Today we go to the US state of Wyoming to visit a National Park famous world wide, Yellowstone.
Yellowstone was established as a national park by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872 and stretches mostly in Wyoming but also in Montana and Idaho.
The Crow Indians called it "the land of burning ground" or "land of vapors" while Blackfeet baptized it "many smoke". The Flatheads named it "smoke from the ground" while Kiowas branded it "the place of hot water". Only the Bannocks had a name for it that did not bring to mind the thermal springs of the region, "buffalo country". The Crows specifically called the Yellowstone geysers "Bide-Mahpe" meaning "sacred or powerful water".
Yellowstone is situated in a region that has been volcanically and seismically active for tens of millions of years. Tectonic movement of the North American Plate has thinned Earth’s crust in the area, forming a hot spot (a place where a dome of magma, or molten rock, comes close to the surface). About 2.1 million years ago a subsurface magma dome that had been building up in the Yellowstone area blew up in one of the world’s most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. Some 600 cubic miles (2,500 cubic km) of rock and ash were ejected, equivalent to about 6,000 times the amount of volcanic material that was released during the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980.
Old Faithful is the most famous, though not the highest, of all North American geysers. It was so named in 1870 by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition because it seemed to spout “faithfully” every 63 to 70 minutes, which became less predictable after the 1983 Idaho earthquake. There are over 10 000 geothermal attraction throughout the park.
Grand Prismatic Spring was noted by geologists working in the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, and named by them for its striking coloration. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue
The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red; the amount of color in the microbial mats depends on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids and on the temperature of the water which favors one bacterium over another. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.
Some 1,350 species of flowering plants (roughly 1,150 of them native) have been identified in Yellowstone.
Animal life in Yellowstone is typical of the Rocky Mountain West, and the park boasts the greatest assemblage of mammals in the United States, outside of Alaska. Bison (buffalo), were brought back from near extinction at the beginning of the 20th century. Other large mammals often seen in Yellowstone include elk (wapiti), mule deer, black bears, foxes, and coyotes.
There are smaller populations of brown (grizzly) bears, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, mountain goats, and moose and bobcats. Wolves were successfully reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 and are now found throughout much of the park.
The native have beautiful legends about Yellowstone. Ralph Dixie gathered this story from the Shoshone Tribe: "long ago there was no river in this part of the country. No Snake river ran through the country", so it began. Then the legend tells us of a curious man who traveled from the south to the north over the Tetons, up to the mountains that are now Yellowstone. There he found an old lady with a basket of fish, and being hungry he asked her to boil him some. She, in return, asked him not to bother her basket, but being curious such as he was he snooped in it and accidentally spilled it. Water started running down south and he ran in front of it building a dam of rocks trying to stop it, but water was powerful and it passed through his construction.
This is where the Upper Falls is today. He tried again, but such was the force of water that it broke his second dam. This is where the Lower Falls is today. The man did not give up and built several more dams through which the water passed. This is where the American and Shoshone Falls are today. The big fish basket that the man tipped over is the Yellowstone lake while the old lady is Mother Earth and the man himself, Ezeppa or Coyote.
Photo credits: Alptraum, Lane Erickson, Linda Bair, Kateleigh, Yun Gao, Minyun Zhou, Ramblingman, Rinus Baak, Seread.