Yellowstone’s Amazing Sites and History

A pair of moose were our official greeters to Yellowstone National Park upon our arrival.  I thought it fitting that they should be yours as well.

What followed though, seemed to be as far from this green and serene landscape as possible.

Our earth – this thing we call terra firma – is alive and not quite as solid beneath our feet as we assume it to be.

At least we received the warning.

Yellowstone National Park – the WORLD’S  first national park – was made official in 1872.  Another park by the name of Yosemite had made it possible though, when President Abraham Lincoln set aside the property for public protection in 1864.  It was the first park to have federal support for the preservation of a land mass, but was ceded to the control of California.  In 1890 it returned to the umbrella of Federal management.

Australia followed with the Royal National Park in 1879; Canada with the Rocky Mountain National Park in 1885; and New Zealand established Tongariro National Park in 1887.  Wow, we were really onto something here.

There are several things that spring to mind about Yellowstone and one of them is the nostril piercing scent of sulphur around the volcanic areas and the smoke rising from the ground and water sources.

If you look closely you can see the steam coming off of this flowing water.

Another thing about Yellowstone that seems a little odd, is that it predates the founding of the states that it resides in, since they were all part of ‘western territories’ when Yellowstone National Park was established.  Montana became a state in 1889, and Idaho and Wyoming were both given statehood in 1890.  That explains the importance of keeping it part of the ‘national’ umbrella as opposed to giving it to just one state.

Yellowstone covers more than 3400 square miles.  It has lakes, rivers, canyons, mountain ranges, forests, grasslands and geothermal features.  It also has a free ranging population of bison, elk, grissly bears, wolves, mule deer, pronghorns, moose, and a vast array of birds.

Sometimes the bison cause traffic backups because they will cross the road and just stand there – for hours!

But the most beautiful of all is The Grand Prismatic Spring.

Just take a few moments and admire this beauty.  There are boardwalks that lead above it and allow you to walk right around it, the steam giving you a nice facial as you manuever.

I have often wondered what the first humans who stumbled upon this place thought of it.  I assumed they feared they might have reached ‘hell’.  My research does point to these exact thoughts by a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  He had left it with some fur trappers and they split up to cover more area.  His name was John Colter and the year was 1806.  He suffered serious injury from the Crow and Blackfoot Tribes and as he recovered, he described a place of “fire and brimstone”.  They thought he was simply delirious and that the place existed only in his imagination.  They nicknamed it “Colter’s Hell”.  Of course, other reports supported Colter as descriptions of boiling and spouting water, steaming ground and mountains of glass and yellow rock made its way back to the population.

But evidence of inhabitants of the area go back more than 11,000 years.  A tribal people lived and thrived in this environment and left behind their tools and arrowheads scultped from the distinctive yellow rock.  It is from their naming of the ‘river with rock of yellow’ that gave the Yellowstone River its name, and hince the park itself.

Old Faithful, the geyser that erupts promptly every 91 minutes – give or take a few seconds – is part of this park.  I shared its pictured under the ‘s’ for steam post, so I won’t repost it here.  I’ll share a lesser known geyser named ‘White Dome’. If you have the opportunity to visit Yellowstone, you simply must take it.  Its beauty and oddity cannot be given proper description through words and pictures.  It needs to be experienced through all of the senses.  I guess you tell that I was impressed.



  1. Thank you for sharing your trip to Yellowstone: we’ve never been. Guess you got an “easy” letter today – in between the X and Z!! Have a good weekend!

  2. My husband and I watched “Mountain Men” from the ’80, with Charlton Heston and Brian Keith, a screenplay written by Charlton Heston’s son, and he just pointed out to me “Colter’s Hell” to me. He assured me there would be scenes from Yellowstone and the Tetons. I did not know of it, and now in the same week it has been pointed out to me twice. I would love to return and take in more. Great “Y”. Where else but in the US?

  3. Did you also know that all those hot and stinky innards of our planet that errupt in yellowstone is beacuse that is where the earthcrust is the thinnest-(like basically nonexistant) and the whole thing can blow up anytime at monstrous proportions? Possibly making it the largest crater in the world?
    (and all they have is timy little baordwalks across it!!!!!!) HM!

  4. I didn’t realize the vastness of Yellowstone Park. My sister-in-law described it akin to spaghetti sauce bubbling. Hard to imagine, surely this is one that requires hands-on experience. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi,
    Yellowstone looks like a beautiful place to visit, I’m amazed at the volcanic areas, what an amazing place it is. 🙂
    I smiled when I read about the ground being unstable, my post tomorrow has something to do with that. 🙂

  6. I’ve been fortunate to visit Yellowstone, and it is an amazing place of beauty and mystery. Great photos! And thanks for the history lesson. I never heard the story about “Colter’s Hell” or realized that the park predates the statehood status of MT, ID, and WY. ~ Sheila

  7. I am often sad that I lived in California my entire life and never made it to Yellowstone on vacation. I have always wanted to go and it will forever remain on my list of paces to see (even though that might not happen). Thanks for the history lesson. The facts are fascinating and I love the part about Colter’s Hell. People were funny back then weren’t they! It’s wonderful that both countries and states take an interest in preserving these parks. With out that, they would completely disappear and what a great loss that would be for future generations.

  8. I love the history you shared. It is with a bit of wonderment that even in 1864, long before we knew any of the damage we were doing to our earth, that Lincoln had the foresight to know that it would be necessary to protect such places.

  9. Excellent post! It brings back memories. I visited Yellowstone when I was a teenager and still have vivid memories of the place. I hope to revisit again someday.

  10. I’m glad you mentioned that people had been living in the area of Yellowstone for at least eleven thousand years. I wonder what they thought of the strange things they saw there. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt they even had the concept of Hell. But boiling water in the ground? That had to make some kind of impression.

    Thanks for the tour, Renee, and for all of the great information.

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