without lots of wildlife viewing! Don`t be surprised if you experience traffic holdups due to cars stopping to watch wildlife. Bears, bison, elks, wolves…..if you are lucky! Luck favored us and we saw a wolf and grizzly along with umpteen bison and elk! Hayden Valley is a good wildlife viewing spot.
After dark, Yellowstone still continues to dazzle by way of its night skies, with almost no light pollution. We got a great shot of the Milky Way on a cloudy night. No wonder Montana is the Big Sky state!
Yellowstone is almost an other-worldly experience at almost no effort. That`s right – high reward, no effort as all of these sights are just a short walk away from the parking lot – no scrambling, no climbing, no deadly switchbacks! If you are an armchair nature lover, this is your park!