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A bobcat slinks through the snow in Yellowstone, which protects many species in its role as wildlife sanctuary. 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.
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. 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. America’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to wildlife from bears to bison and geological stunners such as hot springs and geysers. 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.
Yellowstone National Park's mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) Upper Geyser Basin contains the world's greatest concentration of hot springs and geysers. Elk are the most abundant large mammals in Yellowstone National Park, numbering some 30,000 in the summer. In early years, what made Yellowstone stand out was the extravaganza of geysers and hot springs. During the summer of 1988, fire touched many sections of the park, in some areas dramatically changing the appearance of the landscape.


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.
Most of the park rests atop a slumbering volcano that erupted half a million years ago and is showing signs of renewed activity. Copy for this series includes excerpts from the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, Seventh Edition, 2012, and the National Parks series featured in National Geographic Traveler.
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. But dead center is no dead zone: Billions of organisms called thermophiles flourish in the scalding water. The Great Fountain Geyser, pictured here, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet (67 meters) high. The Yellowstone begins south of the park, traveling more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) before it empties into the Missouri River in North Dakota.
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. Paleontological evidence shows that the animals have been living on Yellowstone land for at least a thousand years.
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.


Located astride the Continental Divide, most of the park occupies a high plateau surrounded by mountains and drained by several rivers. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. Boiling hot springs, fumaroles, mud spots, and geysers serve as reminders that another could occur.



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