Some of Yellowstone’s most fascinating geology is found amidst the rustic and relaxed setting of Tower Roosevelt. This area in the northeast portion of the park is best known for Tower Fall where Tower Creek plunges 132 feet on its way to the Yellowstone River. Paintings of Tower Fall helped sway congress to establish the national park and it’s named for the interesting volcanic rock spires and pinnacles at the top of the waterfall.
Nearby, motorists pass an overhanging cliff where vertical columns of basalt rock rise above the roadway. Columnar basalt can also be seen across the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The rock columns are over 1 to 2 million years old and formed when basalt lava erupted, then slowly cooled and contracted, cracking into hexagonal pillars.
Calcite Springs Overlook affords great views of the Narrows, the narrowest section of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone where the river has carved through 50 million years of volcanic rock and glacial deposits. It’s a great spot to smell the sulfur of the springs below and look for osprey. Bighorn sheep and black bears frequent the Tower area, too. Be sure to use pullouts and park completely off the roadway if you stop to watch wildlife. Always watch your footing around the canyon and falls to avoid injury.
Built in 1920, Roosevelt Lodge rents rustic cabins and hosts trail and stagecoach rides and an Old West Cookout. It’s named for President Teddy Roosevelt who camped near this area in 1903 and was an avid conservationist and park supporter. Nearby Specimen Ridge and the Petrified Tree exhibit offer a chance to learn about the ancient forests of Yellowstone and the volcanic forces that turned them to stone. You’re sure to notice the boulders strewn about, carried by glaciers from elsewhere and then left in place as they retreated. With the forests, open meadows, river canyons, boulders and wildlife, the Tower-Roosevelt area is spectacular in its serene, rugged beauty.