YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone, established by the US Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the state of Wyoming (97%), though it also extends into Montana (3%) and Idaho (1%). The Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, and is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser, one of the most popular features in the park.
Indigenous Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. The region was bypassed during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. Aside from visits by mountain men during the early to mid-1800s, organized exploration did not begin until the late 1860s. The US Army was commissioned to oversee the park just after its establishment. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS), which had been created the previous year. Hundreds of structures have been built and are protected for their architectural and historical significance, and researchers have examined more than 1,000 archaeological sites.
Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468 square miles (2,221,766 acres), comprising lakes, canyons, river and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake (131.7 square miles) is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent. The caldera is considered an active volcano; it has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone. The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining, nearly intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
It has many types of ecosystems, but the subalpine forest is dominant. Its highest point is 11,358’ – Eagle Peak, and lowest point is 5,282’ – Reese Creek. Approximately 5% of the park is covered by water; 15% is grassland; and 80% is forested. Precipitation ranges from 10 inches at the north boundary to 80 inches in the southwest corner. Temperatures (average) range from 9 degrees in January to 80 degrees in July at Mammoth Hot Springs.
There are 7 species of conifers, 5 park entrances, 466 miles of roads (310 paved), 15 miles of boardwalk, 1000 miles of backcountry trails; 9 visitor centers, museums, 9 hotel/motel, and 7 NPS-operated campgrounds. During the summer approximately 800 people work for the NPS (about 400 year-round) and 3,500 people work for concessioners at peak summer levels. In 1992 visitation reached its highest ever at 3,144,405 people.
Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened. The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Grizzlies, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk live in the park. Forest fires occur in the park each year; in the large forest fires of 1988, nearly one third of the park burned.
The Bechler region or Cascade Corner of Yellowstone is primarily a backcountry area featuring over 100 miles of trails and 33 foot and stock campsites. There are two general areas in the Bechler. The western route travels to Silver Scarf and Dunanda Falls and encompasses more wide-open views and scenic vistas. Another route continues northeast of Bechler Meadows and encompasses Iris, O, Ragged, Twisted Falls, Colonnade Falls, and Iris Falls. Continuing farther up Bechler Canyon, an amazing place just in itself, you will reach Three Rivers Junction. This is the confluence of the Phillips Fork, the Gregg Fork and Ferns Fork Rivers. Just a short walk from this confluence takes you to a hot pot you won’t soon forget.
These are just some of the more notable falls and features in the Bechler area. Bechler is an adventure just waiting to happen!