YELLOWSTONE, PART THREE: IT EVEN HAS ITS OWN GRAND CANYON

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Yellowstone continued to surprise and delight as our next stop once again displayed the amazing diversity of this national park.  I am among the many who never knew that there is another Grand Canyon, carved not by the Colorado but instead by the Yellowstone River as well as a number of unique forces that I’ll mention below.  This v-shaped canyon is 24 miles long, 4,000 feet wide and up to 1200 feet deep.  Certainly not the depth and breadth of the mighty Arizona Grand Canyon, this beauty, nestled in Wyoming is nonetheless breathtaking in its own right – and a bit of a problem for those with vertigo as its walls are almost vertical:

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This Grand Canyon’s birth began about 50 million years ago, when violent volcanoes erupted, burying the land under volcanic rock.  These eruptions went on for over 10 million years followed by glaciers.  As the earth warmed, meltwater helped to create the falls and the Yellowstone River which to this day is eroding the canyon as it wends it way down to meet the Missouri River in North Dakota.

And there is more geological power afoot.  Remember Yellowstone’s hotspot (not the wifi kind)? A large geyser basin at the lower portion of the area produced great heat and gases and the surrounding rock became very soft and brittle, increasing the erosion process. In addition, as the rocks were eroded they became oxidized by the atmosphere, creating “rusted” yellow and orange streaks (due to iron compounds). There are still geysers and hot springs in the area continuing this process.

The result?

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Fairly recently in terms of geological history (1.3-1.5 million years ago) a severe volcanic eruption released a torrent of lava that followed the course of the river bed.  Rapid cooling of this lava created a “picket fence” (columnar basalt) within the canyon’s rock face:

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Of course none of this would be here if it weren’t for the Yellowstone RIver – and it has  three stunning waterfalls that cascade into the valley.  Here is the long view of the Upper Falls:

 

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I have always had a fascination with water – loving its sounds, whether it be the gentle babbling of a brook or the mighty powerful roar of a waterfall.  Unfortunately taking a video amidst other enthusiastic travelers sometimes makes it difficult to catch the sounds of nature – so just enjoy the view:

The Yellowstone River is beautiful on its own:

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Every angle of this Grand Canyon is a photographer’s and painter’s dream:

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Not quite sure what made this swath of fallen trees:

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Could it be:?

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Next week we head back to the fantastical with another Yellowstone star attraction.

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