Yellowstone National Park

Quick Overview

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park. This audio-only described version of the brochure provides a detailed map of Yellowstone, its geographic features, and services. The opposite side of the brochure presents an overview of the natural and cultural resources of Yellowstone, a guide to park wildlife, suggested travel itineraries, and the regulatory information you need to have for a safe and enjoyable trip through Yellowstone.

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Cover Image: Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace

This photograph shows a close-up of Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern end of the park. This geological feature includes small terraces, which hold water in each of them. The outside of the rounded terrace formations, known as travertine, looks like sculpted chalk in a variety of vibrant colors such as white, beige, yellow, and rust orange.

Photo copyright by Hendryk Kaiser / Index Stock

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The Volcano 

Yellowstone National Park inspires awe in travelers from around the world. New Zealand and Iceland are known for geysers, but nowhere are there as many as in Yellowstone. At the heart of Yellowstone’s past, present, and future lies volcanism. About 2 million years ago, then 1.3 million years ago, and again 640,000 years ago, huge volcanic eruptions occurred here. The latest spewed out 240 cubic miles of debris. The central part of what is now the park collapsed, forming a 30- by 45-mile caldera, or basin (see outline on large map). The magmatic heat powering those eruptions still powers the park’s geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River gives a deeper view of these forces: its waterfalls highlight the boundaries of lava flows and thermal areas. Rugged mountains flank the park’s volcanic plateau, rewarding eye and spirit. 

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Plants and Animals 

Yellowstone wildlife includes bison (buffalo), elk, grizzly and black bears, wolves, trumpeter swans, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Vegetation types range from near-desert vegetation at the North Entrance to subalpine meadow and forest on Mount Washburn. Lodgepole pine covers 60 percent of the park and makes up 80 percent of the forested areas.

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People in the Park 

Yellowstone’s human history spans at least 11,000 years and includes the sagas of Native Americans, fur trappers, explorers, surveyors, photographers, artists, and the US Army. Photographs by William Henry Jackson and sketches by Thomas Moran influenced Congress in 1872 to make Yellowstone the world’s first national park—now a land-use model for many nations.


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About this Guide 

The tours below help you choose what to see in your time in Yellowstone. They give capsule advice on three parts of the Grand Loop’s figure-eight-shaped road system that connects the park’s major attractions. Maps on the back of this brochure show park facilities and services, which are also found in the gateway communities of Jackson and Cody, Wyoming, and West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Silver Gate, and Cooke City, Montana.

Ask at a visitor center for other publications to help you see and grasp the park’s significance, because park roads sample only a fraction of Yellowstone. The rest of the park is backcountry, traversed by some 1,000 miles of trails.

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An Illustrative Guide to the Park's Wildlife

This collage is an illustration of wildlife that can be seen at Yellowstone National Park including (from left to right across the page) osprey, coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bull elk, wolf, grizzly bear and cub, bull moose, Uinta ground squirrel, black bear, American white pelican, bison and calf, lesser scaup, yellow-bellied marmot, pika, trumpeter swans, green-winged teal, and pronghorn. The following describe each species.

Image 1. In the upper left corner of the collage is an osprey. The osprey (a bird) is flying towards you on the page with its wings spread. Its back is brown and its stomach is white. Prominent dark brown patches are on the end of the birds’ wrists. Its head is white and the tail has horizontal strips of brown and white.

Image 2. In the bottom left corner of the collage is a coyote. At about half the size of the wolf, it resembles a medium-sized dog. The coyote is barking towards the sky and facing the left of the page. Its brown-gray fur coat is shaggy across its body and tail, with thinner fur on its legs and face.

Image 3. To the right of the coyote is a mule deer. The mule deer’s body turns toward the left of the page and its head is turned to look at you. The deer has twig-like, 7-point antlers that split off into two branches, with large ears right below them. Its muzzle is light beige with a black tip. The overall color of the mule deer is brownish-gray, with a white rump patch and a small white tail with a black tip.

Image 4. To the right and overlapping in front of the mule deer is a bighorn sheep, also facing the left side of the page. The bighorn sheep is as tall as the back of the mule deer. It has brownish-gray fur with a slightly lighter nose and black tip. The horns of the bighorn sheep are very thick at the base and curl back around the sheep’s head, below the jaw, resembling a helmet.

Image 5. To the right of the bighorn sheep is a bull (male) elk. The bull elk is double the size of the bighorn sheep with reddish-brown fur that darkens toward the face. The bull elk is facing left with its head slightly turned towards you sounding a call. The elk has branch-like 11-point antlers that are about twice the size of mule deer antlers. The bull elk is slightly taller than the mule deer. The elk’s face and neck fur is very shaggy compared to its body.

Image 6. Below the head of the bull elk is a wolf. The wolf is one-third the size of the bull elk and double the size of the coyote. The wolf is facing you on the page. The wolf’s ears are perked up with its yellow eyes looking forward. It has gray-tan fur throughout its coat, with a lighter stomach and nose.

Image 7. To the right of the wolf are a grizzly bear and cub. The grizzly bear is three times the size of the cub and slightly taller than the bighorn sheep when on all fours. The grizzly bear is turned to the left of the page with its head turned to face you. The cub is facing the left of the page and looking down at the ground. The bears both have shaggy fur in a light brown color with light tips. Both bears have a shoulder hump with their rumps lower than their heads. Their ears are short and rounded. Their faces are rounded with a "dished-in" or concave profile.

Image 8. To the right of the grizzly bear and cub is a bull moose. The bull moose is facing the left of the page and is slightly taller than the bull elk with thicker, palm-like antlers with 12 points. The bull moose has a long, blunt nose with a patch of long fur under its chin. Its shoulders are as high as the top of his head, though its back continues in a steady angle downwards to its rump. Its ears are about equal in size to the mule deer and stand upright between the two separate branches of antlers.

Image 9. Below the bull moose is a Uinta ground squirrel standing on its back legs, holding some grasses up to its mouth. The Uinta ground squirrel is facing the left side of the page and has fuzzy brown-gray fur with very short legs and a round frame and head. Its ears are very small and rounded; it has black eyes, and a small, pointed nose. The tail has thin fur and is shorter than most squirrels.

Image 10. To the right of the Uinta ground squirrel is a black bear. The black bear is about half the size of the grizzly and is facing forward and looking at you. The bear has a brownish-black furry coat that is full, but sleek. The black bear does not have a shoulder hump and its rump is higher than its front shoulders. The face profile is straight and colored slightly lighter brown-black with a black tipped nose.

Image 11. Above the back of the bull moose is an American white pelican, a large, white waterbird. It is facing the left side of the page with its wings spread in flight. It has a long orange bill with an extendable pouch for capturing its food. Its head, long neck, and body create an S-shaped curve. Its legs are short and its webbed-feet hang below it in flight. The pelican’s long, broad wings extend out with black trailing tips halfway down, while its tail is very short and broad.

Image 12. To the right of the bull moose and black bear are an adult bison and bison calf, facing the left of the page. The calf is about two-thirds the size of the adult and about equal in height to the grizzly cub. The bison’s dark-brown to rust-brown fur grows longer in the head and shorter in the rump. The top of its back is higher than its head and flows straights across with its rump slightly lower. Its nose is short and has fur flowing down under its head and chin. The bison has brown horns that curve up.

The calf is about half the length of the adult, and has fur in lighter shades of rust-brown. The fur is short in the face and rump and longer in the neck and mid-section. Its face looks more elongated than the adult, due to the lack of fur hanging from its face and chin. The calf has very small horns that look like small dots with black rounded ears above its horns. Both the adult bison and calf have a skinny, short tail hanging from their rumps.

Image 13. Above the back of the bison and to the right of the American white pelican is a lesser scaup (a medium-sized diving duck) flying to the left side of the page. Its bill and webbed feet are a bluish-gray color with a black head, chest, and rear. Its tail feathers are a medium to dark gray from outside edges to the midsection of its tail. Its wings have two gradations of light to dark gray feathers; one from its back to its mid-wing and one from mid-wing to tips.

Image 14. Below the neck of the adult bison and to the left of the calf is a yellow-bellied marmot standing on its back feet turned to the left side of the page with its head looking up. The marmot is a type of groundhog, a ground dweller with a large, stocky body. It is dark brown in color with light gold fur around the neck and shoulders and down its underside. Its legs are very short and the front paws hang in front of its body. Its tail is short and fuzzy. The marmot also has long black nails on all of its feet about the same length as its toes.

Image 15. To the right of the yellow-bellied marmot is a pika crouched down on all fours, facing you. The pika is about half the size of the Uinta ground squirrel and is a small, egg-shaped, short-legged, and tailless mammal. The pika is a part of the rabbit or hare family, despite their similarities to mice. It also has very round ears and a light grayish-brown fuzzy body of fur.

Image 16. To the right of the lesser scaup are two trumpeter swans in flight toward the left side of the page. The left swan has its wings above its body, the swan on the right has its wings below in a down-stroke. Their bills are black, half of their faces are dark gray. Their bodies are primarily white feathers with tones of very light gray throughout. The swans’ black feet are tucked under their tail feathers during flight.

Image 17. Above the two trumpeter swans a green-winged teal is flying to the left side of the page. This duck is small in comparison to most and has a very bright-colored pattern on its head and wings. Its head has a green patch on top, rust-brown coloring underneath, and a grayish bill. Its body is primarily tones of gray with specks of white and black throughout. The tip of the teal’s wings have a green patch with a thin yellow stripe above.

Image 18. To the right of the bison is a pronghorn turned to the left, with its head looking straight at you. The pronghorn is similar in size to the bighorn sheep and has a light tan back with white underside and legs. Stripes of light tan and white circle its neck, while its face and horns are a medium brown. In the Illustration, the horns look like long upright ears curved inwards at the tips, but are truly horns derived of keratin.

Source:

ILLUSTRATION: NPS / ROBERT HYNES

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Staying Safe and Legal in Yellowstone

Wildlife

All wildlife, especially bison and bears, can be dangerous; keep your distance! Never approach, harass, or try to feed any animals, even small ones. It is illegal to get within 100 yards of bears and wolves or 25 yards of other wildlife or within any distance in which harassment occurs. Pets must be leashed and are prohibited on all trails, in thermal basins, and in the backcountry.

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Driving

Maximum speed limit is 45 mph, lower when posted. Please drive defensively! Traffic accidents cause more injuries to people than natural hazards. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and to let faster traffic pass. Be alert for pedestrians and bicyclists. Driving off roads is not permitted. Store valuables securely, lock your vehicle, and report thefts or accidents to a ranger.

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Park Preservation

To deface park features, collect archeological or natural objects, litter, or pick wildflowers is illegal. Geyser areas and hot springs are fragile and unstable; stay on trails to protect yourself and park features. To throw coins or other items into thermal pools damages them, and it is illegal.

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Climbing

Climbing in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is prohibited.

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Swimming and Bathing

Swimming or bathing is prohibited in hydrothermal pools or streams where water flows entirely from a hydrothermal spring or pool. 

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Fishing and boating

Fishing and boating require permits, available at ranger stations. Read the regulations! Many streams are catch-and-release or fly-fishing only; some are closed to fishing. Boating is allowed only on some lakes; they are dangerously cold.

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Camping and Hiking

Camp and build fires only in designated areas. Hike with others and check at visitor centers for current trail conditions. Trails can be closed because of bears, high water, or other dangerous conditions. All overnight trips require a backcountry permit, available at ranger stations. Vehicles are prohibited on trails; bicycles are permitted on a few designated trails.

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Bears

Bear country! Grizzly and black bears are wild and dangerous. People have been injured seriously and killed by both. Bears may seem tolerant of people but may attack without warning. Always view bears from a safe distance. 

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Feeding

It is critical to note that feeding wildlife is illegal—including birds and small mammals. Often, animals who get handouts become aggressive and have to be killed. To avoid personal injury, store food in your car, never in your tent. Dispose of garbage in bear-proof cans. Find more information in the park newspaper, on the official park website, and at any park visitor center.

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More Information

More Information by phone: 307-344-7381; TTY: 307-344-2386; for road up dates: 307-344-2117.  www.nps.gov/yell. EMERGENCIES: Dial 911.


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Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs Tour

Map description: This small map shows the primary roads and lakes of the park. The road that runs north-south on the west side of the park, past Old Faithful, up to Mammoth Hot Springs, is highlighted in dark red. A small black arrow in a white circle points north from the entrance road at the park’s south boundary. 

Source: NPS

Text: Driving to the Old Faithful area from the South Entrance, you cross the Continental Divide three times. This route also passes five geyser basins—West Thumb, Upper (Old Faithful), Midway, Lower, and Norris—on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs. Between the Upper and Norris basins, you can sample the world’s largest concentration of geysers. Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, museums at Norris, and the Albright Visitor Center tell aspects of the park’s stories.


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Old Faithful 

On the left of the page is a photograph of Old Faithful geyser blasting high into the air. The sun behind it creates a dark shadow. Behind the geyser, black rolling hills are silhouetted against the light blue and yellow sky.

Source: © FRANK BALTHIS

Text: Old Faithful Geyser is the world’s best known geyser. Its eruption intervals have varied from 40 to 126 minutes. Find out the eruption times of Old Faithful and other large geysers at the visitor center.

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Old Faithful to Madison 

In Black Sand Basin, bright colors of Sunset Lake and Emerald Pool attract photographers and artists. At Biscuit Basin, look for mineral deposits that look like biscuits. They are slowly regrowing after being destroyed by changes triggered by an earthquake. At Midway Geyser Basin, walk the boardwalk past the enormous Excelsior Geyser Crater and the park’s largest hot spring, Grand Prismatic. Firehole Lake Drive (one-way, northbound) loops off the main road to Great Fountain Geyser, Firehole Lake, and a variety of hot pools. Lower Geyser Basin features Fountain Paint Pot, where you can take a short walk past all four types of the park’s hydrothermal features. On Firehole Canyon Drive (one-way, southbound), you pass between lava flows and by Firehole Falls.

Roadside forests are mainly lodgepole pine. Along the West Entrance Road (west from Madison), you can see thousands of young trees that naturally regenerated after the fires of 1988. West Yellowstone, Montana, lies 14 miles west of Madison. From Madison to Norris you drive along the Yellowstone Caldera’s northwest rim and past Gibbon Falls.

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Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs 

Norris Geyser Basin is among the park’s hottest, most acidic hydrothermal areas. Visit Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser, to see its smaller eruptions. (Full eruptions are rare.) Descend into Porcelain Basin, the park’s hottest exposed area. Exhibits at the historic Norris Geyser Basin Museum explain how geysers work. The Museum of the National Park Ranger (0.8 mile north of Norris) explores this historic profession.

At Norris you can turn east toward the Canyon area (see next tour). Continuing north from Norris you pass Obsidian Cliff, a national historic landmark. Obsidian, a volcanic glass used for projectile points and cutting tools, was quarried here and traded across North America by Native Americans. (Collecting obsidian or other rocks is prohibited.) Upper Terrace Drive, two miles before the main part of Mammoth Hot Springs, takes you to overlooks of spectacular terraces composed of travertine (calcium carbonate). Gnarled limber pines on some dormant formations are over 500 years old. Continue to explore the terraces from the boardwalks.

Exhibits at the Albright Visitor Center portray the park’s wildlife and history, including the period when the US Army protected the park from 1886 to 1916. Park headquarters is in the buildings of historic Fort Yellowstone. The Roosevelt Arch and Gardiner, Montana, are at the North Entrance, five miles north.

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Geyser Works

This cross-section illustration shows how a geyser typically works. The top layer of the cross section shows the ground surface with (from left to right) a forested area, a hot spring pool, a geyser blasting, a mudpot filled with thick mud, and a fumarole blowing a thin stream of steam. Through the middle layer are channels that connect the features on the surface to the underground, which consists of a water-saturated porous rock. The channels continue down to the bottom layer, which is made up of more porous rock layers close to the heat source.

Text: Surface water seeps underground, is heated by a deep source of magma, and rises as superheated water. Geysers occur when underground constrictions increase the pressure of the water until it finally erupts. Hot springs have no constrictions, so water rises, cools, and sinks. The small amount of water in fumaroles flashes into steam before it reaches the surface. Mudpots are acidic features with limited water; the acid and microorganisms decompose the surrounding rock into clay and mud.

Source: NPS / ROBERT HYNES

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To Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Village Tour

Map description:

This small map inset shows the primary roads and lakes of the park. The road that runs west-east at the north end of the park is highlighted in dark red. A small black arrow in a white circle points east from the entrance road at the park’s north boundary. There is also a north-south road highlighted in deep red that runs from a junction in the midsection of the other highlighted road, past the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River down to Yellowstone Lake. 

Source: NPS

Text: The road east from Mammoth Hot Springs leads you four miles to Undine Falls, then 0.2 mile to Lava Creek (picnic area). Three miles farther east look for waterfowl and muskrats at Blacktail Pond. Blacktail Plateau Drive, a one-way unpaved road eastbound, leaves the main road to traverse the grass and sagebrush-covered hills and forests of Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, and lodgepole pine. Watch for pronghorns, mule deer, and elk. In autumn the groves of quaking aspen trees turn gold. Another side road leads to a petrified redwood tree. Such trees, some upright, are found over hundreds of square miles in northern Yellowstone.

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Tower-Roosevelt to Northeast Entrance 

Lamar Valley, accessible all year, is winter range for elk and bison. This is a good area to look for predators (wolves, bears, foxes, and coyotes) and their prey. The Northeast Entrance, 29 miles from Tower-Roosevelt, leads to Silver Gate (one mile) and Cooke City (four miles), Montana, and the Beartooth Highway (US 212), which climbs to over 10,900 feet of elevation at Beartooth Pass.

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Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Village 

Tower Fall, tumbling 132 feet, was named for the adjacent volcanic pinnacles. Tower Creek flows into the Yellowstone River. South of Tower Fall, you drive through the prime grizzly bear country of the Antelope Creek valley. To provide bears refuge this area is closed to human travel. Important: Do not try to feed or approach bears.

The main road next crosses Dunraven Pass (8,859 feet elevation) amidst broad-topped whitebark pines and spire-shaped subalpine fir. Meadows display wildflowers in the brief summer. From Washburn Hot Springs Overlook south of the pass you can see the Yellowstone Caldera. Its north boundary is near Mount Washburn; the south boundary is the Red Mountains south of Yellowstone Lake. On clear days you can see the Teton Range beyond the Red Mountains.

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Canyon Village

This photograph is of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River falling violently into a gray-tan canyon as mist dissipates in the air. Dark evergreen trees are visible against the light rock of the canyon. 

Source: © FRANK BALTHIS

Text: Begin your visit at Canyon Visitor Education Center, for its exhibits on Yellowstone’s supervolcano, then explore the side roads that begin south of the Canyon junction and take you to spectacular views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and its waterfalls. Hot water acting on volcanic rock created the canyon’s colors and weakened the rock, which the Yellowstone River is eroding. North Rim Drive, 1.2 miles south of the junction, leads to overlooks of Lower Falls (308 feet) and walkways along the canyon’s rim. Lookout Point has a vista of Lower Falls. Grand View gives spectacular views of the canyon. Back on the main road, drive south 1.6 miles to Brink of Upper Falls (109 feet), where you can stand beside the Yellowstone River thundering over a lava cliff. On the main road again, go 0.6 mile south to South Rim Drive and cross the Chittenden Bridge to Uncle Tom’s Point (parking area). Trails here offer close views of Upper and Lower Falls. South Rim Drive leads to Artist Point for a classic view of the canyon and Lower Falls.

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Hayden Valley 

The road south to Fishing Bridge travels through this scenic valley famous for wildlife watching. Soil here permits little tree growth, and the shrub-and-grassland valley plants are used by grazing animals—from rodents to large ungulates like elk, moose, and bison—which in turn attract associated species, from carcass beetles and butterflies to bears, coyotes, and wolves. Look for waterfowl, including white pelicans, along the river and creeks.

South of the valley, stop at Mud Volcano to see its array of mudpots, fumaroles, and hot springs. Three miles north of Fishing Bridge, at LeHardys Rapids you have a chance to see spawning cutthroat trout jumping the falls in June and July.

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Large Animals

Important. View large animals only at a distance, from your car or from roadsides. Do not stop in roadways; use roadside parking areas for your safety. No fishing is allowed for a six-mile section in Hayden Valley, to provide quiet for animals and scenic views of untrammeled wilderness for you.

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Early Visitors

This black and white historical photograph from the 1880s shows a group of six visitors to Yellowstone National Park. In the image (from left to right) is a man bending over serving a picnic lunch in a wooded forest near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, two women stand to his right. In order, the other man, woman, and man are enjoying their picnic. All people in the group are wearing clothes typical of the late 1800s including women in blouses and long dresses–one with a wide-brimmed hat. The men wear trousers, button-up shirts, ties, and suspenders. In the foreground is a stick perched on two other sticks holding a black kettle pot over a fire. 

Text: Yellowstone has been a travelers’ mecca since the late 1800s. The world’s first national park proved a popular success. These visitors hiked into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where Uncle Tom Richardson served a picnic lunch.

Source: NPS

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The Lake Area Tour

Map description: This small map inset shows the primary roads and lakes of the park. The road that runs west-east in the southeastern part of the park is highlighted in dark red. A small black arrow in a white circle points west near the entrance road at the park’s east boundary. This road hugs the northern side of Yellowstone Lake until it joins the north-south road. 

Source: NPS

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East Entrance to Fishing Bridge 

Entering the park through the East Entrance (53 miles west of Cody, Wyoming), you soon cross Sylvan Pass (8,530 feet). Watch for pikas and yellow-bellied marmots (description to follow) in the rocky debris of talus slopes. You are descending the west slope of the Absaroka Range, eroded volcanic mountains named for the Crow tribe. 

Illustration description: An illustration shows two native fish. The first is the cutthroat trout. Below it is the mountain whitefish. Both are facing the left of the page. They each have fins of various sizes, two fins on their backs, fins behind their gills on each side, two fins on the bottom and a tail fin.

The cutthroat trout has light beige scales with hints of pink throughout its body and speckles of black that get closer together towards the top. The very top of the fish and part of the back fin is dark green fading to light tan and bright orange-tan. The end of the back fin is cut into a shallow “V” with speckles of black throughout. Its left-most top fin is larger than the back one and squared on the edges. Its orange-tan face is also wider than the mountain whitefish.

The mountain whitefish is dully colored. From top to bottom, the fish is light beige to dark gray with very visible scales. The back fin is cut into a deep “V,” with its top left-most (dorsal) fin larger than the back fin. Its face is narrower than the cutthroat trout and its fins are proportionally larger.

Text: Eleven native fish species include two subspecies of cutthroat trout (top), named for the red on the lower jaws, and mountain whitefish (bottom).

Source: NPS

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Lake Butte Overlook

Near Yellowstone Lake a side road leads to Lake Butte Overlook to view this huge body of water. Yellowstone Lake sits in only the southeast quarter of the Yellowstone Caldera (see top text and map on reverse side). At the overlook you are just outside its east boundary.

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Sour Creek Dome

North of the lake Sour Creek Dome rises and subsides, which suggests the volcano is not dormant and might someday erupt again.

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Steamboat Point

Stop at Steamboat Point to view Steamboat Springs, a hot spring remnant on a line of faults that also passes through Mary Bay and Indian Pond. Bay and pond both occupy hydrothermal explosion craters. Bottom sediments in Mary Bay are still very warm. Underwater exploration of the lake has found hydrothermal vents, tall spires of silica and diatoms, and steep-walled depressions that may be hydrothermal explosion craters.

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Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center

Approaching Fishing Bridge, watch for herons, eagles, ospreys, ducks, and other birds along the Pelican Creek flats.

Exhibits at Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center feature birds and a relief map of the lake bottom. Fishing Bridge spans the Yellowstone River, the lake’s outlet. Closed to fishing in 1973, the bridge offers one of the best wild trout spawning shows anywhere for most of the summer. White pelicans feed on native cutthroat trout. An RV park (hard-sided vehicles only) is at Fishing Bridge.

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Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is North America’s largest high-altitude lake. It has 141 miles of shoreline and is 20 miles long by 14 miles wide. Its deepest spot is about 410 feet. Its average depth is 140 feet. Native trout generally live in the upper 60 feet—their foods rarely occur below that depth. Average August surface temperature is 60°F. Bottom temperature never rises above 42°F. Water that cold can cause potentially fatal hypothermia or hyperventilation within mere minutes.

Photo: The dark blue Yellowstone Lake, with patches of light blue reflecting the sky above. The rolling mountains are silhouetted against the light blue sky in the distance. In the foreground are various types of vegetation, including small yellow flowers and medium-sized pink flowers. 

Source: © ROBERT JOHNSSON

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Boating on Yellowstone Lake

Boating is permitted on Yellowstone Lake and some smaller lakes. You must have a boating permit for all watercraft, including float tubes. Rangers at Bridge Bay or Grant Village provide advice on boating—including canoeing and kayaking. A marina is at Bridge Bay, and a boat ramp is at Grant Village. South of Bridge Bay, you may walk or bicycle a side road to Natural Bridge. Gull Point Drive loops off the Grand Loop Road for close views of the lake’s edge.

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West Thumb and Grant Village

Visit West Thumb Geyser Basin, where geysers line the shore. Thermal features also occur under the bay, their heat can melt ice in mid-winter. The bay results from a small volcanic eruption about 174,000 years ago. Should the water level fall just a few feet, an immense steam, (or hydrothermal), explosion could occur here. That is what created the craters now filled by Mary Bay and Indian Pond, (described above). Exhibits at Grant Village Visitor Center, two miles south of West Thumb, highlight the role of fire in Yellowstone. Fishing, boating, and backcountry use permits are available at the visitor center; you can get details there, or visit the park website, www.NPS.gov/yell.

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Services and Facilities

Check the park website www.nps.gov/yell or newspaper for seasonal dates of services and facilities.

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Accessibility Guide

Entrance stations and visitor centers offer a free guide, Accessibility in Yellowstone, describing wheelchair-negotiable facilities.

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Emergencies

For emergencies call 911 or go to one of the medical clinics in Yellowstone National Park, see map.

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Exploring Yellowstone

The backside of the brochure consists primarily of a large map of the entire park. A map legend indicates amenities and services within the park. They are, ranger stations, campgrounds, lodging, food service, picnic areas, stores, gas stations (some of which have auto repair), recycling, self-guiding trails and boardwalks, horseback riding and boat launches. Medical clinics are located at Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful and Lake Village.

Five smaller inset maps detail the amenities close-up in these areas. They are: 1. Mammoth Hot Springs, 2. Old Faithful, 4. Canyon Village, 4. West Thumb and Grant Village and 5. Fishing Bridge, Lake Village and Bridge Bay. All of these and other areas within the park have a visitor center, educational center, museum and/or an information station. Information stations are also at the south and west entrances of the park and in the Mammoth Hot Springs area at the Albright Visitor Center, which is not far from the north entrance to the park.


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Map of Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park comprises 3,500 square miles. The majority of the park’s territory is part of the northwestern corner of Wyoming, with portions of the park boundary crossing through Idaho and Montana. Four national forests surround the park and Grand Teton National Park is south. Each of the eight developed areas in Yellowstone is located near a major point of interest, including Old Faithful Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Lake, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

The park can be accessed from all sides and its five entrances feed into the park’s primary access route. The Grand Loop Road looks like the numeral eight and connects each of the eight developed areas of the park.  Tracing the outline of the numeral eight, the developed area in the upper left section is Mammoth Hot Springs. Norris Geyser Basin is in the center of the left side. In the lower left section of the eight are Madison and Old Faithful. Along the lower right part of the eight are West Thumb, Grant Village, Bridge Bay, Lake Village and Fishing Bridge. Canyon Village is at the center of the right side of the eight. Tower-Roosevelt is in the upper right section. The five entrance roads link to the Grand Loop Road like spokes on a wheel, running from each of the park’s five entrances. Campgrounds, restrooms and other services can be accessed from Grand Loop Road; however, not all services are available year-round. Road construction and seasonal road conditions require closure of certain roads.

The map also includes an outline approximating the crater left by the last major eruption of the Yellowstone Volcano, called the Yellowstone Caldera. This crater is over 42 miles at its widest point. It is an irregular circular shape and is southwest of center in relation to the park as a whole. It encompasses all of the Central Plateau, most of the hydro-thermal areas in the park, and a substantial portion of Yellowstone Lake. It also encompasses the entire lower half of the numeral eight shape that makes up the Grand Loop Road

Yellowstone Lake occupies 132 square miles of the southeastern part of the park. Grant Village, West Thumb, Bridge Bay, Lake Village and Fishing Bridge are located along the lake. The Yellowstone River flows from headwaters outside the southeast boundary, through Yellowstone Lake, and eventually out at the north entrance. The river continues on until it reaches the Missouri River in North Dakota. The headwaters of the Snake and Madison rivers are also within the park.

The Absaroka Mountain Range is along the eastern border of the park. The Gallatin Range is in the northwestern portion of the park. The Madison, Pitchstone and Two Ocean plateaus are within the southwest and south sections of the park.

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Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Road construction is underway on park roadways. Check the park newspaper, visit www.nps.gov/yell, or phone 307-344-2117 for delays or closures.

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Speed Limit

45 mph unless otherwise posted. Please drive slowly and cautiously to protect yourself and wildlife.

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Winter Road Closures

From early November to mid-April most park roads are closed. The exception is the road between Gardiner and Cooke City. It is open all year.

From mid-December to mid-March, oversnow vehicles may be used only on the unplowed, groomed park roads. Call park headquarters for regulations or the park website, www.nsp.gov/yell.

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Boating

Permits are required for all watercraft; ask at ranger stations. Areas closed to watercraft include all rivers except Lewis River between Lewis and Shoshone lakes. 

The map on the brochure indicates in different shades of blue where boating is allowed, 5 mph zones and where hand-propelled craft are only allowed.

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Fishing

A Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is required. State permits are not valid in the park and state regulations do not apply. 

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Backcountry Use

Get trail maps and permits, required for backcountry camping, at most ranger stations, Do not use this map for backcountry hiking. There are almost 1,000 miles of trails. 

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Firearms

You are responsible for knowing and following federal and state (WY, MT, ID) laws that govern firearms and weapons within the park. Find information at www.NPS.GOV, forward slash, Y E L L.

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Accessibility

We strive to make facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. Service animals are allowed but require a permit in the backcountry. Find information at visitor centers and on our website. 

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