Yellowstone National Park is one of the first national parks worldwide and also one of the biggest. It is located in the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This park of 8,983 km² is reputed for its exceptional wildlife, lakes and for its many other natural features.
The first written evidence of the park’s existence appeared in 1795. However, it was only officially recognized a hundred years later. Two years after the recognition, President Grant signed “The Act of Dedication “, which gave the park the status of national park. In 1886, the US army arrived and developed its own policy to protect the nature and the animals. Thanks to the government’s funding and labour, the area now counts a lot of campgrounds and other public facilities.
Yellowstone National Park, which is surrounded by mountains, is 2.400 meters above sea level. It is also located on a land prone to earthquakes. Forests cover 80 % of the Yellowstone area whereas water only covers 5 %. As such, it contains four types of thermal features: geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. A fumarole is an opening in the earth, often near volcanoes, which emits steam or gases. Mud pots are fumaroles but acidic. The acid that they emit decomposes rock into clay and mud. Besides those thermal sources, the park counts hundreds of waterfalls; their height ranges from 4 to 370 meters. Due to the weather and the number of trees, almost thirty-five fires occur each year because of lightning. Some fires have been very destructive but few animals were killed. There never was any serious damage. As for the temperature, it varies depending on the altitude and the time of the day. In winter, it snows a lot and the temperature drops to -20°C, whereas summers are hot and storms can suddenly break during the day.
Located in the northern temperate zone, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is seen as the largest intact one, with its fauna and flora. The flora of the park counts more than 1,300 native plant species, and about 220 non-natives, called “exotic species”. Bacteria are also part of Yellowstone’s flora, and are mostly found in hot waters. Regarding the park’s fauna, we can distinguish 67 different species of mammals, 28 of fish, reptiles and amphibians and 300 of birds. Wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone in the 1920s, because they were dangerous to humans and agriculture. However, grey wolves, being on the Endangered Species List, were reintroduced in 1995. Black bears can also be found in the park and are one of its symbols. Visitors should not feed them, though, to avoid any accident.
Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, with at least 2 million visitors every year. Camping, fishing, cycling, boating or skiing are popular activities.
To conclude, we think that the Yellowstone National Park has now become an icon of Anglophone culture for many reasons. First of all, it is a really big park with a surprising history. Then, despite all the troubles due to natural disasters, it has a wonderful ecosystem. Finally, the park is very popular.
Marie Helas, Amandine Marlier and Marie Sevrin
- HENRY Bernard and HEEB Christian (1995). USA, le nord. Brussels : Editions Artis-Historia
- MOORE Robert J. and ATTINI Antonio. L’Amérique à vol d’oiseau. Editions Gründ