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Yellowstone National Park has a long and storied history, of war, trade, hallucinating mountain men and, of course, bubbling volcanic features. Here are 7 fun Yellowstone facts:
It was the first National Park
In 1872, Ulysses Grant signed Yellowstone National Park into existence, making it both the first American National Park and the first National Park in the world. To begin with, Yellowstone was put under charge of the U.S. Army, since the National Park Service wasn’t created until 1916.
It is the largest supervolcano on the continent
Yellowstone National Park sits squarely on the Yellowstone Caldera. A caldera is a type of volcano where the peak above it collapses, creating a huge cauldron-like depression. The Yellowstone Caldera is about 45 miles long and 35 miles wide, forming the largest supervolcano in all North America.
The first people in Yellowstone got there 11,000 years ago
The first settlers of the area around Yellowstone were Paleo-Indians of the Clovis culture, meaning they created specific kinds of stone tools out of the volcanic obsidian in the area. Indians continued to live in the area until the last bands of “Sheepeater” Shoshone were removed in 1868.
They traded obsidian
Yellowstone obsidian apparently used to be a hot commodity. Arrowheads of Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far away as the Mississippi valley, meaning they probably were traded from tribe to tribe eastward.
The first white man descriptions of Yellowstone were thought to be myth
The first white man to actually enter Yellowstone was John Colter in 1806, years after Lewis and Clark’s expedition. After surviving injuries from a fight against the Crow and Blackfoot Indians, Colter described an area that was full of “fire and brimstone,” which was ignored as delirium and dubbed “Colter’s Hell.” Numerous further reports were written off as myth. An example was mountain man Jim Bridger, who reported geysers, boiling springs, and a mountain of yellow rock and glass (Bridger was ignored due to his reputation as a “spinner of yarns”).
It contains half the world’s geothermal features
An area resting on a supervolcano is bound to have some geothermal happenings. The total number of geysers, boiling mud pots, hot springs and fumaroles is estimated at around 10,000 – half the total number in the world.
It has a lot of earthquakes
Like the geothermal features, a supervolcano is bound to result in some earthquakes. A lot of them. Most of them are so small that people can’t feel them, and occasionally come in groups called earthquake swarms. During one period in December 2008, over 250 earthquakes were detected over a four-day period under Yellowstone Lake. Seismic activity is so common that the Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey reports on earthquakes in the park hourly.