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West entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a treasure that inspires awe in travelors from around the world. A World Heritage Site, it was established in 1872, originally to protect the unique geysers, hot springs, and other hydrothermal features.

Yellowstone also is a refuge for wildlife including grizzly and black bears, wolves, trumpeter swans, Yellowstone cutthroat trout and free-ranging herds of bison and elk.

The park's colorful, dynamic history includes fur trappers, explorers, surveyors, photographers and artists. Centuries-old sites and historic buildings that reflect the unique heritage of America's first national part are also protected.

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Dusk on Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake covers 132 square miles and sits within a large caldera (or crater) that was formed by a volcano and then carved and filled by glaciers some 14,000 years ago. The lake's 110-mile, tree-lined shore rims the deep blue waters where nearby, moose, waterfowl and other wildlife reside. Streams flowing into the lake provide it and the Yellowstone River with an abundance of fish.

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Gibbon Falls over the caldera wall

At the heart of Yellowstone's past, present and future, lies volcanism. About two million years ago, then 1.3 million years ago, and again 640,000 years ago, huge volcanic eruptions occurred here. The park's present central portion collapsed, forming a 30- by 40-mile caldera, or basin. Gibbon Falls spills 84 feet over the side of the ancient caldera wall.

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Fly fishing on the Madison River

The Madison River flows along the West Entrance road into Hebgen Lake outside the park. Although the river's origin is in the high plateau region of Yellowstone Park, which is notoriously cold, the water temperature on most sections of the river is remarkably warm. Considering this high mountain river runs right through the most thermally active region in the United States, its summer temperature, often more than 70 degrees, is not so unusual.

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Staying warm at the Old Faithful Inn

The visitor exerience at the Old Faithful Inn has not changed much in over 100 years. The "Old House" (the Inn's original central portion) is still rustically finished with pine logs, and antique furnishings grace the guest rooms, looby and dining room. There are still no phones in the original rooms, and msot guests use a "bath down the hall."

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Relections on Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is North America's largest mountain lake. Over geologic time it has drained into the Pacific Ocean and into the Arctic Ocean via Hudson Bay. It now drains into the Atlantic via the Gulf of mexico.

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On the road from West Yellowstone

Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in the contiguous United States. Sprawling across volcanic plateaus in the northwest corner of Wyoming, Yellowstone contains more than two million acres of steaming geysers, crystalline lakes, thundering waterfalls and panaramic vistas.

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At the edge of winter

Yellowstone has many "life zones," including Sagebrush-Grassland and Mix Forest communities. The open woodlands are found between 6,000 and 7,000 feet and include Douglas fir, quaking aspen, shrubs and berry bushes. Wildlife such as the coyote, bear, wolf, elk, mule deer and cavity-nesting birds may be found here.

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"Ghost Trees" near Geyser Country

Vegetation types range from near desert near the North Entrance, to subapline meadows and forests ot the east. Lodgepole pine covers 60 percent of the park and makes up 80 percent of the forested areas.

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"White Socks" grove

Roadside forests are mainly lodgepole pine. The most common tree in the park, it can reach up to 75 feet in height. Some American Indian people used it to make frames for their tepees or lodges.

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Early fall colors in Yellowstone

A greater number of plants grow here, in their natural habitat, than anywhere else in the 48 contiguous states. Common species include the Lodgepole pine, Englemann spruce and subalpine fir, the Wyoming paintbrush and the yellow monkey flower.

The Indian paintbrush gets its name from an American Indian legend about a brave who was trying to paint a prarie sunset and threw down his brushes in frustration. Flowers grew wherever the brushes landed.

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Built to last: the Old Faithful Inn

The Old Faithful Inn celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004. Millions of guests have been awed by by the presence of this historic landmark. The play of light through the seven storied lobby's windows mimics sunlight dappling the forest floor.

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Rustic beauty of the Old Faithful Inn

The first grand hotel built in the national park system, the Old Faithful Inn still evokes a sense of history and harmony with the surroundings. Architect Robert Reamer's signature use of local rhyolite stone, lodgepole pine and quirky log ornamentation led to a new genre of park architecture.

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Ghost stories around the fire

At the Old Faithful Inn, evening entertainment after the day's geyser rush of visitors varies between lounging in oak rocking chairs and appreciating the glow of the Inn's massive lobby fireplace, and relaxing on upper balcony sofas. There is a special sense -- a connection to the people of long ago who have treasured the world's first national park and Inn.