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From fire and water

Yellowstone is a creation of fire and water. It is thousands of square kilometers of forests and meadow, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Mountains and canyons are cradle in the vast caldera of an ancient volcano, still active and considered the largest super volcano on the North America continent.

In the underground, Yellowstone is fire, its Hades layer, heated by perpetual ashes and lava, endless spewing steam and gases.

In some areas of Yellowstone, you can still see how earth probably was millions of years ago. Porticos of lava, pushing through the earth crust, fumaroles coloured tinted by mineral deposits and boiling mud pots.

In these pots, boiling mud consistency changes from season to season, from soupy to sticky.

These are signs of a hyperactive display of thermal and volcanic activity.

But Yellowstone is also water. Here, you will find the highest and largest altitude lake in North America, the Yellowstone Lake.

The Yellowstone River, almost 1120 km long, flows gently in the beginning, gaining speed and tremendous power and then juggernaut through the scarps of Yellowstone Canyon, chipping and spalling its walls.

The canyon, wining and twisting for 56 km, is the earth turned inside out, exposing rocks soaped with minerals by ancient volcanic activity. The cliffs glow red, yellow and magenta.

As the frigid waters, caused by the snow melt upstream, turn in to rapids, and as the roaring of the tumbling water increases the first cataracts appear, followed by two great cascading falls.

Almost completely bounded by mountains, Yellowstone is eighty percent forest, Lodgepole Pine mostly. But some of its forests are no longer made of leaving wood. In some places the water is so acid and full of minerals that trees just die. There are thousands of dead trees in Yellowstone, creating pockets of desolated landscapes, filled with steam and tree stumps.

Every where you can find geysers bursting supper heated water, columns of water vapor and hot springs. Near the basins, a natural fragrance of rotten eggs impregnates the air as the earth steams gasses through numerous vents.

Norris Geyser Basin, is the oldest and most dynamic in the park. It is estimated that is boiling and gurgling for at least one under thousand years, and considered as the hottest.

The supper heated water, exceeding 120⁰C, bursts through earth crust as geysers, hot springs and steam vents. Algae growing in these thermal waters are thermal coded, creating pools shimmering in blue, orange and green.

Midway into the Geyser Basins, Grand Prismatic Spring, over 100 m across, is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone. The algae of the Grand Prismatic Spring provide visitors with a espectacular show of colours and textures.

Nearby, another large feature can be found, Excelsior Geyser. Its crater, copious outflows thousands of litters of water per minute, with temperatures above 90⁰C. All this steaming water flows into the Firehole River, warming its water by several degrees.

Yellowstone if also called the Serengeti of the Americas. This land is one of the leading wildlife sanctuaries, a protective home for hundreds of kinds of mammals. Among all these animals’ two species are renowned throughout the park, the Black Bear and the huge Grizzly Bear. Unfortunately I was only able to photograph the Black bear.

However, my favorite specie is the Gray Wolf, which I was also not able to photograph. The Gray Wolf was eradicated by hunters and re-introduced in the mid 90’s. The herbivores species of Yellowstone, such as Elk, Mule Deer, Bison, among many others, were prospering due to the absence of predators, eating and destroying a great deal of vegetation in the park and causing the erosion of the soil. With the return of wolfs, the ecosystem, slowly regain balance. The meadows made a comeback and the erosion of the soil stopped.

Being able to get close to these wild animals was a one time life experience that I will never forget. Walking along a valley with a heard of Big Horn Ships, photograph bears less than 50 meters away, Elk and Bison less than 20 meters was a unique experience.

In Yellowstone there is a place that everyone visits and that is the Old Faithful. Old Faithful is a cone geyser that is a highly predictable. The mathematical average between eruptions of Old Faithful is currently 74 minutes. Intervals can range from 60-110 minutes.

Old Faithful can vary in height from 30 to 54m (100-180 feet) with an average near 40 to 43 m (130-140 feet). This has been the historical range of its recorded height. Eruptions normally last between 1.5 to 5 minutes.

Yellowstone is a national park carved by fire and water, a place that I highly recommend. However, visit Yellowstone in low season (I did it in the third week of may) to avoid crowds of visitors.

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