We looked forward to visiting Yellowstone National Park again this summer. We were last there in 2015. We left Idaho Falls and traveled to Island Park, Idaho for a two night stay. Along the way we could see the beautiful Grand Tetons mountain range in the distance.
Island Park, located just outside the west entrance of Yellowstone, was the perfect place to stay to visit the Old Faithful geyser.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park. Of the 2.2 million acres, 80% is forest, 15% is grassland and 5% is water. Ninety-six percent of the park is in Wyoming with 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho.
Yellowstone is HUGE with:
- five entrances into the park
- ten visitor or information centers
- three medical clinics
- six gas stations
- seven general stores
- five hotels or lodges
- twelve campgrounds of various sizes
- and numerous restaurants and gift shops
But it was a very different Yellowstone than what we visited five years ago. The Visitors Centers were all closed. We always really enjoy the movies about the park shown at the Visitors Centers and we were disappointed not to see them again. With the Visitors Centers closed, access to Rangers and information on the park was very difficult. There were no informative Ranger talks and hikes. Restaurants were closed leaving tourists scrambling for food at the few general stores open. Most lodges and hotels were closed. Crowds were down but there were still plenty of people enjoying the park, some with masks and many without. In spite of it all, we were very grateful the park was open for us to visit and enjoy.
This was most noticeable at the Grand Prismatic Spring. The wind was blowing so hard and there was so much hot steam as we walked along the boardwalk, we were not able to see the beauty of the hot spring. We noticed that some Bison had stomped around before we got here.
It is always a thrill to see Old Faithful, the most popular and famous attraction in Yellowstone. It is rightfully named because it faithfully erupts every 60 to 90 minutes, spewing 8,400 gallons of steaming hot water up to 180 feet into the air. It is one of the most predictable geysers on earth. We timed our visit just right so we only had a ten minute wait for the next eruption.
Yellowstone is home to more geysers than any other place on earth and is one of the world’s most active geothermal areas. Within the park are hundreds of geysers, hot springs, mud pots and steam vents. This is because the park sits atop an enormous “supervolcano” and the immense heat from the underground magma powers the geysers. The volcano last erupted 640,000 years ago and shows no signs of erupting anytime soon. Water from precipitation seeps into the ground, meeting the superheated earth near the underground magma chamber. Tremendous pressure builds up until the water is forced back to the surface. Some geysers like Old Faithful have their own underground “plumbing systems” and erupt at predictable intervals. Other geysers share plumbing “pipes” with adjacent geysers and erupt more sporadically.
Despite the weather, a great first day in the park!
Next up: Yellowstone part 2: Bison, pronghorn sheep and bears, oh my!