In Praise of National Parks

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a national park.  But on a recent trip with family, I visited three — Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Badlands.  Over the years, I’ve visited every major park except one — Yellowstone.  I’d heard so much about this park, and I was eager to see for myself.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Yellowstone was this country’s, and probably the world’s, first national park.  It was established on March 1, 1872 during President Grant’s administration.  Perhaps its most impressive feature is hidden — the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America.  Yes, it is considered active as evidenced by the park’s geothermal features.  It’s erupted several times in the last two million years and hopefully won’t spew forth again for a very long time.

Of course, those geothermal features are the main attraction.  According to Wikipedia, half the geothermal features and two-thirds of the world’s geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone, at least 10,000 geothermal features in total.  A 2011 study found at least 1283 geysers have erupted, averaging 465 for any given year.  The most famous of these is Old Faithful in what’s called the Upper Geyser Basin, although I discovered it’s not as punctual as its reputation; predictions have a plus-or-minus ten-minute time window, and the eruption I witnessed was eight minutes outside that.  Old Faithful is large, but the largest is actually Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin. (  There are several periodic geysers, although their eruptions are more difficult to predict.

The geothermal features may be the most impressive aspect, but there is much more — Yellowstone Lake, mountains, the park’s own “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone”, and the animals — particularly bison, elk, and bear.  The official website is at

Every national park may not have geysers, but each is special in its own way, and we are very fortunate to have them.

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