The park’s largest hot spring is Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s bigger than a football field!

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5 Big Questions About Yellowstone

America’s first national park is celebrating its 150th anniversary. 

As You Read: Identify four different sights that park visitors might see. 

1. How did Yellowstone become a national park?

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The Yellowstone area has been home to Native people for thousands of years. White explorers arrived in the early 1800s. They were amazed by the diverse wildlife and hydrothermal features. 

In 1871, pictures of Yellowstone’s natural wonders helped persuade the U.S. government to protect the area. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill in 1872 to make Yellowstone America’s first national park.

The Yellowstone area has been home to Native people for thousands of years. White explorers arrived in the early 1800s. They were amazed by the diverse wildlife and hydrothermal features. 

In 1871, pictures of Yellowstone’s natural wonders helped persuade the U.S. government to protect the area. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill in 1872. That made Yellowstone America’s first national park.

2. What is a national park?

A national park is an area where the land, waterways, and wildlife are protected by the government. The parks are open for the public to visit. Places like the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Everglades in Florida also became national parks.

“Today, we have 63 national parks,” says Alicia Murphy, who works at Yellowstone.

A national park is an area where the land, waterways, and wildlife are protected by the government. The parks are open for the public. That means anyone can visit. The Grand Canyon in Arizona also became a national park. The Everglades in Florida became one too.

“Today, we have 63 national parks,” says Alicia Murphy. She works at Yellowstone.

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3. What makes Yellowstone such a special place?

Yellowstone sits atop an active volcano! Much of the park is in a caldera. Molten rock, called magma, boils beneath the park’s surface. That underground heat creates the hydrothermal wonders of Yellowstone. 

The park’s many hot springs are pools of boiling water. Some are filled with tiny organisms that turn the water bright colors. 

There are also more than 500 geysers (GYE-zuhrz) in Yellowstone. Magma heats up water underground until it blasts into the air.

Yellowstone sits atop an active volcano! Much of the park is in a caldera. Melted rock, called magma, boils beneath the park’s surface. That underground heat creates the hydrothermal wonders of Yellowstone. 

The park has many hot springs. They are pools of boiling water. Some are filled with tiny living things. Those living things turn the water bright colors.

There are also more than 500 geysers (GYE-zuhrz) in Yellowstone. Magma heats up water underground until it blasts into the air.

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The geyser Old Faithful erupts about every 90 minutes.

4. What kinds of wildlife live in the park?

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Bison and elk are easiest to spot. But lucky visitors may also see grizzly bears, gray wolves, and moose.

Over the years, park officials have helped several endangered species. One of them is the bison. It’s the largest land animal in North America. By the late 1890s, the animals had been hunted to near extinction. Yellowstone officials helped rebuild the bison population. Today, more than 5,000 roam the park.

Bison and elk are easiest to spot. But lucky visitors may also see grizzly bears, gray wolves, and moose.

Over the years, park officials have helped several endangered species. One of them is the bison. It’s the largest land animal in North America. By the late 1890s, the animals had been hunted to near extinction. Yellowstone officials helped rebuild the bison population. Today, more than 5,000 bison roam the park.

5. How popular is Yellowstone? 

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Last year, nearly 5 million people visited the park—the most ever in one year. But big crowds can sometimes stress out the animals.

Park officials ask visitors to respect the park by not littering and by giving animals space. They say this will help protect the park for years to come!

Last year, nearly 5 million people visited the park. That's the most visitors the park ever got in one year. But big crowds can sometimes stress out the animals.

Park officials ask visitors to respect the park. They can do this by not littering. Another way is by giving animals space. Officials say this will help protect the park for years to come!

  1. What is a hydrothermal feature? Describe an example found in Yellowstone.
  2. How can big crowds affect Yellowstone’s wildlife?
  3. How does the article’s question-and-answer format help readers?
  1. What is a hydrothermal feature? Describe an example found in Yellowstone.
  2. How can big crowds affect Yellowstone’s wildlife?
  3. How does the article’s question-and-answer format help readers?
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