Park Geology

Yellowstone National Park is a treasure that inspires awe in travelers from around the world. New Zealand and Iceland are known for their geysers, but nowhere are there as many as in Yellowstone. Scenery, wildlife, and history were contributing factors influencing Congress to establish Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872.

At the heart of Yellowstone’s past, present, and future lies volcanism. Catastrophic volcanic eruptions occurred here

  • About 2 million years ago,
  • then 1.2 million years ago,
  • and then again 600,000 years ago.

The latest eruption spewed out nearly 240 cubic miles of debris. What is now the park’s central portion then collapsed, forming a 28- by 47- mile caldera (or basin). The magmatic heat powering those eruptions still powers the park’s famous geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots. The spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River provides a glimpse of Earth’s interior: its waterfalls highlight the boundaries of lava flows and thermal areas. Rugged mountains flank the park’s volcanic plateau, rewarding both eye and spirit.

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