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Yellowstone National Park

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Millions of visitors arrive yearly at YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, America’s oldest national park, to glory in its magnificent mountain scenery and abundant wildlife, and to witness hydrothermal phenomena on a grand scale. Measuring roughly sixty by fifty miles, and overlapping slightly from Wyoming’s northwestern corner into Idaho and Montana, the park centres on a 7500ft-high plateau, the caldera of a vast volcanic eruption that occurred a mere 600,000 years ago. Into it are crammed more than half the world’s geysers, plus thousands of fumaroles jetting plumes of steam, mud pots gurgling with acid-dissolved muds and clays, and of course, hot springs. All this activity is on such a scale that the entire region is often characterized as a supervolcano, a full-force eruption of which might be capable of destroying the human species.

A visit to Yellowstone offers an extraordinary experience, combining the colours of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, massive and deep-azure Yellowstone Lake, wildflower-filled meadows and rainbow-hued geyser pools; the sounds of subterranean rumblings, belching mud pools and steam hissing from the mountainsides; the constant smells of drifting sulphurous fumes; and, in the closest US equivalent to a safari park, the sights of shambling bears, heavy-bearded bison, herds of elk and more than a dozen elusive wolf packs on the prowl. The key to appreciating the park is to take your time, plan carefully and – particularly if you visit in summer – exercise patience with the inevitable crowds and traffic. While you can explore a representative proportion in a day-trip, allow for a stay of at least three days to see the park fully.