1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Yellowstone National Park
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, an American national reservation, situated mainly in N.W. Wyoming, U.S.A., dedicated by the United States government as "a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." It is nearly a rectangle in shape, with a length, from N. to S., of 62 m., a width of 54 m. and an area of approximately 3350 sq. m. It extends into Montana, on the N., about 2¼ m. and into Montana and Idaho, on the W., 2 m. Except at its main entrance, through the valley of the Yellowstone on the N., the park is entirely surrounded by national forests: the Gallatin and Absaroka national forests, on the N.; the Shoshone and the Beartooth, on the E.; the Teton, on the S.; and the Targhee, the Madison and the Gallatin, on the W.
The central portion, comprising an area of about 2000 sq. m., is an undulating volcanic plateau with a mean elevation above the sea of about 8000 ft. Along the entire E. border stretches the Absaroka range, with peaks exceeding 11,000 ft. (Index Peak, 11,740 ft.) in height. On the N. is the Snowy range with its snow-capped peaks. W. of the Snowy the Gallatin range extends S. for 20 m. along the W. border. Electric Peak, in the N.W. corner of the park, rises to a height of 11,155 ft. Near the S. end of the park are the Red Mountains, which culminate in Mt. Sheridan (10,385 ft.) and afford a magnificent view of the whole region; and farther S. the N. spur of the lofty Tetons juts across the S. border.
In the production of these mountains and plateau there was first, at the close of the Cretaceous period, an upheaval of the earth's substance to form a mountain rim and a depressed basin. Subsequently, in the Tertiary period, there were two enormous outpourings of volcanic material—first andesitic lava, and later, after a long interval of quiet, rhyolitic—which nearly half filled the basin, converted it into a plateau and broke up the mountain rim. Two centres of volcanic activity were Mt. Sheridan, in the S., and Mt. Washburn, in the N. The volcanoes have long been extinct, but the diminished energy now causes hot springs and geysers in all parts of the plateau, about 100 in number. More than half, including the largest and finest, are in the upper and the lower Geyser basins, near the bead of the Madison, here known as the Firehole, river. Several others are farther N. in the Norris basin upon Gibbon river, a branch of the Madison, and others are farther S. in the Shoshone basin.
The Continental Divide crosses the park in a S.E. direction from the meeting-point of the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. The small section S. of the Divide is drained by the Snake river into the Columbia river and the Pacific Ocean; the large section N. of the Divide is drained by the Yellowstone and Madison rivers into the Missouri, the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The Lewis river, a fork of the Snake, has its origin in the beautiful Shoshone Lake, and the Heart river, another fork of the Snake, rises in Heart Lake, under Mt. Sheridan.
The climate, influenced by the high elevation, is characterized by long and severe winters and short summers with great diurnal extremes of temperature. But the low temperature causes the moisture-laden winds to deposit here greater quantities of rain and snow than in the semi-arid regions below, which not only promote the growth of vegetation, but cause the activity of the springs, geysers and waterfalls. The mean annual temperature at the station of the United States Weather Bureau, near the N. boundary, is 39° F. The summer (June, July and August) mean is 59°; the winter (December, January and February) mean, 20°.
About four-fifths of the park is covered with dense forests of black pine (Pinus Murrayana), balsam, fir, spruce, cedar and poplar. These trees do not attain a large size. A low blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilis) forms a thick underbrush in much of the forest. Choke-cherries, gooseberries, buffalo berries, red currants and black currants grow along the streams and in moist places of the lower altitudes. In the glades are bunch-grass and a variety of flowering plants; buttercups, daisies, forget-me-nots and other wild flowers, may be found near melting snow-banks in August. In the hot-spring districts are plants with peculiarities both of those common to the desert and those common to the seashore. In the N.E. corner of the park fossil forests rise one above the other. After the destruction of one forest by volcanic eruptions another grew over it; it, too, was buried under volcanic material, and the process was repeated several times.
The native fauna is abundant and varied. The policy of the government which protects game, both in the park and in the surrounding national forests, has induced elk, deer, antelope, mountain-sheep, bears, porcupines, coyotes, squirrels, gophers and woodchucks to take shelter here. There are also a few moose and some beavers. Black, brown and grizzly bears may be seen at almost any time during the summer season feeding on the garbage from the hotels. A few wild bison still remain at large, and besides these there is a herd of about 100 confined within a pasture in the Lamar Valley. The lakes and rivers are well stocked with trout and other fish, and visitors have the privilege of catching a limited number with rod and line. Robins, bluebirds, warblers, chickadees, finches, vireos, wrens, yellow-headed blackbirds, nutcrackers, nuthatches, meadow-larks, sparrows, woodpeckers, swifts, king birds and several other species of small birds are found in the park, but the number of each is not great. Among birds of prey are the golden eagle, bald eagle, hawks and owls. Geese, ducks, cranes, pelicans and gulls are very numerous in the autumn months.
The park is under the supervision of a superintendent who is appointed and instructed by the Secretary of the Interior. It is policed, however, by troops of United States cavalry with headquarters at Fort Yellowstone, near the Mammoth Hot Springs, and the building of roads and other improvements is under the direction of the Secretary of War. The only railway approaches to the park are a branch of the Northern Pacific railway up the valley of the Yellowstone to the main gate at Gardiner, Montana, and a branch of the Oregon Short Line up the valley of the North Fork of the Snake to Yellowstone, Montana. Automobiles are not allowed within the park, and the principal means of conveyance is by stage coaches and by a steamboat on Yellowstone Lake. There are hotels at the Mammoth Hot Springs, at the principal geyser basins and at Yellowstone Lake. The hotels and stage lines open for the tourist season early in June and close in the middle of September.
The strange phenomena of this region were known to some of the Indians; they, were discovered by John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, in 1807; the region was visited by James Bridger before 1840; an account of the geysers was published at Nauvoo, Illinois, in The Wasp, a Mormon paper, in 1842; Captain W. F. Raynolds, of the United States Corps of Topographical Engineers, with full knowledge of Bridger's accounts, was ordered to explore the region in 1859, and yet, chiefly because of the persistent incredulity with which the accounts of the phenomena were received, the region remained practically unknown until 1870. From 1863 to 1866 gold seekers repeatedly confirmed the early reports, and the publication of their accounts in Western papers gradually aroused interest. In 1869 a private exploring party, consisting of David E. Folsom, C. W. Cook and William Peterson, set out from the gold-fields of Montana with the express purpose of verifying or refuting the rumours, and they returned full of enthusiasm. In 1870 a semi-official expedition, led by Henry D. Washburn, the surveyor-general of Montana, and Lieutenant Gustavus C. Doane of the Second United States Cavalry, made the "Yellowstone Wonderland" widely known. A year later an expedition under Dr Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829–1887) made a large collection of specimens and photographs, and with these data, together with the reports of this and the Washburn–Doane expedition. Congress was induced to reserve the area from settlement, which was done by an act approved the 1st of March 1872. In that year further explorations were made, and in subsequent years army expeditions continued the work of exploration. In 1878 a map of the park based upon triangulation was drawn up by the Hayden survey, and in 1883–85 a more detailed map was made by the United States Geological Survey, and a systematic study of its geological phenomena was instituted.