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10 (FASCINATING) Yellowstone National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Realize

Yellowstone National Park Facts includes ten fascinating facts about America’s oldest national park.

In 2020, Yellowstone attracted 3.8 million visitors. Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, this park features more than two million acres of a high mountain-ringed plateau which have been set aside for permanent protection as a natural preserve. It’s been called America’s finest and most diverse vacationland.


Yellowstone National Park back in the day | Courtesy of NARA

#1 No One Believed It Was Real Until The Washburn Party | Yellowstone National Park Facts

Before it became America’s first national park, people explored this fantastic place. They told tales of its magnificent beauty and amazing natural wonders. Few people believed them however. In 1869, C.W. Cook saw some of Yellowstone’s incredible geysers with two traveling companions.

Cook was so moved by his experience that he submitted an article to Lippincott’s magazine. He received a curt reply from them which read as follows: “Thank-you, but we do not print fiction.”


Yellowstone National Park Facts include the story of the Washburn Party which convinced America that it was a place filled with natural wonders.
When C. W. Cook wrote an article describing the wonders of Yellowstone, it was rejected because, as the magazine’s editors stated, “We do not print fiction.” This is the Steam Phase eruption of Castle geyser with a double rainbow. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons)

When the writer passed into the field of vents in the surface of the earth which suddenly shot tons of water two hundred feet into the air; one such monster that obligingly erupted every hour on the hour; fountains of boiling water that played continuously; explosions of multicolored muds that plastered the landscape; hills made of solid brimstone; ice-cold streams with hot stones on the bottom; a valley of smokes, or a hillside that looked like a New England factory town with its belching chimneys–well, it was said what Artemus Ward would have called “2 mutch.”

-Freeman Tilden, The National Parks

It was left to the Washburn Party, led by Henry Washburn and Nathaniel Pitt Langford, to convince a skeptical public that this place was as magnificent as people were describing it. Members of the party made detailed maps and observations of the region, explored numerous lakes, climbed mountains, and observed an incredible array of wildlife.

The Washburn Party traveled to the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. They were so fascinated by the regular eruptions of one geyser in particular that they decided to name it Old Faithful.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include the fact that the Washburn Party would name Yellowstone's most famous geyser, Old Faithful, based on its regular eruptions.
Today, Old Faithful is a popular tourist attraction. Yellowstone’s most famous geyser received its name from the members of the Washburn Party who witnessed its regular eruptions in 1870. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The Official Report Of The Washburn Party

The official report of the Washburn Party was written by Lieutenant Gustavus C. Doane. He described, day by day, what the party saw in Yellowstone. As Freeman Tilden writes, “He [Doane] climbed the peak now known as Mount Washburn on a day when the pure air of the country revealed everything with crystal clarity. He saw the snowy summits above the Gallatin Valley, and from them traced almost an unbroken circle of mountains, of which he thought the Tetons were a part.” (Source: The National Parks, Freeman Tilden)

Doane’s report authenticated earlier descriptions of Yellowstone. A skeptical public finally began to believe these fantastic tales of this wilderness wonderland.

#2 It’s Always Best To Stay With The Group | The Tale Of Truman C. Everts

It’s best to stay with the group when you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings. How many times have you heard your mother say that? The tale of Truman C. Everts proves that mom was right.

Everts was part of the Washburn Party. He convinced himself that he had an uncanny ability to find his way around despite the fact that, like the rest of his party, he had never been to Yellowstone before. Everts took one short cut too many however. He was separated from his party and remained lost for the next 37 days. Everts almost perished as a consequence of his folly.


Truman C. Everts convinced himself that he was an explorer in the mold of Lewis & Clark. He went missing for 37 days and almost perished as a consequence. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Things Go From Bad To Worse For Truman

On September 9, 1870, Everts managed to lose the horse carrying most of the supplies for the expedition He then attempted to retrace the expedition’s route in the hope of finding his companions. Had he stayed in place, the other members of his party likely would have found him, but the intrepid Everts believed he could find his way back by himself.


Truman C. Everts was the first federal tax assessor for the Montana Territory. His claim to fame, however, was his participation in the Washburn Party. It wasn’t what he did, but what he failed to do, which was to stay with the group. This gained Everts his newfound celebrity. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Staying Alive

Everts ate whatever he could, including a songbird and small fish, just to stay alive. He also subsisted on a local thistle plant which would later be named “Everts Thistle” in his honor. The weather turned cold and, at one point, the hapless Everts was stalked by a mountain lion. Things were looking bleak indeed!


Thus began a terrible odyssey in which Everts would be beset by a series of calamities, guided by visions, and hammered by autumn weather in the mountains. September in Yellowstone country can be a beautiful time of year, but for Everts, it was nearly fatal.

Lost in Yellowstone, The Misadventures of Truman Everts, Outside Magazine

At one point, with the weather turning cold and a mountain lion stalking him, things looked very bleak for Truman C. Everts indeed. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

An Incredible Rescue

The Washburn Party, believing Everts to be dead, returned to Helena. They offered a $600 reward for his remains. The reward money attracted the interest of two local mountain men named “Yellowstone Jack” Baronett and George A. Pritchett.

Remarkably, the mountain men retraced his steps and found the hapless Everts. He was suffering from frostbite and other injuries. When they found him, Everts weighed less than a hundred pounds. He was completely delirious. One of the men nursed him back to health while the other went for help.

Everts later published a personal account of his experience titled. “Thirty-Seven Days of Peril.” As a result of his celebrity, he was offered the job as the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. He turned it down. Can you blame him?


The Washburn Party had given Everts up for dead, but offered a $600 reward for his remains. Remarkably, two mountain men found him alive. (courtesy of Wikimedia)

#3 America’s First National Park Could Have Been The Last | Yellowstone National Park Facts

Yellowstone National Park was established by an act of Congress which was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Ten years later, however, America’s first national park was in danger of becoming its last. A contract, which was negotiated between the Department of the Interior and the Yellowstone Park Improvement Company, gave the company the right to “rent” the park out to private parties.


“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

A Private Preserve?

These groups could do whatever they wished. This included the wholesale slaughter of the park’s animals. Imagine a private preserve where guests could treat one of our nation’s greatest treasures as their own personal property and do whatever they want to it irrespective of the cost.


Yellowstone National Parks Facts include the fact that America's first national park was almost destroyed by commercial interests such as poaching.
Poaching wildlife threatened the species and the sustainability of places like Yellowstone National Park. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

For early environmentalists, like George Bird Grinnell, efforts to defile Yellowstone meant the ultimate destruction of some of America’s most precious lands. Grinnell was the editor and publisher of Forest and Stream, which was an influential magazine featuring hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities in the United States. Proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, he sounded the alarm in a series of blistering editorials.

Grinnell’s editorials were carried in America’s leading newspapers. By defending Yellowstone against commercial interests, he established himself as an early voice of America’s growing conservation movement. And, he did this long before Theodore Roosevelt was able to use the powers of his great office to protect these sacred places.


Yellowstone National Parks Facts include that George Bird Grinnell helped to pass a Yellowstone Park Protection Act which served as a model for future national parks.
George Grinnell sounded the alarm when commercial interests threatened the destruction of Yellowstone.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Making Sure That America’s First National Park Would Not Be Its Last

Grinnell understood that America was at an inflection point where the Age of Industry, which had catapulted the U.S. economy to the global forefront, was now in a position to pursue its profits in reckless and dangerous ways. These included the exploitation of the American West.

Grinnell printed weekly editorials promoting legislation to protect Yellowstone ensuring it would be managed solely by the federal government. He also recruited prominent politicians, such as Commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service Theodore Roosevelt, Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas Reed and others, to lead the fight in Washington.


Conservation leaders, such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, took up the fight to protect national parks from commercial interests which would decimate them in the name of profits.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Yellowstone National Park Protection Act

By focusing on the imminent threat to Yellowstone from unbridled corporate interests and the poaching which they encouraged, Grinnell was instrumental in helping to secure passage of the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act in 1894. This act protected the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. It served as a model for future national parks.

The act punished crimes committed in the park. It also helped bring about the establishment of park rangers who helped to ensure the preservation and protection of Yellowstone and other national parks. As a consequence of these efforts, America’s first national park was not its last.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include that the Yellowstone Park Protection Act helped to bring about the establishment of park rangers.
The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act served as a model for future parks. It helped bring about the establishment of park rangers who ensured the preservation and protection of national parks.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

#4 Yellowstone Features The Largest Concentration Of Wildlife In The Continental U.S.

Yellowstone is one of the world’s principal wildlife reserves with nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, five species of amphibians, six species of reptiles, and 67 species of mammals.

The park is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states. It’s notable for bighorn sheep, bison, elk, moose, mountain goats, mule deer, pronghorn, and white-tailed deer. Visitors to the park can also see black bears, Canada lynx, coyotes, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolverines, and wolves.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include the rule that you should not feed the bears or any dangerous wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park is home to seven large predators. Please don’t feed the bears. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Almost 300 Species Of Migratory Birds

If you’re a bird watcher, there are almost 300 species of birds, including raptors, songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Many of these birds are migratory species so, depending on which season you visit, you will be treated to a different variety.

Remember: It’s important to keep a safe distance from wildlife. Unfortunately, the National Park Service reports that each year visitors are injured due to their failure to maintain safe distances. 


Yellowstone National Parks Facts include that you can expect to fin almost 300 species of birds in the park.
The Great Blue Herron is one of the magnificent species of birds which you can expect to find at Yellowstone National Park depending on when you are visiting. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

#5 Yellowstone is the site of America’s greatest concentration of geysers and hot springs

At Yellowstone National Park, you will experience the most extraordinary collection of hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles on Earth. The park includes over 500 geysers.

There are five types of hydrothermal features readily visible in Yellowstone. They include:

  1. Hot Springs: Pools of hydrothermally heated water.
  2. Geysers: Hot springs with constrictions in their plumbing, which causes them to periodically erupt to release the pressure that builds up.
  3. Mudpots: Hot springs that are acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock, and typically also lack water in their systems.
  4. Travertine Terraces: Hot springs that rise up through limestone, dissolve the calcium carbonate, and deposit the calcite that makes the travertine terraces.
  5. Fumaroles: These hot features, also known as steam vents, lack water in their system, and instead constantly release hot steam. (Source: National Park Service)

Yellowstone National Park Facts include that half of the world's hydrothermal features are found at Yellowstone.
Half the world’s hydrothermal features are found at Yellowstone.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

#5 Yellowstone has the highest elevation in North America | Yellowstone National Park Facts

At Yellowstone, you will truly feel like you’re above the clouds especially if you travel to some of its higher elevations. One place worth visiting is Dunraven Pass. It’s a high mountain pass at an elevation 8,878 feet above sea level.

If you take the Grand Loop Road you’ll see some stunning panoramic views. It’s a fun ride, but with all of the twists and turns, please drive carefully. Due to the winter weather, Dunraven Pass closes in October and doesn’t open again until the end of May.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include that Yellowstone has the highest elevation in North America.
Dunraven Pass in July. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Another great place to visit is Eagle Peak. At 11,372 feet, it’s the highest point in Yellowstone. The mountain is a popular spot with climbers in Yellowstone, but it’s quite difficult to access. It involves long hikes through the wilderness to reach the top so you need to decide if it’s the right trip for you.


#7 There Are Almost Three Hundred Waterfalls Inside The Park | Yellowstone National Park Facts

So many waterfalls. So little time. Since you won’t be able to see all of the falls, it might be helpful to know which ones you should check out. Firehole Falls is one of the most accessible and stunning waterfalls in Yellowstone. To get there you take the Firehole Canyon Scenic Drive, which is well worth the trip as you will be surrounded by some truly breathtaking scenery.

Gibbon Falls is another one definitely worth seeing. It’s an easy drive from the park’s entrance at West Yellowstone. You’ll be impressed with the beautiful pine tress and rugged cliffs as you make your way to this wonderful spot.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include that there are almost 300 waterfalls in the park.
At Yellowstone National Park, you will see some of the most magnificent falls in the world. Firehole Falls is one of them. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

And Don’t Forget About Kepler Cascades

If you travel just south of Old Faithful, you can see another incredible fall. Kepler Cascades, where the Firehole River narrows and descends into a glistening pool, provides a dramatic scenic backdrop from which to gaze at this 150 foot wonder.


Walk quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.

-John Muir

#8 Yellowstone’s history dates back 11,000 years | Yellowstone National Park Facts

Do you love history? Well, Yellowstone’s got it! The history of America’s oldest national park dates back 11,000 years. Hunter-gatherers and later native American tribes used the park as their home, hunting grounds, and transportation routes. All of this was long before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Since Yellowstone began its archaeology program in 1995, more than 1,800 sites have been uncovered. These contain projectile points or arrowheads, scrapers and other tools, and concentrations of burned and butchered bone, including the first evidence of fishing found in the park.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include that the park's history dates back 11,000 years.
Stone lithics found on an archaeological dig at Yellowstone National Park.
(Courtesy of the National Park Service)

#9 Yellowstone Is A Super-Volcano | Yellowstone National Park Facts

A super-volcano is an unusually large volcano having the potential to produce an eruption with major effects on the global climate and ecosystem. If another large, caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be felt worldwide.

An eruption of this magnitude would result in falling ash. It would produce changes to global climate patterns which would last decades. Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming would be affected by pyroclastic flows (i.e., lava) while other parts of the U.S. would experience falling ash.  Such eruptions produce broad volcanic depressions (i.e., calderas) created as the ground surface collapses as a result of withdrawal of partially molten rock (magma) below.

Now that you’re totally terrified, the odds of this happening in the next several thousand years are extremely small. So relax and enjoy the park.


Yellowstone National Park Facts include that Yellowstone is a super-volcano.
A Super Volcano eruption could make the historic eruption of Krakatoa look mild by comparison. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

#10 Yellowstone Is Actually Larger Than Two U.S. States–Combined | Yellowstone National Park Facts

Yellowstone encompasses 3,472 square miles (2,221,766 acres). This makes it larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. And, what’s even more amazing is that Yellowstone is not even one of the top five largest national parks in the United States.

Which national parks are the largest?

According to the National Park Service, these are the top 10 largest national parks:

  1. Wrangell-St. Elias (8,323,146.48 acres, in Alaska)
  2. Gates of the Arctic (7,523,897.45 acres, also in Alaska, the northernmost national park in the country)
  3. Denali (4,740,911.16 acres, where else? Alaska)
  4. Katmai (3,674,529.33 acres, Alaska)
  5. Death Valley (3,408,406.73 acres, California/Nevada, biggest in the lower 48, and the hottest place on the continent)
  6. Glacier Bay (3,222,383.43 acres, back to Alaska)
  7. Lake Clark (2,619,816.49 acres, Alaska)
  8. Yellowstone (2,219,790.71 acres, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho, the first national park, created in 1872)
  9. Kobuk Valley (1,750,716.16 acres, Alaska)
  10. Everglades (1,508,938.57 acres, Florida)

I hope you’ve enjoying learning about one of America’s premier national parks. Please feel free to share your feedback and suggestions with us. More Than Just Parks is always on the lookout for new topics of interest to our readers.

If you’d like to learn about all 63 of America’s amazing national parks then check out our helpful guide.


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Our mission is to bring these incredible places to life for you. Courtesy of More Than Just Parks.

Ten Fascinating Facts About Yellowstone National Park

  1. No One Believed It Was Real Until The Washburn Party
  2. It’s Always Best To Stay With The Group | The Tale Of Truman C. Everts
  3. Yellowstone was America’s first national park and could have been the last
  4. Yellowstone Features The Largest Concentration Of Wildlife In The Continental U.S.
  5. Yellowstone is the site of America’s greatest concentration of geysers and hot springs
  6. Yellowstone has the highest elevation in North America
  7. There Are Almost Three Hundred Waterfalls Inside The Park
  8. Yellowstone’s history dates back 11,000 years
  9. Yellowstone is a super-volcano
  10. Yellowstone Is Actually Larger Than Two U.S. States–Combined
Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

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