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Yellowstone National Park

On March 1, 1872, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant declared Yellowstone a National Park. Located principally in what is today Wyoming, Yellowstone was not explored until late in the 19th century. By that time, geologists and naturalists were able to help bring to the attention of federal authority the extraordinary place this was. Yellowstone became the world’s first federally protected area.

Yellowstone contains the largest volcano on Earth. In fact, the park is believed to hold half of the world’s known geothermal features that include two-thirds of the world’s geysers and the world’s largest recognized caldera, Yellowstone Lake. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, Yellowstone is also a place where rare and endangered species thrive.

Its geologic vantage point supports ongoing study into the formation of Earth’s crust and its ongoing pressures and movement. According to findings, Yellowstone is considered a supervolcano, the site of three massive prehistoric volcanic eruptions that are likely due to the pressures and movement of the North American plate around the Yellowstone plateau and only the last in a series begun 15 million years ago. Scientists continue to study and probe how the present Yellowstone is situated and how a hole in the mantle under Earth’s crust may contribute magma. Gives a whole new meaning to the word hotspot!

Meanwhile, up on the park’s surface, completely unaware of all this paleogeologic excitement, the last of free-ranging wild bison herds that once covered the Great Plains are busy foraging and avoiding equally free-ranging grizzly bears. The park has its own 32 km- (20 mi-) Grand Canyon with ecosystems within its mountain walls, valley, river, and waterfalls. At every height throughout the park from April to September a wildflower species is in bloom. More than 60 mammal species have picked out their best spots. There’s a home for elk, squirrels, toads, hawks, geese, wrens, salamanders, and cutthroat trout. As well, there’s a lot to choose from for salmon, beaver, moose, and brine flies. More than half the park’s rare plant species live in its wetlands ecosystems each with a complex range of features that can actually provide both warm and cool springs to the same pool such that a tropical and a boreal species may grow in the same neighbourhood!

All in all, no surprise that UNESCO has designated Yellowstone as both a Biosphere Reserve and as a World Heritage Site.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage