Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is home the world’s largest active volcano, dubbed a supervolcano?
I found this out years ago and ever since then, I have been fascinated with Yellowstone. Recently, on a trip with my mom, I was lucky enough to visit it!
I’m going to start by sharing my experiences of Yellowstone. If you are interested in reading more about the volcano itself and its destructive power, continue on down to the bottom of the post.
The Sights, Sounds (and Smells!) of Yellowstone National Park
There are many things happening all around Yellowstone National Park. As the park is over an active volcano, you will be able to witness unique sights and sounds produced by geothermal activity all around the park.
Oh and did I mention that it smells like sulphur EVERYWHERE? Don’t worry, you get used to it!
I’m going to take you through the coolest things we saw in Yellowstone!
Everyone knows about the geysers at Yellowstone. The world famous Old Faithful really does go off like clockwork, spouting hot water up to 185 feet in the air. Old Faithful was cool to see, but I really enjoyed walking around the geyser basins in the area. A wooden boardwalk snaked its way over an almost desolate looking landscape, as the mineral-laden water of geysers deposit the white silica all over. The area was spotted with beautiful hot pools of green, yellow and orange. It was fun to walk along the boardwalk with the hope of seeing a geyser erupt.
My mom likes to say that every geyser has its own personality. Some are very large, shooting water hundreds of feet into the air and others tiny, barely spouting water out of the ground. Some shoot a stream straight up into the air and others kind of gurgle and spew water all around. Some geysers go off like clockwork, and others are much less predictable, going off randomly throughout the day, or even going off every few years! As things are always changing in Yellowstone, new geysers are always appearing and old geysers going dormant. You never know when you will be walking by when a geyser decides goes off – if you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to the show.
My favourite geyser was Grotto geyser (shown in video), a big wide geyser spewing hot water all over the place. Another one we really enjoyed was Vixen. Dormant as we walked by, my mom and I were startled as we heard it suddenly spout hot water straight into the air behind us. We turned around and were excited to witness the spectacle.
The Grand Prismatic Pool
Yellowstone is littered with hot springs, and the most spectacular of all had to be the Grand Prismatic Pool. I fell in love with this pool at first sight, and even returned to see it a second time. Purple in the center, the pool also boasts shades of blue, green, yellow, orange and even red, all diffusing out from the center of the pool. The colours can be explained by different types of bacteria living in the different water temperatures.
There were other gorgeous hot pools all around the park, and I never tired of them. Doesn’t that blue spring remind you of blue Kool-Aid? I really wanted to drink it, but refrained as the water was likely scalding.
I had no idea this canyon existed when we made the decision to visit the park. I went to Yellowstone to witness the geothermal activity, so I was quite astonished when we hiked down to view the stunningly beautiful yellow canyon. Now I understand where Yellowstone gets its name. Different shades of yellow lava rock form one of the parks most spectacular attractions.
The Mammoth Hot Springs
Beautiful hot springs coming out of the mountainside give the landscape unique colours as the water gently cascades to the ground. The gorgeous rolling mountains made the perfect setting for these springs.
As Yellowstone is always changing, the park rangers were very excited when a new spring decided to start in the parking lot! (The parking lot is currently closed.)
One thing we didn’t get the chance to do was visit Lamar Valley, a famous location to view the thousands of animals that roam the park. Elk and bison roam the valley in herds, and we were told itis not unusual to spot a bear or even a wolf.
I was lucky enough to get a close up view of a bison walking on the side of the road. That was my animal viewing experience in Yellowstone!
My mom and I had such a wonderful time visiting this park. It was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced before!
I guess since this is a recipe blog, I need to add a recipe!
One of our favourite things to do camping is to cook vegetables in foil. Balsamic mushrooms are just delicious. Mushrooms with butter and balsamic vinegar, wrapped in foil and cooked over the grill are the perfect side for any camping dinner!
I had a wonderful time visiting Wyoming, and a wonderful road trip with my mom. I wonder where the two of us will travel to next?!
Other posts from this series:
Grand Teton Nation Park and Camping Burritos
Click here to view the printable Word version of recipe:
Balsamic Mushrooms in Foil
Balsamic Mushrooms in Foil
Mushrooms, left whole
Salt and Pepper
Place mushrooms on tin foil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1-2 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle with tarragon (optional)
Wrap all ingredients in foil so it is well sealed.
Place foil package on BBQ and grill for about 15 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked.
For those of you who are a little geeky like me, keep reading to learn more about Yellowstone’s volcano!
According to a book I read years ago, if I recall, the discovery of the supervolcano went something like this:
Apparently, scientists noticed that there was a large layer of volcanic ash all over the Midwestern United States, spanning over half the country.. They figured that there had to be a volcano somewhere in Yellowstone Park so began to search. They couldn’t find a volcano at first, but then it dawned upon them that the volcano was nearly the entire park.
Image depicts map of the known ash-fall boundaries for major eruptions from Long Valley Caldera, Mount St. Helens and Yellowstone. Image courtesy of USGS
The gigantic Yellowstone Caldera was created by massive volcanic eruptions over the last few million years. The caldera itself is around 55 km by 72 km. Calderas are created by violent volcanic eruptions so large that the surrounding land collapses into the empty magma chamber. Currently, the park is sitting over 2 gigantic active magma chamber (an upper and lower, around 80 km long, 20 km wide, with around 4,000 cubed km of underground mass.) One article describes the larger chamber as enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times! This underground activity is what creates the geysers and other geothermal activity around the park.
There have been three major eruptions. The largest eruption, about 2.1 million years ago produced 2,500 times as much ash as the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption in the 1980s.There was a smaller supereruption 1.3 million years ago as well. The most recent eruption some 640,000 years ago was 1,000 times larger then the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s in the 1980. If you don’t remember, that eruption blew off the entire side of the mountain. Imagine that times 1,000. Yikes!
The above image shows the size of the Yellowstone eruptions relative to other historical eruptions. Image courtesy of USGS
If an eruption were to happen, there would likely be many warning signs, including earthquakes and seismic activity around the area. Lucky for us, scientists currently believe that the “proportion of melt in the [magma] chamber is much too low to allow another supereruption.” (Wikipedia) I sure hope Wikipedia is right. Other sources say scientists are unsure of the timing of another eruption.
WARNING: THE NEXT SECTION IS NOT FOR THE FEINT OF HEART
What would happen? I found it very interesting that nowhere in the park’s info-centers did they address the topic of what would happen to us, the residents of planet Earth, if this supervolcano were to erupt. Well it would be REALLY BAD. Catastrophic. Most of the damage wouldn’t come from the lava, but rather from the ash and other matter ejected in to the air. From various sources, here are some fun predictions on what could happen if Yellowstone erupted, subject to the size of the eruption of course:
- 90% of the population within 1,000 km of the blast could be killed
- An eruption of this magnitude would make parts of Canada and the entire mid-west of the USA inhabitable for at least 10 years.
- There would be 10+ cm of ash on the ground in areas within 500 km of the eruption.
- Ash would cover the American coastlines millimeters up to 2 cm
- Within 3-4 days, a fine dusting of ash could fall across Europe
- Agricultural areas, especially around the Midwestern USA, would be devastated. This could lead to starvation.
- Some waterways would be clogged with toxic sludge
- Global annual average temperatures could drop up to 10 degrees. These lowered temperatures could last 6-10 years.
- The monsoons in the southern hemisphere would not fall due to mass temperature change resulting in mass starvation in the Asian countries
Volcanic ash can:
- Kill and sicken humans and animals
- Reduce sunlight
- Trigger rainfall causing mudslides known as lahars
- Severely disrupt air, road and rail transport
- Crush buildings – 30 cm of dry ash is enough to collapse a roof
- Contaminate water supplies
- Kill crops and other vegetation
- Clog machinery such as air filters.
Points taken from BBC (reference 7.)
Click here to read the best article I found about the disastrous effects of a potential Yellowstone eruption!
Isn’t this fun? 🙂
(Please note that the reliability of my internet sources may vary)