During his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt pushed for protecting America’s pure, beautiful wilderness, a goal towards which previous presidents such as Grant had already made progress. Today the United States has fifty-eight national parks across the country. Of all these national parks, Yellowstone is perhaps one of the most famous and visited. Any family traveling through the states of Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho should not miss this wonderful park.
Location and History
Yellowstone National Park sits in the state of Wyoming, extending slightly into Montana and Idaho. In March of 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant established this national park with Congress. Yellowstone is considered the first National Park in the United States and possibly the world.
Hundreds of flora and fauna species make their home in Yellowstone. This fauna includes the oldest public bison herd in the country. As a result, Yellowstone is considered the largest megafauna location in the United States.
People visiting Yellowstone often come to see its most famous area, the Old Faithful geyser. The Washburn Expedition of 1870, the first official expedition to Yellowstone, originally named Old Faithful. The people of the team were impressed by its size and its frequent, powerful eruptions.
Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. Its maximum height ranges from 90 to 184 feet. It has been erupting in nearly the same fashion throughout the recorded history of the park. Through the years, it has become one of the most studied geysers. One result of this close observation is that the Park Rangers can predict its eruptions fairly accurately. Therefore, Old Faithful geyser is one of the easiest geysers in Yellowstone to visit.
This famous geyser is part of the Old Faithful District with the nearby Old Faithful Inn, a Yellowstone hotel done in a National Park Service Rustic style.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
While the famous “Grand Canyon” lies along Arizona, visitors to Yellowstone can still experience the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There are plenty of trails and hikes throughout Yellowstone, and this Grand Canyon is certainly a challenge. The trail extends roughly 20 miles as measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area.
Erosion of the Yellowstone River flowing over soft rocks formed the canyon over thousands of years.
The Upper Falls is upstream of the Lower Falls and is 109 ft. high and can be seen from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail and Uncle Tom’s Trail.
The Lower Falls is 308 ft. high and can be viewed from Lookout Point, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, and from various points on the South Rim Trail. The Lower Falls is often described as bigger than twice the size of Niagara, although this only refers to its height and not the volume of water flowing over it.
A third Falls, Crystal Falls, is located the canyon between the Upper and Lower falls. Crystal Falls is the outfall of Cascade Creek into the canyon and can be seen from the South Rim Trail just east of the Uncle Tom’s area. The canyon was a barrier to early travel but later became a tourist attraction when roads made the park more accessible.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Visitors can also hike to the natural hot spring called the Grand Prismatic Spring. This place is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third-largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. The spring is famous for its fantastic bright coloration.
In 1839, a group of fur trappers from the American Fur Company crossed the Midway Geyser Basin and made a note of a “boiling lake,” most likely the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring was later officially recorded by geologists working on the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, and named for its vibrant colors. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.
Lastly, guests can take some time to visit Artistic Point. Artist Point is one of the marquee overlooks on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, with an excellent perspective of canyon’s most famous feature, the Lower Falls. The viewpoint juts out from the south wall of the canyon and is just a short 0.1-mile walk from South Rim Drive.
Frank Jay Haynes originally named this point in 1883 because he incorrectly identified this point as the place painter Thomas Moran sketched his 1872 depictions of the falls. Later work determined that the painted made his drawings from the north rim, but the name Artist Point stuck.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Yellowstone is a wild national park. Parents should make sure their kids stay close and on the path at all times. It might also be good for parents to discuss with their children how to deal with wildlife respectfully and keep themselves safe.
- Lots of high, unguarded cliffs make up Yellowstone. Parents should watch their kids carefully, especially while hiking.
- The eruptions of Old Faithful can be loud, which can be upsetting for kids with noise sensitivities. The rumbling of the geyser can also be frightening for some children. Parents who want to take their child to see Old Faithful should prepare them ahead of time.
- This location has a lot of walking. Families should wear comfortable, closed-toed hiking shoes and weather appropriate, protective clothes.
- Many of the locations, especially Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, can become crowded with tourists, especially during the summer.
- In certain areas, especially the Grand Prismatic Spring, it can get very windy. Parents and kids should hold on to any loose items like hats or sunglasses because if they blow off and over the railing, the park rangers will not let you retrieve them.