Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The original Grand Canyon in a national park is in Wyoming's famous Yellowstone National Park

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In September of 1869, Charles Cook—a member of the Folsom-Cook-Peterson expedition of 1869 that first explored and charted what would become Yellowstone National Park—stumbled across this 1,200-foot-deep canyon graced by cascading water and framed by evergreen forests.

Cook later wrote in his journal about the discovery, "I sat there in amazement, while my companions came up, and after that, it seemed to me that it was five minutes before anyone spoke."

What Cook and his team labeled "The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" stretches 20 miles long and ranges from 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide.

The canyon floor is creased by the slow bends of the Yellowstone River, which drops down several levels in cascading waterfalls that plunge up to 308 feet while ospreys keen overhead, wheeling through the skies from their cliff side aeries.

Sure, Yellowstone is today famous for its more spectacular geothermal features— bubbling pools and mud pits, fumeroles puffing steam, and, yes, the Old Faithful geyser—all legacies of the park's formation in the wake of a titanic eruption of a volcano 600,000 years ago, a cataclysmic event that caused entire mountain ranges to collapse.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a less showy relic of the ancient volcano, its pale yellow walls streaked with colors and spiked with red rock pinnacles, all caused by hydrothermic alteration to the ancient rhyolitic lava flow that engulfed the park 10,000 years after the initial eruption.

On cold days especially, you can still seem steam rising from volcanic vents in the canyon floor and walls from the various overlooks along the South Rim and North Rim trails. Full Story


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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in June 2012.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.