Yellowstone National Park, Part 1

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Ah, the Upper Falls as seen from Uncle Tom’s Trail. Seriously, is it possible to take a bad picture here?

What better way to start my National Park series with my first post on the first National Park?  And even better, the first national park I ever visited and the very reason I’m studying conservation biology.

Ah, the memories.  But first, a little background information on the national park system!  The National Park System website explains it best: “By the Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming ‘as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’ and placed it ‘under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.’ The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.”  The national park system is seriously incredible.  The most beautiful places in not only the US but all over the world have been set aside to educate the public and preserve the environment.  How cool is that?  Each country runs their park system a little differently.  Some are focused more on education, some more on conservation, and some on tourism.  I think the US’s park system has found a lovely blend between these important topics.

So, Yellowstone!  Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming with small areas overlapping into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone boasts rushing rivers, wide meadows, and mountain ranges galore.  My personal favorite features lie below and above the ground.  You see, Yellowstone is located on a caldera (the remnants of a volcano) that brings the warmth of the lower mantle up to the crust, creating fabulous geothermal features including geysers, mud pots, paint pots, and hot springs.  The extreme temperature allows certain types of bacteria to thrive, painting the pools in rainbow colors (look for pictures of this to follow!).

Yellowstone also boasts an extremely unique ecosystem.  From bears to moose to fox and ground squirrels, fauna of all shapes and sizes call Yellowstone home.  It’s a biologists paradise!  Look forward to more sciencey posts to follow!  I could write on and on (and on and on and on) about the incredible biology found in and around Yellowstone National Park.  (again, pictures to follow!)

But let’s talk about the real reason we read oodles of blog posts every day, eating up every word:  the raw emotion, the human experience, the glimpses into the lives of others.  At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “Sure, Yellowstone sounds alright.  Maybe I’ll go there.”  But to me, Yellowstone is more than a vacation destination, more than just another stop along the way.  Yellowstone is my home.  Ok, I don’t literally live there (yet) but that’s where a significant portion of my heart is.  On my very first trip to Wyoming, to a National Park, to Yellowstone, I fell in love with a landscape that I knew but hadn’t met yet, with an environment I understood but couldn’t get a true grasp on.  My thirst for adventure, travel, exploration truly began there.  My eyes were opened to a potential career, one spent in the great outdoors with marvelous landscapes, wildlife, and people.  But the story’s not done yet.  Currently, I’m halfway through my degree program in preparation of a life spent conserving the great national treasures that are the focus on the National Park System.

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