Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Ryan Heuchert, Staff Writer

For many years, Yellowstone National Park has been one of the most popular parks to visit in the country, attracting millions of visitors. The National Parks Foundation states that “Yellowstone spans almost 3,500 miles, and extends into parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, making it one of the largest national parks in the US.” Many people see a visit to Yellowstone as a way to take a break from the stresses of everyday life. Sophomore Liam Chan says, “As cities get bigger and busier, people may go to places like Yellowstone to get away for a while.”  

The origin of the park’s name comes from a Native American word. The National Park Service says, “French-Canadian trappers in the 1800s asked the name of the river from the Minetree tribe…. They responded ‘Mi tse a-da-zi, ’which translates as ‘Rock Yellow River.’” Before Yellowstone was established as a national park, several Native American tribes lived on the land. The National Park Service also states that Native Americans “visited geysers, conducted ceremonies, hunted, gathered plants and minerals, and engaged in trade. The Shoshone report family groups came to Yellowstone to gather obsidian, which they used to field dress bison.” Throughout the 1800s, American fur trappers and explorers had visited and reported the scenic views of Yellowstone. One man by the name of Nathaniel Langford gave lectures on what he had observed on his expedition to the area. One of his lectures inspired Ferdinand Hayden, a geological surveyor. The History Channel says that “Hayden obtained congressional support for exploration in 1871 and brought with him a photographer named William Henry Jackson and a painter, Thomas Moran.” Like explorers before him, Hayden returned from his trip with stories of how beautiful the area was. After seeing Jackson’s oil paintings and Moran’s drawings, Congress began to discuss turning the area into a national park. The History Channel says, “President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act on March 1, 1872, which declared the park was ‘hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and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.’” 

There are many activities to do while at Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park Trips says the park has “the largest active geyser field in the world and is home to the most famous geyser, Old Faithful. There are also hundreds of colorful hot springs and pools such as the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, which is larger than a football field and the third largest spring in the world.” Another site to visit is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. National Park Trips states, “the park has a 1,300-mile trail system. Some of the most popular hikes are Fairy Falls, Mount Washburn, Avalanche Peak and Mystic Falls.” 

Another unique aspect of Yellowstone is the towns that neighbor the park such as Cody, Wyoming. This town is a small, but interesting place to check out. The town has a museum flourishing with the history of the people of Cody, Wyoming. There are also some small shops to buy souvenirs, cowboy hats and more. What the town is best known for though is the rodeo show they hold. 

Of course, Yellowstone is full of a wide array of animals. The National Park Service says, “There are 67 types of mammals, 285 species of birds and 16 species of fish all within the park.” Some of the most notable animals to see are bears and bison. Junior Kai Kim adds that, “Bison are the animal icon of Yellowstone.” Another mammal that lives within Yellowstone’s boundaries are wolves. In fact, visitors can have the opportunity to go wolf watching.  

During Yellowstone’s entire existence, the park has struggled with wildfires. The National Park Service says, “Since 1972 when reliable fire records began, the park has averaged 26 fires, and 5,851 acres burned per year. The number of fires has ranged from five to 78 each year, and acres burned has ranged from one to 793,880 each year.”  Freshman Sophia Castallese says, “Poor air quality and damage to wildlife cycles could definitely be issues that result from the fires.” The National Park Service reports that around 78% of fires are caused by lightning, and 22% are caused by humans. Although the fires can be devastating, some people believe that people can do their part to mitigate the chance of them occurring. Senior Emily Burles says, “Some of these fires can be prevented if people are more aware of their surroundings and understand how easily a fire can start in a dry area.” As of June 2022, Yellowstone has also been experiencing issues with floods, which have washed out parts of roads, destroyed necessary infrastructure and closed parts of the park. 

Yellowstone is a unique park to visit to learn more about nature and a part of our country’s history. The park is also a wonderful way to get outdoors, breathe some fresh air, enjoy time with the family, and forget about the real world for a few days.