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Exploring The Unusual Beauty of Yellowstone National Park in Two Days

Wyoming is a spectacularly beautiful state filled to the brim with eye-catching splendor. See some of the images I captured here.

"Old Faithful" starting its regular show

"Old Faithful" starting its regular show

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming contains gorgeous and unusual beauty. Yellowstone encompasses 2.2 million acres and is the largest of our national parks. Parts of it are in the States of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. One can travel over 350 miles of paved roads. Many of the roads are at elevations of 7,000 to 8,000 feet. However, the actual range of height varies from around 5,300 feet to almost 12,000 feet.

This article will represent two days' worth of my photographs taken while there on vacation. In the summer of 1988, my mother, niece, and I spent an entire two weeks at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, making it our base camp. We spent most of the time exploring The Tetons. But we decided that we also wanted to see something of Yellowstone National Park.

We took a guided bus tour of the lower part of Yellowstone one day and drove up to see more of it on another day.

Day One

There are two main loop roads almost making a figure 8, and this first day we spent time sightseeing in the lower part of the loop. It made for an 11 hour day!

Old Faithful Inn

The first stop on our tour was at the Old Faithful Inn. This building is the second one on this same site. The first burned to the ground in 1894.

The architect Robert C. Reamer designed the Old Faithful Inn in 1902, and he wanted native materials utilized in the construction. 500-tons of rocks from a nearby hill became a part of the massive fireplace. The logs came from this same environment. A blacksmith on-site designed the hand-wrought hardware.

Mr. Reamer used dormer windows, which added some light to the soaring 85-foot high ceiling in the central lobby. They add a distinctive look to the building, and Mr. Reamer used them often in buildings he designed later in his career.

Old Faithful Inn, completed in 1904, originally had 140 rooms. There are 230 more rooms added in the addition of two wings to the hotel.

"Old Faithful"

The geyser "Old Faithful" is located nearby and puts on its regular show for visitors from near and far. It is a cone geyser and erupts, sending its white plume of superheated steam and water about 145 feet into the air. This spectacular show of geothermal energy lasts from 1 1/2 to 5 minutes on average, and it does this every 65 to 90 minutes.

Gibbon Falls

The bus stopped at Gibbon Falls so that we could get a closer look. It is in a lush and green part of the northwestern area of the park. The impressive waterfall drops 84 feet down from the Gibbon River.

As our tour bus moved on, we saw many buffalo grazing alongside rivers and in pastures. Mule deer who grow quite large in this area and moose with their calves were also spotted.

The Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

A major tourist destination within Yellowstone National Park is the Lower Falls. We found out that it is three times the height of Niagara Falls. It tumbles 308 feet down and is a beautiful sight to behold.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone weaves its way through the park and offers shelter for an abundance of wildlife. It is a mountainous region here, and the beauty of the Yellowstone River below as it twists and turns through the canyon is something to behold.

After leaving that gorgeous area, our bus driver took us through the lush Hayden Valley, following alongside the meandering Yellowstone River.

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Yellowstone Lake

Our last views of this day included looking at Yellowstone Lake. It is North America's largest mountain lake with 110 miles of shoreline. At its high elevation, it is ice-capped much of the year.

The white cloud-like appearance above the blue water of the lake in my photo is smoke! Numerous fires were raging the year we visited the park, and some areas were not available to tourists due to firefighting efforts to contain the blazes.

Yellowstone Lake was the final highlight that ended our first day of exploration, and after we were driven back to Jackson Hole, we were exhilarated by what we had seen of this park and determined to see more of it on another day.

Yellowstone Lake blanketed with the smoke from forest fires that year.

Yellowstone Lake blanketed with the smoke from forest fires that year.

Day Two

Because of all the raging fires in Yellowstone, the southern entrance was closed. Driving through Idaho and entering Yellowstone from the western entrance to see the upper loop of the figure 8 paved road through the park became our access route. Many sights still awaited us!

The Porcelain Basin

This next area that we visited was beautiful and, at the same time, unusual and a bit eerie. Porcelain Basin in the Norris Geyser Basin rests over a significant fault in the earth's crust. It is one of the most volatile and hottest exposed areas on earth.

Runoff channels from geysers and hot springs derive color from minerals, bacteria, and algae. The distinct color of algae is related to water temperatures, with the light-colored algae existing in the hotter water. Algae seldom live in water over 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

This area is always changing due to minor earthquakes in the region. Some areas that are hot and lifeless gradually cool and vegetation starts to grow again. The reverse is also true.

My mother felt very uneasy in this locale and was happy when we left it to view other areas. I must admit that it is certainly a different feeling being in this thin-crusted area of our planet earth with so much volatility. Posted are warnings to stay on the raised paths because one could punch holes and sink into the ground if one were to walk off from these wooden pathways.

Steamboat Geyser

We stopped to see the Steamboat geyser, which was spewing some steam. It is the world's largest geyser but erupts at intervals of days to years. We did not stick around to see the eruption.

Steamboat geyser

Steamboat geyser

Upper Terrace Loop Drive in Yellowstone

Continuing north of Norris we drove through some beautiful mountain scenery at elevations of 7,000 to 8,000+ feet.

Just south of Mammoth Hot Springs is the Upper Terrace Loop Drive. It is another thermal area with predominately white rock. "Gnarled limber pine trees on some extinct formations are now over 500 years old."

Mammoth Hot Springs

Terraces viewed at Mammoth Hot Springs are composed of travertine (calcium carbonate) deposits. They are continuously growing into these spectacular shapes and formations. This area would be an ever-changing landscape.

Minerva Terrace is the highlight of this area.

The road east from Mammoth Hot Springs leads one in a matter of four miles to Undine Falls. It is a scenic country with vistas of far-off mountains, meadows, blooming wildflowers, and open space.

Evidence of Glacial Activity

A notable aspect affecting this area was the effects of glaciers moving through this part of the country in past eras. They scoured some parts of the land and left fascinating remains of their passing. One such monolithic is called the Liberty Cap.

Tower Falls

Next, we traversed the road to Tower Falls. It tumbles 132 feet into the Yellowstone River and is at an elevation of 6,650 feet. The area near Tower Falls is closed to human traffic as it is prime grizzly bear country.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Our next stop was the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We had already seen this from the Lower Falls perspective, and now we were able to view it from the Upper Falls area.

Wildlife in Yellowstone

We saw many buffalo in Yellowstone and a large herd of mule deer. My niece counted 66 of the deer!

Trumpeter swans are also in evidence. They number only about 1500 in the entire world. They are the largest waterfowl with a wingspan of approximately nine feet. It is nice to think that this species seems to be thriving in our protected national park system.

To read about the numerous species of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that live in these environs, click on the source link below.

Arriving home after a 15 1/2 hour day of driving and sightseeing, we were tired but enriched by our experiences. I hope you enjoyed these pictures and a description of our time spent visiting Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It is unique, has much in the way of unusual beauty, and is worth a visit!

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 07, 2021:

Hi Sally,

I am glad that you got a sense of the magnificence of Yellowstone National Park by reading this article and looking at my photos. I hope you do get there to see it in person someday.

Sally on February 07, 2021:

Doubt that I will ever get to Yellowstone Park. Thanks for this wonderful representation of its magnificence.

Robert Sacchi on February 21, 2018:

Those are great photos.