Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States! This expansive park extends through the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and is prominently known for its sub-alpine forests, thousands of hot springs, and geysers. Going backpacking? Before you head out, make sure you’re up to speed with the info by reading these 60 interesting facts about Yellowstone National Park.
Fact 1: Yellowstone covers an astounding surface area of 3,472 square miles!
- The park is even larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
Fact 2: Yellowstone National Park is nestled in the northwest corner of Wyoming and stretches out to Montana and Idaho.
- The park covers 3 American states: 96% in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho.
Fact 3: Yellowstone National Park was named a World Heritage Site in 1978.
- This means that the entirety of Yellowstone is to be preserved “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
Fact 4: Aside from being a World Heritage Site, Yellowstone National Park is also a designated Biosphere Reserve.
- This is in recognition of the global significance of the Park’s natural and cultural resources.
Fact 5: In 2019, more than 4.1 million people visited Yellowstone National Park.
- However, this number poses new concerns as to how park rangers are supposed to keep millions of visitors safe amidst acres of wildlife.
Fact 6: Yellowstone measures 101km from north to south, and 84km from east to west.
- Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers.
Fact 7: On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first-ever National Park.
- It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Fact 8: Roughly 1,000-3,000 earthquakes hit Yellowstone every year.
- An earthquake is a sudden and violent shaking of the ground resulting from movements within the earth’s crust or volcanic action.
Fact 9: With 28,000 square acres of land area, Yellowstone is the largest intact temperate ecosystem in the world.
- An ecosystem refers to a community of living organisms interacting with their physical, non-living environment.
Fact 10: The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in America.
- It stretches to a whopping 692 miles in length.
Fact 11: Human history of Yellowstone National Park began 11,000 years ago.
- The area used to be the hunting and fishing grounds of Native Americans.
Fact 12: Yellowstone houses the world’s largest collection of geysers, with approximately 10,000 geothermal features and over 300 geysers.
- A geyser is a vent in the Earth’s surface that periodically ejects a column of hot water and steam.
Fact 13: Eagle Peak stands at a height of 11,358 feet, making it the highest point in Yellowstone.
- However, that’s only half the size of Denali, the tallest mountain in the U.S.
Fact 14: 15% of Yellowstone National Park is grassland.
- 80% of the park is forestland.
Fact 15: Situated 7,000 feet above sea level, Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake found at such a high altitude in North America.
- The lake has a maximum depth of 120 meters.
Fact 16: It’s easy to pinpoint Lake Yellowstone Hotel with its distinctive buttercup yellow paint.
- The hotel is also the oldest standing building in Yellowstone which dates back to 1889.
Fact 17: Evidence of a 9,350-year-old campsite was uncovered near Yellowstone Lake.
- The artefacts discovered at the site revealed several families appeared to have spent time at the lake.
Fact 18: Gardner’s Hole is the second oldest place-name in Yellowstone.
- Named for a local trapper, Gardner’s Hole is one of the most scenic regions in Yellowstone and is a great trip for both families and beginners.
Fact 19: On 1807, John Colter became the first white male to lay eyes on Yellowstone National Park.
- Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition team.
Fact 20: Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano smells like “rotten egg”.
- The odour permeating the air comes from the hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the volcano.
Fact 21: Thermophilic viruses inhabit the Congress Pool at Yellowstone’s Norris Geyser Basin.
- A thermophile is an organism capable of surviving in environments with relatively high temperatures— somewhere between 41 and 122°C.
Fact 22: Three U.S. Navy vessels have carried the name, Yellowstone.
- In fact, the third USS Yellowstone was the lead ship of the Yellowstone class of destroyer tenders in the United States Navy.
Fact 23: Native Americans mined obsidian at Obsidian cliff.
- They traded obsidian for tools and projectiles.
Fact 24: Gray wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone 1995.
- Today, more than 25 years after wolves were reintroduced into the park, the predators have helped parts of the ecosystem bounce back.
Fact 25: In 1965, microbiologist Thomas Brock discovered a new species of bacteria that thrived in the 160°C waters of the Mushroom Pool.
- A sample of the ‘Thermus aquaticus’ bacteria remains freeze-dried today at the American Microbiology Society’s culture collection.
Fact 26: At 8,564 feet, Yellowstone’s Bunsen Peak is an intrusion of magma formed approximately 50 million years ago.
- Magma is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed.
Fact 27: Yellowstone’s Bunsen Peak and the “Bunsen Burner” were named after physicist Robert Wilhelm Bunsen.
- A Bunsen Burner is a small adjustable gas burner that is used in laboratories.
Fact 28: The river, that Yellowstone would be named after, actually appeared on a French explorer’s map in 1796.
- The river was called ‘R. des Roches Jaune’ (River of Yellow Stones), which came from the word Mi tse a-da-zi by the Minnetaree.
Fact 29: A group of Shoshone or Bannock Indians that inhabited a region in Yellowstone were called “Sheepeaters”.
- The Shoshone also went by the name, ‘Tukudeka’. At present, the Tukudeka belongs to a federally recognized tribe, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho and the Eastern Shoshone of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
Fact 30: It was William Henry Jackson who took the earliest known photograph of the Old Faithful geyser in eruption.
- Jackson took the photo during the Hayden Expedition 1872.
Fact 31: Three endemic or native species of plants exist in Yellowstone National Park.
- This includes Ross’s bentgrass (Agrostis Rossiae), Yellowstone sand verbena (Abronia ammophila), and Yellowstone sulfur wild buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. Cladophorim).
Fact 32: Minerals and organisms living in the Norris Geyser Basin give the basin a milky hue.
- The whitish-coloured mineral found in the basin is siliceous sinter, also known as geyserite.
Fact 33: On August 13, 1886, Captain Moses Harris from Fort Custer in the Montana Territories marched into Yellowstone.
- Harris was the first of a dozen military officers to lead the park until the National Park Service took over in 1918.
Fact 34: On August 23, 1877, the remainder of a group of Nez Perce (Nimiipu) fled from the Pacific Northwest into Yellowstone seeking refuge.
- The conflict between the Nez Perce and the U.S. army stemmed from the Nez Perce’s refusal to give up their ancestral lands in the Pacific Northwest, and moved to an Indian reservation in Idaho.
Fact 35: The Northern Pacific Railroad renamed its sleeping car as ‘Yellowstone’.
- The sleeping car accommodated important guests, such as ex-President Ulysses S. Grant, who travelled to and from the Northern Pacific Railroad’s “Last Spike” gala in that car.
Fact 36: The Yellowstone Park bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States.
- Aside from bison, the park is also home to Grizzly bears, wolves and free-ranging herds of elk.
Fact 37: The kiosk at Obsidian Cliff was constructed in 1931.
- The kiosk is a small structure that shelters an interpretive exhibit in Yellowstone National Park at Obsidian Cliff.
Fact 38: The Chinese Spring in Yellowstone National Park was originally named Chinaman Spring.
- The renaming was a tribute to the Asian attendant in the park who used the spring to clean visitors’ laundry.
Fact 39: At 10,243 feet, Mount Washburn is the tallest peak in the Washburn Range.
- Mount Washburn is also an extinct stratovolcano.
Fact 40: Henry Teller, then Secretary of the Interior, officially prohibited hunting within Yellowstone National Park.
- However, big game, upland birds, and various waterfowl can be hunted in season on public and national forest areas.
Fact 41: The Yellowstone fires of 1988 were unprecedented in the history of the National Park Service.
- This led to many questioning the existing fire management policies at that time.
Fact 42: George Henderson and Ole Anderson started a curio business that involved coating trinkets, like tin toys and pine cones, using the Mammoth Hot Springs.
- Eventually, the curio business was banned.
Fact 43: Yellowstone’s first gamekeeper was Harry Yount.
- Yount was stationed at Tower-Roosevelt Junction in 1880 to help stop the illegal poaching of animals.
Fact 44: On July 20, 1981, David Allen Kirwan died from sustained injuries after he dove head-first into a Celestine Pool along Fountain Paint Pot Trail.
- Kirwan’s dog escaped and jumped into the boiling waters of the Celestine Pool. Kirwan tried to save his dog, but suffered third-degree burns over his whole body, causing his eventual death.
Fact 45: Liberty Cap is a 2,500-year-old 40-foot cone of a dormant hot spring.
- The spring got its name from the peaked hats worn during the French Revolution.
Fact 46: The largest population of cutthroat trout in North America can be found in Yellowstone National Park.
- Cutthroat trout are popular gamefish, especially among anglers who enjoy fly fishing.
Fact 47: Anglers would dip their fresh-caught trout into the Fishing Cone hot spring in the West Thumb Geyser Basin to cook it.
- However, fishing in the Fishing Cone was finally banned after an angler burned to death in an eruption that occurred in the 1920s.
Fact 48: Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn was built during the bitter winter of 1903-1904.
- The architect, Robert C. Reamer was responsible for the inn’s rustic design.
Fact 49: On July 1, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson allocated funds, that would be sufficient enough to recruit forest rangers to replace the army that was protecting Yellowstone.
- These rangers became known as the “Spread-eagle” men.
Fact 50: In 1870, Truman C. Everts joined the Washburn Expedition to explore Yellowstone.
- Everts got lost in a sudden snowstorm while in a thick forest and wandered lost in the park for 37 days.
Fact 51: One of Yellowstone’s mountain, Mt. Everts, was named after Truman C. Everts.
- In an effort to find the missing Everts, his expedition team put up a $600 reward to find him. Fortunately, 2 locals did find Everts, who had nearly died in the northern reaches of the park.
Fact 52: Yellowstone’s Old Faithful did at one time erupt due to damage it sustained on its “plumbing” from an earthquake.
- The geyser now “performs” every 88 minutes.
Fact 53: By 1915, 1,000 automobiles per year were entering the park, resulting in conflicts with horses and horse-drawn transportation.
- Horse travel on roads was eventually prohibited.
Fact 54: About 5% of Yellowstone National Park is covered in water.
- 80% of the park is forestland and 15% is grassland.
Fact 55: Yellowstone was originally nicknamed “Wonderland” for its picturesque landscape and wildlife.
- This was the park’s method of drawing in more visitors.
Fact 56: Yellowstone’s expansive cultural history has been documented by the 1,000 archaeological sites that have been discovered in the area.
- The park currently has 1,106 historic structures and features.
Fact 57: The highest recorded temperature at Mammoth Hot Springs was 99ºF which occurred in 2002.
- The coldest temperature was -66ºF at Riverside Station at the West Entrance in 1933.
Fact 58: Yellowstone’s Grand Geyser blows the tallest geyser in the park.
- The geyser blows twice a day on average, for 12–20 minutes, some bursts are as high as 200 feet.
Fact 59: There are 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, and 16 species of fish found in Yellowstone.
- Moreover, the park is also home to 5 species of amphibians, and 6 species of reptiles.
Fact 60: Aside from its outstanding fauna, the park also features 9 species of conifers, over a thousand native flowering species, 225 invasive plants, and 186 species of lichen.
- More than 80% of the park’s forestland consists of lodgepole pine.