• Steam rises off of the colorful Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Frequently Asked Questions at Canyon Village

Q. Where can I see the canyon/falls?

A. The Upper Falls can be seen from a viewpoint next to the parking lot for Uncle Tom's Trail or from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail. The Lower Falls can be seen from Lookout, Artist, and Red Rock Points, and from a few places along the South Rim Trail.

Q. What causes the different colors in the canyon?

A. The colors are caused by the oxidation of iron compounds in the rhyolite rock, which has been hydrothermally altered. In essence, the canyon is rusting.

Q. Is there a place where I can see both falls at once?

A. Because the canyon bends between the Upper and Lower falls, there is no location where they can be seen at the same time, except from the air.

Q. How big is the canyon?

A. The canyon proper is roughly 20 miles long. It varies from 800 to 1,200 feet deep and is 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide.

Q. How can I get to the bottom of the canyon?

A. The only trail where one can hike to the bottom of the canyon in this area is the Seven Mile Hole Trail, a round trip of 11 strenuous miles. None of the shorter trails in the canyon area goes all the way to the bottom.

Q. How much water goes over the falls?

A. The volume of water going over the falls can vary from 5,000 gal/sec in the late fall to 63,500 gal/sec at peak runoff.

Q. What causes the green stripe in the Lower Falls?

A. The green stripe is actually the natural color of the water. There is a notch in the lip of the falls where the stripe is, making the water deeper at that point and keeping the water from becoming turbulent as it goes over the edge. The color of the water is a function of the depth, the angle at which you are looking at it, and the amount of light at that point.

Q. Who was Uncle Tom?

A. Uncle Tom Richardson was one of the first concessioners in the canyon area. He led people on guided trips into the canyon along a trail which is the present Uncle Tom's trail, using rope ladders to get to the bottom. He lost his permit in 1903 when the Chittenden Bridge was completed.

Q. Where was the old hotel?

A. The old Canyon Hotel was located about a mile south of Canyon Junction at the present site of the horse corrals.

Q. What is the height of the falls?

A. The Upper Falls is 109 ft.; the Lower Falls is 308 ft.

Q. What are the large birds flying in the canyon that look like eagles?

A. They are ospreys, or "fish hawks." They nest in the canyon from late April until late August or early September. Their nests can usually be seen from Grandview, Lookout, and Artist points.

Did You Know?