National Parks of Montana: Yellowstone

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Montana is well known for its towering mountains, blue streams and beautiful scenery. The state is full of national forests, state parks and other public land, but what many people hope to see when they visit is one of the national parks located in the state: Glacier and Yellowstone. This article is going to introduce you to Yellowstone National Park.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Location of Yellowstone National Park

Located about two-and-a-half hours from Butte, Montana, Yellowstone National Park lies within three states: Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The park is 3,742 square miles which is more than two times larger than the state of Rhode Island. There are five entrances to Yellowstone and three of them are in Montana. 

The Park’s Beginning

Prior to and after European arrival, many Tribes used the area of the park as their home, hunting ground and transportation pathway. Human history in this area actually goes back over 11,000 years. In the 1700s, Europeans began to explore the park region and in the late 1800s the fight began to protect the area from public development. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. This act stated that the area was “reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy or sale,” making it the first National Park. 

Originally, the park was meant to run without financial assistance from the government. In 1877, however, the government “authorized appropriations to ‘protect, preserve, and improve the park.’” Even with these provisions, however, the park was ravaged by poachers, squatters, woodcutters and vandals. Because of the park’s need for more protection, the Army took charge of Yellowstone in 1886. 

The Army was able to protect the park, but they were not able to provide the education visitors wanted. Other national parks were experiencing similar managerial problems, so President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act in 1916. This act established the National Park Service. 

Throughout the 1900s, the boundaries of the park were changed twice. During World War II, funding and focus were taken off of the park. In 1955, a plan was put into place to improve the park by the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service in 1966. This plan greatly improved education programs and visitor facilities. 

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

Ways to Enjoy Yellowstone

Today, Yellowstone National Park is an amazing way to enjoy the outdoors. While in the park you are almost guaranteed to see animals such as bison, deer and elk. On top of that, you might even have the opportunity to spot a grizzly bear or wolf. A very common way to enjoy the park is to simply drive through it, making a day trip or staying at one of the hotels in a nearby town, but you can also sleep in the park. There are many campsites and even a few hotels and lodges within the park (some of which are currently closed due to COVID-19). 

Regardless of whether or not you sleep in the park, here are three things you will definitely want to see while you are there:

  • Old Faithful – Easily the most famous feature of Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful is a geyser that erupts around 20 times per day. These eruptions last between one-and-a-half to five minutes and go an average height of 135 feet. When it erupts, it can expel over 8,000 gallons of water and this water is nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Grand Prismatic Spring– While it might not be the most famous, Grand Prismatic Spring is the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone. This hot springs is deeper than a ten-story building, deeper than a football field and over 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Yellowstone Lake– Nearly 20 miles long, 14 miles wide and located 7,733 feet above sea level, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-elevation lake in North America. This lake also has the largest population of cutthroat trout in North America. It is made up of underwater geysers and hotsprings. 
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National park

Safety in the Park

While Yellowstone National Park is a beautiful and wonderful place to visit, it’s important to remember that it is a natural park, not a playground. Many visitors forget that the animals and natural features they are viewing are wild and dangerous. In order to make sure your trip to the park is safe and enjoyable be sure to follow these simple rules:

  • Obey posted signs and park rangers.
  • View animals from a distance and never attempt to touch them. 
  • Stay on boardwalks and trails.
  • Drive slowly and keep an eye on the road ahead of you. 
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