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The Yellowstone Volcano


Yellowstone Nation Park sit upon a massive and dormant volcano. According to the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Yellowstone is currently dormant with low levels of unrest. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any future major volcanic activity. The last major eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera was approximately 631,000 years ago. It has a history of an eruption cycle between 600,000 and 800,000 years. Park scientists don’t believe the volcano will have another massive eruption anytime soon. An eruption is possible in thousands or even millions of years. But when talking hundreds of years, it is extremely unlikely. So, please continue making your plans to join Yellowstone Excursions on a tour of this amazing area.

A caldera is a large area where a volcano has erupted and collapsed. Leaving behind a depression in the landscape. The land currently sitting over the volcano has seen three major eruptions. The first was 2.1 million years ago, known as the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff eruption.  This eruption left a caldera larger than the state of Rhode Island. Next came the Mesa Falls eruption, about 1.3 million years ago. The current Yellowstone Caldera is 30 miles wide and 45 miles long. This was created by its last major eruption, known as the Lava Creek Eruption. If driving around what is known as the Lower Loop of Yellowstone, you will be spending most of your time on this caldera.

The strength of the last three eruptions is nothing short of catastrophic. The Huckleberry Ridge Tuff eruption is among the largest eruptions known to man. It is estimated that this eruption emitted more that 6,000 times the material than the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. The ash from this eruption covered almost 6000 square miles. The last major eruption of Yellowstone left ash and debris as far away as Louisiana. Luckily, we will not see this type of activity again for many years, if ever.

It is because of this dormant volcano that Yellowstone is such a beautiful and amazing area. The hot magma sits only three miles below the surface of Yellowstone National Park. This heat is needed to create all the hot springs, geysers, and steam vents of Yellowstone. Over half of the world’s geysers are found within the park’s boarders. There are over 10,000 thermal features in Yellowstone and your tour guide will ensure you see some of the most beautiful and active of these.  While enjoying these amazing sites, your guide will help you understand the conditions needed to create them. It is the science behind the scenery that most Yellowstone Excursion guests really appreciate.

Yellowstone National Park has such amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery, it is sometimes easy to forget about its explosive beginnings. Guest and guides alike can be consumed with the current state of this landscape, and we need to see a large geyser spout water hundreds of feet in the air, or a crystal-clear hot spring bubbling from its extreme temperature to be reminded of the incredible power that is laying just below our feet.

Joe V.     owner/guide

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