Visiting the Volcanic Caldera at Yellowstone National Park
As Americans, it is all too easy to take the beauty of our own country for granted. Gorgeous locales such as Yellowstone National Park, a spotlight on Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Walking America’s First National Park, will surprise, enchant and delight even those who think they’ve seen everything the US has to offer.
It’s impossible to visit Yellowstone without spending at least some time at its volcanic caldera, a gigantic crater left behind from an eruption more than half a million years ago. Read on for the lowdown about the caldera, as well as some other key features of Yellowstone:
Yellowstone’s Caldera in a Nutshell
According to the National Park Service, the Yellowstone caldera is the remnant of one particular eruption out of the three major volcanic events that the area experienced in its past two eons. This incident occurred about 640,000 years ago, and lava flows from the blast, as well as smaller bursts that followed, eventually became 1,350 square miles of lava and volcanic rock. You’ll get the best view of the caldera’s rim by heading to the overlook right next to the Washburn Hot Springs.
The Yellowstone supervolcano is still active and could technically erupt at any time. However, the last eruption there was 174,000 years ago, and it’s been 70,000 years since the last lava flow. Vigilant of any warning signs, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey monitor all volcanic, seismic and geothermal activity closely from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The NPS and USGS believe that a caldera-forming eruption is unlikely for at least another few thousand years – perhaps as many as 10,000.
Natural Wonders near the Caldera
Many of Yellowstone Park’s other notable natural highlights are located near the caldera, including the Flat Mountain Arm portion of Yellowstone Lake, Lake Butte, Gibbon Falls, and Lewis Falls.
In their own way, the lakes and other bodies of water within the park are just as remarkable as the caldera: Seven rivers originate here, most notably the Missouri, Yellowstone, Shoshone, and Snake Rivers. They are habitats for hundreds of local plant and animal species. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a herd of American bison grazing along the shores or grizzlies fishing for a dinner of speckled cutthroat trout.
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