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Yellowstone National Park: Geological Features Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2020

Every year Yellowstone National Park attracts numerous visitors who come not only from the USA but also from a range of foreign countries. It looks so alluringly to the public mainly because of the fact that it is located on a fiery mass of magma that used to cause terrible extinctions (Daniel, 2015). Nowadays, a threat of detonation still exists, which makes people willing to see the park and experience the emotions they cannot feel being elsewhere.

Yellowstone became the first national park of the USA at the end of the 1800s under the rule of President Ulysses S. Grant (“Park Geology”, 2005). It is mostly located in Wyoming (96%) but also reaches the territory of two other states. The bigger part can be found in Montana (3%) while its smallest part is in Idaho (1%). Thus, it seems to be clear that the park covers a huge area. Geography expert Amanda Britney states that Yellowstone is almost 9,000 sq km, and it is made up of “various geothermal features like geysers, as well as mountains, lakes, canyons and rivers” (2014).

The park was explored many times starting with the beginning of the 1800s so that today a lot of information about its geography, geology, flora and fauna is available for scientists and the general public. It was concluded that while the whole territory of the park extends through three states, 5% of it refers to the bodies of water. Yellowstone Lake is considered to be the largest reservoir that covers about 350 sq km.

Even though its depth is not consistent, the average measure is 42 m while the deepest point equals 120 m. Lake’s altitude elevation is almost 2,360 m, which allows to claim that it is the highest lake in the Northern part of the USA. The rest of the park is represented mainly by forests, but grassland can be also found in some places. Except for that, there are lots of mountains and canyons, which cause variations in altitude that result in climate changes (Britney, 2014).

Being located on the North American plate that used to move due to the tectonic changes, the park got its unique geography. “The Washburn Range in Yellowstone forms the skyline between canyon village and tower fall” (“Yellowstone National Park”, 2013, para. 7). The old road can lead the visitors through the park, allowing them to reach the summit of Mt. Washburn at 3,122 m. A dark breccia can be found in this way. It consists of angular volcanic stones and was formed about 50 million years ago.

The park is full of volcanic mudflows. They form the Washburn Range and other mountains deposited more than 10 million years ago. Mount Washburn and Sheridan are not far away. The Washburn Range seems to be a residue of a larger range that was expanding to the south of the current location and belonged to the Absaroka volcanic field. It also forms the mountainous terrain. The rock between Dunraven Pass and Canyon Village is rhyolite. It differs from the volcanic rocks of Mount Washburn greatly as it consists of the lava form of granite.

Canyon Village is built on one of the tens of rhyolite lava flows (“Old Faithful”, 2016). Elephant Back Mountain is located on the other one. In this way, they created the plateau between Canyon Village and Norris. “Flows enclose Lewis and Shoshone lakes; they form the wooded boundaries of the geyser basins” (“Yellowstone National Park”, 2013, para. 11).

When analyzing radioactive elements of lava flows between the Washburn Range and the Red Mountains, it was found that their age is 500,000 years or even less while Absaroka volcanic exist for about 50 million years and is much older. For a long time, professionals who studied the geology of Yellowstone were reluctant to admit a striking difference in the age of the breccia and lava flows related to the plateau. Only in the middle of the 1900s, the current version occurred under the guidance of Francis Boyd.

This place is also full of geysers and hot springs. Scientists believe that they occurred because of geologic instability and the hotspot. Old Faithful is known to the majority of the public as the greatest geyser; still there are hundreds of them on the territory of the park. It erupts once an hour as a rule but generally the intervals vary from half an hour to 2 hours.

It is also indicative that earthquakes happen on the territory of Yellowstone from time to time. Some of them are small, and people do not even notice them as a rule. However, several were of magnitudes 6.0 and greater; they are able to cause geyser eruptions and landslides (“Park Geology”, 2005).

Thus, it can be concluded that the geology of Yellowstone National Park is varied, which attracts not only numerous travelers but also professionals willing to deepen into the history of this place. The park is known for volcanism, geysers, hot springs, canyons, and many other remarkable things, the age of which differs greatly.

Works Cited

Britney, Amanda. . 2014. Web.

Daniel, Al. The Volcano under Yellowstone. 2015. Web.

2016. Web.

Park Geology 2005. Web.

2013. Web.

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