National Park Series: Yellowstone National Park

3 minutes

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as America’s first national park as a way to protect the many geysers in the area. While the park is primarily located in Wyoming, it also extends into Montana and Idaho. Along with many stunning geographical features, hundreds of species of animals have been documented in the park as well. One such noteworthy group is the Yellowstone Park bison herd, which is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States.

“Park mission: Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and the majority of the world’s geysers and hot springs. An outstanding mountain wildland with clean water and air, Yellowstone is home of the grizzly bear and wolf and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. Centuries-old sites and historic buildings that reflect the unique heritage of America’s first national park are also protected. Yellowstone National Park serves as a model and inspiration for national parks throughout the world.” Read more in the Summer 2015 Yellowstone Official Park Newspaper!


Below is the Act of Declaration first declaring the area of Yellowstone as a public park. This was approved on March 1st, 1872 and was signed by James G. Blaine, Speaker of the House, Schuyler Colfax, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate, and Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States:

“AN ACT to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate, or settle upon, or occupy the same or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed there from…”

In 1883 the introduction of the railroad began to connect the park to other parts of the U.S., making it easier for visitors to travel to the park. From 1886 to 1918, the U.S. Army managed and protected the park, until the National Park Service was established in 1916. In 1915 automobiles were allowed to enter the park, making visits even more convenient and economical.

Visitor Centers

When first visiting a park, Visitor Centers are a great place to start, and Yellowstone has many located throughout the park. The Visitor Centers feature anything from park history, to trip planning, to ranger programs, to special exhibits.

Old Faithful

One of Yellowstone’s most famous sites to see, Old Faithful is a cone geyser that erupts almost every 63 minutes, making it one of the most predictable geographical features on Earth. View the Old Faithful Geyser streaming webcam.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is one of the more breathtaking sites inside the park. The canyon is 20 miles long, up to 4,000 feet wide, and 1,200 feet deep in places. From several vantage points you can see the spectacular Lower and Upper Falls.

Travertine Terraces

Said to resemble a cave turned inside out, the terraces are formed from limestone and thermal water. As one early visitor described the Travertine Terraces, “No human architect ever designed such intricate fountains as these. The water trickles over the edges from one to another, blending them together with the effect of a frozen waterfall.”

Yellowstone Lake

The largest lake at high elevation (more than 7,000 feet) in North America is frozen for nearly half the year! Researchers have discovered that if one could pour all the water out of Yellowstone Lake, what would be found on the bottom of the lake is similar to on land: geysers, hot springs, and deep canyons.

Resources for Planning Your Visit

Yellowstone National Park 2015 Trip Planner

National Park Service: Yellowstone National Park

Guide to Yellowstone National Park

U.S. News Yellowstone Travel Guide

Signe Knutson Signe Knutson

Signe Knutson worked as an InterExchange Career Training USA Participant Services Coordinator from 2013 until 2016, after spending a year teaching English in China's Hunan province. She has a BA in Asian Studies and Political Science form St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

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