Yellowstone Geology

Yellowstone National Park features a unique geology, one that has drawn scientists worldwide for decades. Popular geologic highlights include:

  • Mammoth Hot Springs – These springs highlight the deep volcanic forces within the park. Lying just outside the Caldera Boundary, scientists surmise from detailed studies that the energy from the hot springs is fueled by a magmatic system, which also fuels other geothermal areas in the region. Scientists also surmise that basalt may be related to the heat source for this hot springs area.
  • Norris – Located at the intersection of several major fault lines, the Norris area includes two fault intersections, which are believed to result from a fractured ring that occurred more than 600,000 years ago. These faults are responsible for the area being dynamically hot. The nearby Ragged Hills – located between the Back Basin and One Hundred Springs Plain – are considered thermally altered glacial moraines. During the Ice Age, as these glaciers receded, the resulting debris were deposited and then altered by hot steam and water.
  • Canyon – The dynamic and picturesque Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is somewhat of a mystery to scientists, who believe this anomaly results from nature’s erosion forces. It is surmised that after the caldera eruption (as previously mentioned in Norris), the area was subject to faulting, which likely allowed an accelerated rate of erosion. The canyon is V-shaped, which indicates river-type erosion forces. The brilliant, layered colors of the canyon are related to hydrothermal alterations, which essentially cooked the iron compounds, ultimately resulting in vibrant colors.
  • Old Faithful – Standing the test of time and being a dependable, constant geologic force within the park, Old Faithful is attributed to Quaternary rhyolitic lava flows. After the caldera eruption, lava flowed slowly through the area and as glacial activity carved deposits, this area became a storage basin for water.
  • Grant Village and West Thumb – The West Thumb Geyser Basin is the single largest geyser basin, located on Yellowstone Lake. In fact its primary heat source is believed to be less than 10,000 feet below the surface. Scientific evidence shows that this portion of Yellowstone Lake was formed 150,000 years ago and is attributed to a volcanic explosion. As the volcano ultimately collapsed, water then filled the West Thumb area, extending the existing lake.
  • Lake Area – Yellowstone Lake is the result of several massive volcanic eruptions that occur on a 600,000-year interval. Part of the caldera is Yellowstone Lake – at 136 square miles. Hayden Valley was once part of Yellowstone Lake, which is why it is relatively un-forested.
  • Tower-Roosevelt – This geographic area is the result of erosion, glaciations and absaroka volcanic features. The results include Yellowstone River’s Black Canyon, Specimen Ridge’s petrified trees, massive gorges and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Holiday is located near Yellowstone National Park’s west entrance. As a premiere Yellowstone vacation destination, they offer cabins at Hebgen Lake and RV parks in West Yellowstone.

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