WYOMING: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which extends across corners of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. View Tom Dempsey’s Wyoming photo galleries below. Yellowstone was the first national park in the world (1872), and UNESCO honored it as a World Heritage site in 1978.

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Yellowstone National Park

The famous cone geyser of Old Faithful erupts up to 185 feet high, averaging 145 feet high, about every 90 minutes. Old Faithful is powered by boiling groundwater heated by a hotspot of light, hot, molten mantle rock near the surface. 640,000 years ago, a supereruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano created the Yellowstone Caldera which measures 34 miles (55 km) by 45 miles (72 km). Any time in the next few hundred millennia, the active volcano of Yellowstone could cause vast destruction in North America and modify world climate.

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, next to those in New Zealand. Colorful microbial mats coat terraces of Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The sterile blue water in the pool’s center is too hot to support life (87 degrees Centigrade or 188 F). Pure water selectively absorbs red wavelengths of visible light, making the center deep blue. But in cooler water along the edges, microbial mats of thermophilic (heat-loving) cyano-bacteria and algae thrive. Yellow, orange, and red pigments are produced by the bacteria as a natural sunscreen. As a result, the pool displays a spectrum of colors from the bright blue water of the center to the orange, red, and brown algal mats along the edges. Summer mats tend to be orange and red, whereas winter mats become dark green.

Morning Glory Pool is a colorful hot spring in Upper Geyser Basin. Microbial mats of cyano-bacteria and algae color the pool brown, yellow, and green. The pool’s center lacks the high temperature pure blue water seen in previous decades. Its glory has faded as objects tossed in by vandals have blocked hot water inlets.

Over thousands of years, Mammoth Hot Springs have built huge white travertine terraces including Terrace Mountain (and Minerva Terrace), the largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world. The Mammoth Hotel and Fort Yellowstone are built upon the  old Hotel Terrace formation. Hot water from Norris Geyser Basin within the Yellowstone Caldera travels underground via a fault line through limestone and deposits calcium carbonate at Mammoth Hot Springs, outside of the active supervolcano’s caldera.

The American bison (scientific name “Bison bison”) is also known as buffalo, despite being only distantly related to true buffalo. Members of the genus Bison are large, even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae.

The Yellowstone River (a major tributary of the Missouri River) flows through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, located downstream from Yellowstone Falls.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park contains the major peaks of the 40-mile (64 km) Teton Range and part of the valley known as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Teton Range began their tectonic uplift 9 million years ago (during the Miocene Epoch), making them the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains. A parkway connects from Grand Teton National Park 10 miles north to Yellowstone National Park.

Recommended guidebooks from Amazon.com:

2011: 2010: 2012: 2005:

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