A treasure trove of nature

A treasure trove of nature

Travel tales

A treasure trove of nature

A visit to the world famous Yellowstone National Park (YsNP) in United States of America is a dream come true for any forest enthusiast, geologist, nature lover or photographer. A treasure trove of nature and wonder, I couldn’t believe the magic that lay before my eyes when I went for a two-day tour in July 2013 with my family.

Located primarily in the state of Wyoming, the National Park has a diverse ecosystem comprising lakes, canyons, rivers, mountain ranges and sub-alpine forests. Three deep canyons are located in the park, cut through the volcanic tuff of the Yellowstone Plateau by rivers.

The Lewis River flows through Lewis Canyon in the south and the Yellowstone River has carved two colourful canyons. We saw many wonderful active volcanoes in the form of geysers, hot springs and mud pots. The most attractive geyser we saw is the ‘Old Faithful Geyser’ (OFG).

It is named so as it has remained as it was, since it was discovered and faithfully continues to thrill visitors though others are drying up. It remains active with low emission of steam. At an interval of about 67 minutes, it starts to emit hot water. The geyser then erupts in full swing to a height of 130-145 feet to the surprise of on-lookers for five minutes and gradually goes back to dormancy.

The process repeats about 20 times per day. It is one of the most popular geothermal features in the park. My visit to the other geysers, mud pots and hot springs at Black Sand Basin, Biscuit Basin, Lower Geyser Basin, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Terraces, West Thump Geyser Basin, Dragon Mouth and Sulphur Caldron were breathtaking.                                                                                  

The biggest highlight was Lake Yellowstone, a beauty queen of nature with blue waters, surrounded by mountains and thick forests. It is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.

After the lake is a den of American bisons with open meadows and saddles in between hill ranges, nursing rich pine forests till it reaches the wonderful region of rugged the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This valley is famous for sighting bisons, elks, grizzly bears and birds.

The Yellowstone River drops at two places; the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. The YsNP service has made arrangements to watch falls from either side of the Upper Falls. The South Rim gives a full view of the falls and the North Rim takes visitors right on to the head of the falls.

We saw a spectacular view from the South Rim at ‘Artist Point’ and the view of the falls of the gorge from the North Rim at ‘Point of Inspiration’. Two trails to the base of Lower Water Falls from either rim of the Canyon are fascinating walking trails for trekkers. We also saw a vast expanse of flora and fauna.

Over 1,700 species of trees and other vascular plants are native to the park. Another 170 species are considered to be exotic and Lodgepole Pine forests cover 80 percent of the total forested areas. There are almost 60 species of mammals in the park, including the grey wolf and the threatened lynx.

Other large mammals include the bison, black bear, elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and mountain lion and  311 species of birds. We could see, enjoy and take photographs of four big herds of bisons at Hudson Valley along the river Yellowstone, in addition to sighting of solitary bison at several places.

While returning from the Grand Canyon, a bull bison was found struck in between the flowing traffic of visitors. We were lucky to see it as close as five ft away when it was walking along the median of the road for a while. This indicates that wild animals can adjust to the moving visitors and traffic.

The National Park Service maintains nine visitor centres and museums, many of the other 2,000 buildings and the development of the park. Campfire programmes, guided walks and other interpretive presentations are available at numerous locations in the summer and on a limited basis during other seasons.

There are 500 km of paved road and 1,800 km of hiking trails available. We often take the beauties beneath the surface of the Earth for granted. Little did I realise that I could unearth the magic beneath Mother Earth. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the internal activities and even though I am back, the treasures are still within me.

BMT Rajeev
(Rtd IFS Officer)

(The author can be contacted at bmt.rajeev.ifs@gmail.com)