The year was 1872. America only had thirty-seven states. Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant won reelection as president. Montgomery Ward published its inaugural catalog, and Bloomingdale’s opened its doors for the first time.
It was also the year Yellowstone National Park became America’s first national park. In honor of Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary, here are fifteen fascinating facts that illustrate why it’s a worthy addition to any bucket list.
- Although Hot Springs and Yosemite were established before Yellowstone, in 1832 and 1864 respectively, neither was a national park at the time. The former became one almost fifty years after Yellowstone and the latter eighteen years later.
- Once the largest national park in the lower forty-eight states, Yellowstone National Park still ranks second behind Death Valley at 2.2 million acres , making it larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
- Yellowstone boasts the largest hot spring in the country and the third largest in the world, Grand Prismatic Spring. It measures an estimated 370 feet in diameter.
- Grand Prismatic Spring is also a popular tourist destination because of its rainbow of colors, hence its dignified name. The reason for these bright colors? The different forms of bacteria living in its superhot waters.
- Yellowstone National Park is also the place to be if you’re a fan of geysers, as it’s home to the world-renowned Old Faithful. But did you know that the park contains over five hundred geysers in all? In fact, Yellowstone houses half the geysers in the entire world.
- Yellowstone National Park sits atop an underground volcano. So it’s no surprise that beneath the surface, temperatures can be sky-high. Remarkably, Yellowstone’s Norris Geyser Basin can reach over 450 degrees underground, making it one of the hottest geysers in the world.
- But wait—there’s more! Norris Geyser Basin is also where you can find Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world. If you’re lucky enough to visit the park when Steamboat erupts, you’ll see water shoot over three hundred feet in the air.
- Expect to have a multitude of sensory experiences at Yellowstone. Yes, people visit here to witness all its natural wonders, but it’s actually a complex sensory experience with distinctly different smells (such as rotten eggs, thanks to sulfur levels in some places) and even sounds (such as beelike buzzing) coming from the geysers.
- Here you can visit the largest high-elevation lake in North America, Yellowstone Lake. At over 7,700 feet above sea level, it’s a feast for the eyes, but that’s all—with average water temperatures at around 40 degrees, you definitely don’t want to take a dip.
- Yellowstone is the ultimate nature lover’s paradise, as it has around 1,000 miles of hiking trails—laid end to end, that’s approximately the distance from New York City to St. Louis. There are also over ninety trailheads and over three hundred campsites along the way as well as 290 waterfalls throughout the park.
- If you want to see wildlife in its natural habitat, Yellowstone is the place to visit, as it has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower forty-eight states. Sixty-seven different species call this place home, from bison to bears and from wolves to wolverines. In addition, 285 different types of birds and sixteen species of fish can be found here.
- Similarly, Yellowstone is a plant paradise, featuring over 1,000 species of native flowers. The park also boasts nine different varieties of conifers.
- It is believed that humans have roamed this land for over 11,000 years.
- Yellowstone can help you check several states off your list in one trip, as it’s the only national park to cross into three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The vast majority of Yellowstone is in Wyoming.
- Finally, Yellowstone is a hotbed of history.
- A whopping twenty-five sites, landmarks, and districts on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Trail
- Twenty-seven associated Native American tribes
- More than 900 historic buildings
- More than 1,800 archeological sites
- More than 20,000 books, manuscripts, and periodicals onsite, and
- More than 720,000 museum items.
Simply put, there’s nothing else quite like Yellowstone National Park in the country and perhaps the world. As our inaugural national park turns 150, it continues to stand as a testament to the majesty, wonder, and natural beauty that make America grand.
Several areas of Yellowstone National Park were impacted by historic flooding during the summer, which may affect park accessibility. Contact Yellowstone for the latest information before making any travel plans to the park.
For more info, visit nps.gov/yell