Thursday, March 3, 2022

A tribute as Yellowstone National Park turns 150 this week

Bison graze throughout the park, alongside thermal pools and geysers that make the park famous.




Morning Glory Pool is a steamy thermal pool, accessible
near Old Faithful Lodge on wooden walking paths.


  Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
at the north entrance, with a cornerstone
laid by President Theodore Roosevelt.

THE NATION'S FIRST national park -- Yellowstone -- celebrates a big birthday this week. 
One hundred fifty years ago, Yellowstone was created, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
President Theodore Roosevelt loved the park, and the Roosevelt Arch honors him, a triumphal landmark at the park's north entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1903, noting that Yellowstone and others in the national park system were created "to preserve and protect the scenery, cultural heritage, wildlife, geologic and ecological systems in their natural condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."
Yellowstone is the park service's  crowning achievement, and our country's first such park.
Thank you Teddy and U.S. Grant for this gigantic gift to the world.
Whenever we go to the park, we make a game of listing the languages we hear: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Thai, Mandarin, Japanese, Norwegian, and accents of visitors from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
It's always a mini United Nations in the restaurants, bars, hotels and gift shops, as people come from thousands of miles away to view the land where Native Americans hunted, fished, gathered plants, quarried obsidian and used the healing thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.
OUR FAVORITE corners of the park aren't the most visited ones. 
The cascading Lower Falls makes an eye-popping rush
over rocks, and into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The beautiful Lake Hotel, the park's oldest.
While we enjoy all the major attractions, too -- the Upper and Lower Falls, Geyser Basin and more -- it's fun to pull off on one of the quieter, less frequented  scenic views to simply revel in the magnificence.  To behold 3,500 square miles of wilderness is one of our top recreational treats.
The mighty Yellowstone River and beautiful Yellowstone Lake are part of the park's landscape, too. The river flows north from Yellowstone Lake,  leaving the Hayden Valley and plunging first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile downstream where it gushes over Lower Yellowstone Falls.  There, it enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is nearly 1,000 feet deep.
The park sits atop a volcanic hot spot, with a splendid array of  canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful, which isn't quite as reliable in its spouting as it was when I was growing up. Still, when it blows, it's magnificent.
VYING FOR our attention is the park's abundant wildlife, for Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. We never fail in our annual visits to see at least a couple of these -- always bison and often elk, antelope and bear. 
We've seen wolves a few treasured times and heard their haunting cry in Lamar Valley, in the park's northern reaches. Those were wondrous events.
Lamar Valley is a tranquil, lovely part of the park.
Here, bison graze and drink against the beauty.

 It's fun to share the road, too, with a herd of bison, who amble right near the cars and stop traffic periodically, causing rangers to move traffic along and encourage animals back onto the grasses.
SINCE HALF the world's hydrothermal features are found at Yellowstone, we love to get out of the car a couple times each visit and walk the wooden paths to see the geysers and hot pots close-up. 
It's not just visual.  It's smelly. No visit is complete without breathing in the glorious “rotten egg” odor at one of the pots, especially Mud Volcano, which gives off that familiar sulfuric odor. 
The pungent smell is the result of microorganisms eating away at sulfur, creating sulfuric acid. As that evaporates, a park ranger explained, "the acid becomes hydrogen sulfide gas, which gives off the noxious smell." Besides Mud Volcano, two other "stinky spots" are the Dragon's Mouth and Sulphur Caldron area between Fishing Bridge and Canyon.
We fed the bears in my childhood --
late 1950s -- now we know better.
Again, odorous but opulent. The smells are part of Yellowstone, and the visual grandeur more than makes up for the pungent odor.
THE PARK'S HISTORY dates back 11,000 years, when native American tribes and bands used the park as their home, hunting grounds, and transportation routes prior to and after European American arrival. Yellowstone was established as the world's first national park in 1872.
The most common misconception about Yellowstone is that it's overdue for an eruption. But volcanoes don't work like that, experts say.
In the past two million years, volcanic eruptions have occurred in the Yellowstone area—three of them super eruptions. I remember well the devastating 7.5 earthquake of August, 1959. It knocked paintings off the walls of our home in Columbus, Montana, killed 28 people and caused $11 million in damage.
  • A piece of driftwood frames this photo of Yellowstone
    Lake, 7,732 feet above sea level. It covers 136
    square miles with 110 miles of scenic shoreline.

    Rick Cosgriffe, center, with his sister, Christene
    Meyers, and partner Jane Milder, at Lower Falls. 

    MUCH OF THE damage occurred as a result of a huge landslide triggered by the quake. It buried campers, trailers, wildlife and people near Hebgen Lake.
    A geologist friend said that more earthquakes like the Hebgen Lake event are unlikely within the Yellowstone caldera itself, "because subsurface temperatures there are high, weakening the bedrock and making it less able to rupture."
  • Quakes within the caldera can be as large as magnitude 6.5. A quake of about this size that occurred in 1975 near Norris Geyser Basin was felt throughout the region.
  • MEANWHILE, don't live in fear. Enjoy the wonder and thank our government which 150 years ago had the vision to protect and preserve Yellowstone National Park.In so doing, we set an example for the rest of the world. Masks are still required in Yellowstone and there is a variety of lodging, from rustic to elegant.

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UP NEXT: Hidden gems await on the verdant and peaceful shores of Hawaii's "Garden Isle," Kauai. Come with us to this westernmost of the Hawaiian Islands chain and settle at Kauai's graciously appointed Hilton Garden Inn. A favorite of many, this laid back yet elegant resort offers easy access to a tropical rainforest, boating and airplane tours, hiking trails, fine dining, gorgeous unpeopled beaches and delightful coffee plantations. Our time on stunning Wailua Bay near Lihue, remains sacred in our hears for the peace it offers. Come along to admire dramatic cliffs of Kauai's Na Pali Coast, to gaze at the magnificent Sleeping Giant mountain ridge and take in a spectacular fire show at the hotel or just sit in the soothing earth-and-sea colors of the Garden Inn lobby. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family, loss, love and


  1. Jersey Park LoversMarch 4, 2022 at 11:36 AM

    Fun story about a wonderful place. Our favorite park.

  2. We love exploring our national parks. See you have been to ours, too. Will see Yellowstone again this summer.

  3. Lucky you to live near Yellowstone, our favorite of our national parks. Thank you Teddy R!