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Yellowstone National Park - Day 1

Updated: May 11, 2018

It was smoky and hazy when we went through Grand Teton National Park a few days ago and our view of the Tetons was greatly obscured. Today as we were headed to Yellowstone the Tetons decided to reveal themselves to us.

Oh. My. Goodness. Spectacular. We were able to get some great shots before we headed up into Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park established in the United States and most likely the first national park in the world. It was established in 1872 under President Ulysses S. Grant and thus pre-dates the National Park Service which just celebrated its 101st anniversary last month on August 25. The National Park Service has some great information about the history and establishment of the park on their website.

Yellowstone is in the northwest (upper left) corner of Wyoming. The park covers an area of over 2.2 million square acres (almost 3500 square miles) which is larger that the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined (and almost half the size of Massachusetts)! The park is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera which is, yes, an active volcano! Half of the world's geothermal features are located in Yellowstone which means that there are more here than all the rest of the world combined! The park extends into three states. It is 96% in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho. The Park Service has a page of facts about the park here.

There are a variety of different types of thermal features in Yellowstone. Hot springs (which are the most common), mudpots (which are very acidic with very little water), fumaroles or steam vents (which are the hottest feature), travertine terraces (which are limestone deposits), and of course, geysers (which are hot springs with constrictions in their plumbing). You can read more about the thermal features here.

Yellowstone is so big that we are spending three days here.

As entered the park through the south entrance, there were signs saying that there was road work between that entrance and the West Thumb area. We were stopped a couple of times, but it wasn't too bad.

We visited West Thumb Geyser Basin, the Old Faithful area, and the Black Sand Basin. We had planned to stop at Lewis Falls but due to all the paving work they were doing, there was no place to park the RV.

West Thumb Geyser Basin (so named because it is on a thumb-like projection on the southwest side of Yellowstone Lake) is the largest geyser basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. There were numerous small hot springs and a mudpot section. There was one pretty large bubbling mudpot in the parking lot. It was stinky!!!

In between West Thumb and Old Faithful, we crossed the continental divide ... twice!! The Great Divide is the line that separates water draining to the Pacific and water draining to the Atlantic.

Old Faithful. Although it is not the largest or most regular geyser in the park, Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers. Currently the park rangers predict the eruption time using the following formula. If the eruption is less than 3 minutes, then next eruption is predicted to be in 60 minutes. If the eruption is more than 3 minutes, then the next eruption is predicted to be in 90 minutes. The prediction times are plus or minus 10 minutes. Old Faithful erupts to an average height of 145 ft (as tall as a 15-story building) and eruptions last between 1.5 to 5 minutes. Around 3,500 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water are expelled during an eruption. The Park Service even has an app that shows the predicted eruption times of Old Faithful, Grand, Castle, Great Fountain, and Daisy Geysers.

Upper Geyser Basin. From Old Faithful, we walked along the wooden boardwalks through the Upper Geyser Basin. There are numerous thermal features in this area. One notable one that we experienced is the Beehive Geyser which is right next to the walkway. Eruptions of the Beehive Geyser last about 5 minutes and are 200 feet high. It's noted for the rainbows that are seen in the spray it produces. The rainbows are what drew Kate over to that area. Unfortunately, she got caught in the spray ... along with a couple dozen other people. The water was COLD!! We survived that and checked out the visitor center which is brand new.

Black Sand Basin. Across from Old Faithful is the Black Sand Basin. Black Sand Basin is named for the obsidian gravel that covers much of the area. Obsidian is a type of rock formed from volcanoes when the lava cools quickly. It looks like glass. There were a bunch of thermal features that were continuously bubbling and splashing.

As we were headed up out of the park for the night, we saw a bunch of cars stopped along side and even in the road and we quickly saw why. There were two VERY LARGE bison not more than 30 feet off the side of the road. Some (dumb) people were getting out of their cars to take pictures, but we stayed in the RV and rolled the windows down and got some great pictures. So cool.

Tomorrow, we plan to tour the Midway Geyser Basin and then head north through the park.

Editorial note: I took over 500 pictures today. Fortunately for those of you reading, I did pare them down a little bit, but there still are a LOT of pictures. I also took a bunch of pictures with a thermal camera attached to my iPhone.


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