USA: Wilder than ever – Yellowstone, the oldest national park in the world

ZSizzling geysers, bubbling mud pots, shaggy bison herds, every visitor to the United States would like to see it at least once. Yellowstone National Park in the Rocky Mountains is wilder than ever. 8987 square kilometers, an incomparable, immense wilderness, 100 kilometers wide, 87 kilometers long, a rugged landscape of forests, lakes, mountains, valleys. A wild country that stretches across the states of Wyoming and two corners of Idaho and Montana.

The park owes its name to the Yellowstone River. What makes it special are its more than 10,000 hot springs, 300 of which are hissing geysers. The most famous and popular is the “Old Faithful”, which spits water fountains every 60-90 minutes.

The bubbling, popping mud pots, also known as “mud pods” in English, are also outstanding. Deep within the Yellowstone Territory is an active volcano, a vast chamber of magma bubbling through the cracks in the earth’s crust.

Source: WORLD Infographic

Yellowstone National Park is now celebrating its 150th birthday. On March 1, 1872, then US President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Protection Act. Yellowstone was “dedicated as a public park or amusement park for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Bison and grizzly bear in the world’s oldest national park

This makes it the oldest national park in the world. Today it is once again home to the famous herds of bison, grizzly bears, moose and wolves, mountain lions and coyotes. It didn’t seem like it for 80 years.

The idea of ​​protecting the wilderness from development initially caused excitement and irritation. But over the years the tourist potential was also discovered: in 1883 the Northern Pacific Railroad opened Yellowstone National Park and in 1904 opened the first hostel for the night: the “Old Faithful Inn”, also with electricity. In 1915, visitors could drive cars in the park. Yellowstone has degenerated into the absurd spectacle of the Wild West with the Winchester rifle.


The “Old Faithful Inn” in the 1920s: horse-riding holidaymakers in front of the inn

Source: H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock


The “Old Faithful Inn” 2010: tourists wait in front of the inn for the eruption of the Old Faithful geyser

Credit: pa / imageBROKER / Michael Weber

The “reckless destruction of fish and game” and the commercial use of such game were prohibited within the park. But no one has remained faithful to us. The inaccessible no man’s land was plundered. Profiteer fur hunters with rifles traveled in groups from all over the country. One of them could kill up to 50 moose and bison in one day. Thousands of skinned animal carcasses littered the slopes.

Not only bison, but also moose and bighorn sheep were massacred en masse until 1916, when the American cavalry was called in for help. From then on they patrolled the park for 30 years, but due to the inaccessibility and size of the area they could not do much.

Yellowstone must Corona rush to visitors

Incidentally, even the first vacationers in the national park did not perform much better: they destroyed the geyser cones, carved their names in the rocks, and left their waste everywhere. For decades, grizzly bears have been attracted to tons of leftover food. For the amusement of visitors, large garbage dumps were transformed into theaters where tourists sat on the bleachers to watch the famous bear shows on summer evenings.

Omnivorous animals quickly adapted to the human presence and the morsels served on the plate, although they typically feed on merciless trout that spawn in rivers and pine cone seeds in forests. These bear shows were only banned in the early 1970s.

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times

Source: Getty Images / Dan Anderson

At the same time, park rangers tried to save the last wild herd of 23 bison, once 50 million on the American continent. The animals found refuge in the heavily guarded Pelican Valley. The park managers were thus able to save the last bison from extinction.

To avoid inbreeding, a bull and seven cows were rescued from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo in 1896. Today, Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Today, 5,400 animals move through the park in two huge herds.

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The bison can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, weigh up to 2500 pounds, and even kill bears with their heads or hind legs

Grizzly bears, whose numbers in the park dropped to just 136 in the 1970s, also bounced back. The wolves that were wiped out in the 1920s were reintroduced in 1995. Today, 90 Yellowstone wolves live in the park.

Protected by their mother, two young grizzly bears explore the Yellowstone National Park area

Protected by their mother, two young grizzly bears explore the area

Source: pa / robertharding / James Hager

Most visitors marvel at nature from the cars along the way. The pandemic, of all things, is causing an influx of people to the park. In 2021, there were almost 4.9 million, an impressive 800,000 more than before the pandemic. Yellowstone could exceed five million visitors this year for the park’s 150th anniversary. Yellowstone National Park offers its visitors kayaking, fly fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, or guided ranger tours.

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This can cause traffic congestion in the summer. However, the roads and paths, where most tourists stay, make up only about 2% of the 8,900 square kilometer park. According to surveys, around 80% of Yellowstone visitors should never be more than a quarter of an hour away from their vehicle. So most of Yellowstone remains deserted and wild.

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Here a mother bear goes hunting for tourists

A mother bear cleared things up on a bridge in Yellowstone National Park. Photo tourists who dared to get too close to their offspring drove them out of their territory.

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