Here's a Sneak Peek Into the History of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, which is situated in the U.S. State of Wyoming, is the first national park in the world and is unique for its geothermal features. Let us take a look at the history of this national park.
Yellowstone National Park boasts of a wide range of wildlife, diverse ecosystems and geothermal features. The name is derived from the yellow-colored rocks in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This national park covers an area of 3,468 square miles and comprises lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and canyons. It has become home to many species of ungulates, bears and other mammals, gray wolf, birds and fish. It also houses over 1,100 species of native plants, more than 200 species of exotic plants and over 400 species of thermophiles (organisms that can thrive in very high temperatures). Some of the mountain ranges in this park are located at a height of about 9,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level.

One among the most popular attractions of Yellowstone National Park is its geothermal features. It has one of the world's largest calderas (crater formed as a result of the collapse of a volcano's mouth) with over 10,000 thermal features and more than 300 geysers. Over 640,000 years ago, huge explosions created the Yellowstone caldera, which is 52 by 28 miles in area and about a kilometer deep. It is believed that the earth's crust in this part of the park is very thin - less than two miles, whereas it is 20 to 30 miles in other areas.

Early Inhabitants of the Park

According to historians, the area where the present Yellowstone National Park is situated, was used by the aboriginal Americans, around 11,000 years ago. As the region consisted of forests rich in wildlife, they used it for hunting and collecting firewood. They also used the obsidian (naturally occurring glass formed from lava), found in the valley, as tools for hunting and for making weapons. The Crow, Blackfoot, Nez Perce, Bannock, and Shoshone tribes were the inhabitants of this region.

First White Explorers

Though humans inhabited the region long ago, the history of Yellowstone National Park can be traced back to the early 1800s. No white explorers visited the region till the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1805, white explorers of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, entered the area, but failed to visit the Yellowstone region. One of the members of this group, John Colter, joined some fur trappers and visited the region (in 1807), where he came across some hot water springs. On his return, nobody believed his description of the geothermal area in Yellowstone.

From 1807 to 1860, many mountain men, most of whom were fur trappers, visited the area. Most of them were illiterate, but Osborne Russell and Jim Bridger succeeded in reporting their observations about the features of the region. These reports fueled plans for further explorations. In 1859, Jim Bridger was appointed as a guide for the exploration team led by geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and Army surveyor W.F. Raynolds. They failed to visit the region due to harsh weather. In 1963, Walter deLacy led an exploration team, which discovered the Shoshone and Lewis Lakes.

The first successfully completed, privately-organized expedition to Yellowstone was carried out in 1860, by D.E. Folsom, William Peterson and C.W. Cook. It was succeeded by Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870. These explorers spent almost a month there and named some of the sites like Old Faithful, Castle Geyser and Giant Geyser. The demand for protecting the region as a national park was first put forward by Cornelius Hedges, who was a member of this team.

Establishment of Yellowstone National Park

After 11 years of his failed attempt (in 1859), geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden managed to obtain a government sponsorship for another expedition to the Yellowstone region called Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. His team included photographer William Henry Jackson, artist Thomas Moran and many others. They collected many geological, biological and zoological specimens from the area and made many valuable notes. These things, along with their photographs and paintings helped in convincing the government to establish a national park in the region. President Ulysses S. Grant, signed the bill, which established Yellowstone National Park on March 1, 1872.

Till date, Yellowstone National Park remains the same. The flora and fauna, which existed in the region at the time of the establishment of this park, still continue to flourish. May this wonderful creation of nature retain its majestic beauty forever!
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