10 Fantastic Facts About Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Geyser from above
kwiktor / Getty Images

Widely known as the world’s very first national park, Yellowstone National Park was established on March 1, 1872. Encompassing 3,472 square miles (over 2.2 million acres), Yellowstone stretches through Wyoming and into Montana and Idaho, bringing with it deep canyons, rivers, forests, hot springs, and geysers, including the famous Old Faithful.

Learn more about this hydrothermal wonder of the world that attracts millions of visitors each year with these 10 fantastic facts about Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone Has the Highest Lake Elevation in North America

Yellowstone Lake freezes over in winter
Yellowstone Lake freezes over in winter. Cavan Images / Getty Images

Yellowstone Lake is situated at 7,733 feet above sea level, making it the largest high elevation lake in all of North America. The lake is about 20 miles long and 14 miles wide, with approximately 141 miles of shoreline.

Each winter, Yellowstone Lake completely freezes over with two-foot-thick ice, only to thaw by late May or early June.

There Are More Than 500 Active Geysers in the Park

Old Faithful Geyser attracts a majority of visitors to the park
Old Faithful Geyser attracts a majority of visitors to the park. Ed Freeman / Getty Images

It’s no secret that Yellowstone is known for its geysers. Old Faithful, after all, is quite possibly the park’s most legendary feature, and is one of six inside the park that rangers can accurately predict.

Indeed, the geyser has only lengthened the time between its eruptions by 30 minutes over the past 30 years, but thermal features are constantly changing. According to the park service, it is entirely possible that Old Faithful could stop erupting someday.

Yellowstone National Park Has Over 10,000 Hydrothermal Features

The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest spring in the world
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest spring in the world. Ignacio Palacios / Getty Images

Yellowstone’s geysers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hydrothermal features in the park. There are actually over 10,000 of them, ranging from hot springs to mud pots and even fumaroles, a volcanic opening in the Earth’s crust that emits steam and hot sulfurous gases. This superheated water can reach temperatures exceeding 400°F, so visitors are kept at a safe distance and separated by viewing platforms.

There Are 290 Waterfalls Inside Yellowstone

Lower Falls in Yellowstone National Park
Lower Falls in Yellowstone National Park. James Forsyth / Getty Images

Yellowstone has even more water features to explore outside of geysers. There are also 290 waterfalls found throughout the park, including the famed Yellowstone River Upper and Lower Falls, which culminate in an area known as the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.” Visitors can view the falls from several different overlooks or hiking trails and walkways. 

There Are a Ton of Backcountry Hiking Trails

With nearly 300 backcountry campsites and more than 900 miles of hiking trails inside the park—most of which are managed as wilderness areas—Yellowstone is the perfect destination for the most adventurous kind of outdoor enthusiast.

It isn’t all rugged wilderness hiking, however, since the park also offers plenty of options for shorter day hikes on well-maintained trails. There are even paved and partially-paved hikes that are stroller and wheelchair-accessible.  

Yellowstone Is Home to the Largest Concentration of Mammals in the Lower 48 States

Gray wolves were restored to the park in 1995
Gray wolves were restored to the park in 1995. Photo by Michael Russell / Getty Images

Not only are there at least 67 species of mammals living in Yellowstone National Park, there are also approximately 300 species of bird, and 16 species of fish. These mammal species are made up of ungulates like bighorn sheep, bison, moose, mountain goats, and white-tailed deer, as well large predators like black bears, coyotes, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves.

Grey wolves were famously reintroduced back into the park in 1995, and as of 2016, there were an estimated 99 of them living primarily in the area.

There Are 7 Aquatic Invasive Species Affecting the Park

Not all of Yellowstone’s creatures have a positive effect on the park’s ecosystems. While there are at least seven aquatic invasive species known to exist inside the park today, three of them are currently having significant detrimental effects.

Myxobolus cerebralis is a parasite that can cause disease in trout and other similar species, and the New Zealand mud snail is known to form dense colonies that compete with native species. Another small snail, the red-rimmed melania, was discovered in the park in 2009.

At Least 2 Threatened Species Live in Yellowstone

Grizzly bears are protected in Yellowstone under the Endangered Species Act
Grizzly bears are protected in Yellowstone under the Endangered Species Act. Bryant Aardema -bryants wildlife images / Getty Images

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Canada lynx as threatened in 2000, and portions of Yellowstone are still considered part of the animal’s critical habitat. They are very rarely seen, with only 112 recorded sightings in park history, including photo evidence along the Gibbon River in 2007, a sighting near a campground in 2010, and tracks in 2014.

In 2018, a federal judge restored original protection to grizzly bears within Yellowstone under the Endangered Species Act after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed protections for the bears in July 2017.

There Are Over 1,000 Species of Native Flowering Plants

Blue lupins and heartleaf arnica wildflowers
Blue lupins and heartleaf arnica wildflowers. John Elk / Getty Images

Yellowstone boasts nine species of conifer, 186 species of lichens, and more than 1,000 species of native flowering species.

The park is rich with wildflowers throughout the year, such as lupine and arnica under forest canopies, glacier lilies and phlox in the open meadows in spring, and purple asters in early fall.

These flowering plants do much more than bring vibrant color to the landscape, they also provide important resources for wildlife, from birds who eat their seeds, mammals who forage for spring bulbs, and bees who collect nectar while pollinating the area.

The Park Contains a Wealth of Archaeological Sites

Evidence suggests that humans first began traveling through the area that would eventually become Yellowstone National Park over 11,000 years ago. As a result, there have been more than 1,850 archaeological sites discovered in the park since 1995.

Along the Yellowstone River, in particular, multiple sites of significance have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, including the first evidence of fishing within the park.

There Are Between 1,000 and 3,000 Earthquakes Annually

Yellowstone National Park sits on top of an active supervolcano, although the park system believes that it is unlikely to explode again within the next 1,000 to 10,000 years. Because of this, the park is one of the most seismically active areas in the country, experiencing between 700 and 3,000 individual earthquakes annually.

View Article Sources
  1. "Park Facts." National Park Service.

  2. "Yellowstone Lake." National Park Service.

  3. "Old Faithful." National Park Service.

  4. "Hydrothermal Systems." National Park Service.

  5. "Wildlife." National Park Service.

  6. "Mammals." National Park Service.

  7. "Aquatic Invasive Species." National Park Service.

  8. "Canada Lynx." National Park Service.

  9. "Grizzly Bears and the Endangered Species Act." National Park Service.

  10. "Wildflowers." National Park Service.

  11. "Archeology." National Park Service.

  12. "Volcano." National Park Service.

  13. "Earthquakes." National Park Service.