Yellowstone: World's First National Park, an Eco Tourism Treasure

By Henrylito D. Tacio

Montana, 21 August 2009. Welcome to the Yellowstone National Park. In big bold letters, this is what you will read see at the Roosevelt Arch. The park, added: For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People. Actually, those words were excerpted from the Act of Dedication, which established Yellowstone as the world's first national park. President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law on March 1, 1872.

A treasure that inspires awe, for me, the park defies description. It is simply awesome. With a total land area of 3,472 square miles, it is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined!

At the heart of Yellowstones past, present, and future lies volcanism. About two million years ago, then 1.3 million years ago, and again 640,000 years ago, huge volcanic eruptions occurred here. The latest spewed out nearly 240 cubic miles of debris.

Yellowstone's unparalleled array of hydrothermal features geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and steam vents provide evidence of the active volcano beneath our feet. The largest concentration of geysers in the world is in the Upper Geyser Basin. Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers and it is one of the top tourist attractions. An eruption lasts 1-1/2 to 5 minutes, expels 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water, and reaches a height of 106 to 184 feet.

Tourists who explore the Upper Geyser Basin will notice the variety of mineral formations surrounding its geysers and hot springs. Science tells us that when hot water erupts from a geyser or flows from a hot spring, it cools and leaves behind a thin mineral deposit. These deposits build up as a grayish-white mineral, which is primarily composed of silicon dioxide (the same material found in glass) to create the so-called formations.

They may be beautiful and amazing to look at but the parks hydrothermal features can kill. In fact, the waters are frequently near or above boiling point. The crust surrounding them is thin and breaks easily, and often overlies scalding water. As such, visitors and tourists are required to stay on boardwalks and designated trails.

In the midst of the park is the Yellowstone Lake, considered the largest high elevation lake (above 7,000 feet) in the Western Hemisphere. It has more than 100 kilometers of shoreline with its deepest spot approximately 390 feet deep. With the Absaroka Mountains as a stunning backdrop, the lake is breathtaking. Among the things you can do: boating, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

There is also that equally famous Yellow River. The current of this beautiful river is very great, wrote Fur trader Antoine Larocque. These rapids, this river, they never rest, Marty Stouffer pointed out.

The National Geographic described the Yellowstone River, which flows from the national park to the Missouri River at the Montana/North Dakota border, as the last best river. The free-flowing Yellowstone is marked by such natural wonders as Upper Falls (109 feet), Lower Falls (308 feet), Grand Canyon, Yankee Jim Canyon, and Paradise Valley.

In areas where swimming is allowed, you can do so, but at your own risk. The park's natural waters tend to be very hot or very cold, and immersion in extreme temperature can be fatal. Hot water can also harbor an organism that has been known to cause a fatal meningitis infection.

Environmentalists will have a good time at the park since it is a haven for wildlife. It has the largest concentration of free-roaming wildlife in the lower 48 states of the United States and the global temperate zone. The park reportedly has two species of bears, seven species of ungulates, more than 50 species of other mammals, 18 species of fish, six species of reptiles, and four species of amphibians.

The numbers of variety of animals you will see are largely a matter of luck and coincidence. During our visit, we saw a lot of buffaloes, elks and deer. My sister pointed at an animal that looked like a dog. Its a wolf, she told me.

Just bear this in mind, though: All wild animals are unpredictable and dangerous. The Yellowstone is considered a bear country. There are several newspaper accounts where people had been seriously injured, maimed, and killed by bears.

My brother-in-law shared this advice: Do not approach a bear under any circumstances. Observe them at a safe distance; it is illegal to approach on foot within 100 yards of bears. Bears may appear tolerant of people but are known to attack without warning, he warns. View them from the safety of our vehicle.

If you have the opportunity of coming to visit Yellowstone National Park, dont forget to bring your own camera. Annually, more than 600,000 people visit the park. Some of them capture memories with a video camera; others use standard still photography; a few use digital equipment. Whatever camera you are using, please bear this in mind: Avoid surprising wildlife. Keep a safe distance and move slowly. Binoculars will help enhance viewing from afar.

Yellowstone Park is a premier national park for its scenery or wildlife. However, its history abounds in colorful tales, too, of fur trappers, explorers, surveyors, photographers, and artists. William Henry Jacksons photographs and Thomas Morans sketches influenced the US Congress to establish Yellowstone as the worlds first national park. The national park idea has become a land-use model for many nations (including the Mount Apo in the Philippines), and Yellowstone has evolved from a pleasuring ground and wildlife refuge to today's Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage, too.

Dont worry about places where you can stay, take a rest or sleep. There are plenty of hotels and lodging houses within the park. Restaurants also abound.

During the summer season, commercial businesses offer tours. During the winter season, some businesses provide snowcoach tours for most park roads or bus transportation on the Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City road. There is no public transportation within the park.

Getting there

Commercial airlines serve the following airports near Yellowstone National Park all year: Cody and Jackson, both in Wyoming; Bozeman and Billings in Montana, and Idaho Falls, in Idaho. The West Yellowstone airport, also in Montana, is open from June to early September.