At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone visitors are awed by erosion and beauty. This video provides an overview of the Canyon area.
Duration: 2 minutes 27 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- Written & Presented by Park Ranger Beth Taylor
- Date created:
At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone visitors are awed by the beauty of erosion. The Yellowstone River has carved a canyon 20 miles long and it plunges over two waterfalls in the first mile. The North and South Rim drives and trails offer overlooks where you can see the stunningly bright yellow colors of the canyon walls and glimpse the green river below.
The canyon walls are a volcanic rhyolite rock that has been altered chemically by hydrothermal features. The normally gray rhyolite has been cooked, altering the colors with iron oxides adding pinks and reds. Not only did the heat and chemical action cause the brilliant coloration, but it also softened the rocks, weakening them, which allows the river to carve the canyon more easily.
In fact, the two big waterfalls here occur where unaltered rhyolite, which is hard and erosion-resistant, meets up with the softer altered rhyolite. The Upper Falls is 109 feet high and the Lower Falls (sometimes called Yellowstone Falls) plunge 308 feet. At the top of both falls there are platforms where one can stand at the brink and really feel (and hear) the power and force of the water. It is an amazing experience!
The trail to the brink of the Lower Falls is much longer and more strenuous than the brink of the Upper Falls but the canyon is much deeper and more brightly colored downstream of the Lower Falls. So it’s worth the journey if you have the stamina. From the South Rim, the adventurous can descend a stairway into the canyon to get a closer look at the Lower Falls. It’s called Uncle Tom’s Trail and with over 300 metal mesh stairs, it can be quite a challenge to come back up! But at least today’s visitors have a staircase rather than ropes and ladders like Uncle Tom Richardson’s original trek.
For easy viewing of the Lower Falls try Lookout Point on the North Rim or Artist Point on the South Rim. No matter how you view the canyon—from the scenic overlooks or trails—be sure to watch your footing! The altered rhyolite rock is quite soft and crumbly and has caused those who venture too close to the edge of the canyon to slide in. The canyon averages 1000 feet deep. It is dangerous and unlawful to leave the trails, go beyond rock barriers and walls, or climb in the canyon.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a popular spot among park visitors and its beauty helped convince Congress to set this area aside as the world’s first national park.
Very few people ever get to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the winter. This video will give you an idea of what those lucky few experience.
Duration: 2 minute 10 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- Written & Presented by Park Ranger George Heinz
- Date created:
Standing here at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is always an impressive thing, but standing here in the winter is something to behold. This is not only one of the most remote spots in the lower 48; it is one of the most beautiful.
The artist that shaped this American treasure continues to work on this unique place today. The 671 mile Yellowstone River, which flows through the canyon, is the longest undammed river in the United States.
Upstream from the canyon, the Yellowstone seems quiet and peaceful. The deep color of the water is in direct contrast to the white pillows of snow along the river bank. The peacefulness ends at the 109 foot Upper Falls.
But it is below the 308 foot Lower Falls that the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is most spectacular. In winter, when somewhere around 5,000 gallons of water a second is dropping over the falls, an ice and snow mound builds up from the canyon floor.
The contrast between the white snow and the colorful canyon walls makes the journey here worth the planning. The colors are a sign of this area’s volcanic past. The yellows, pinks and reds are caused by iron oxidation. It’s rust. The rock in this area continues to be altered by thermal activity.
When you get here, stay alert. Keep a safe distance from the edge and use the rails when they are available. The trails will be icy.
The skiing in the canyon area is excellent. A variety of machine and skier groomed trails were designed to help you explore the area. Check on current conditions at the Canyon Village warming hut and always ski within your abilities.
To plan your winter trip to Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, checkout the Plan-Your-Visit page on our website. An adventure into this winter wonderland awaits you and your family. This is a place you won't forget.