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Research in the Deep


A final frontier lies within the cold waters of Yellowstone Lake. The earliest known attempt to measure the lake and map its shoreline occurred during the Hayden Expedition of 1871. Hayden’s group worked under the most primitive conditions. They used a small wooden boat with a woolen blanket for a sail.

Two men set out on Yellowstone in a small wooden boat with a blanket for a sail in this vintage B&W photo

Mapping took 24 days. Hayden's group used a knotted rope tied with lead sinks to determine the depth of the lake and took approximately 300 soundings. They estimated the lake’s shoreline was 130 miles (209 km). They also located the deepest part of the lake, calculating it to be somewhat less than 500 feet (152 m) deep. Modern surveys place the lake’s shoreline at 141 miles (227 km), while its greatest depth is 430 feet (131 km).

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Drawing of the outside of the visitor center
Young Scientists
Yellowstone Express
Why Geysers Erupt
Hot Water Treasures
Hot Spring Ecology
Scientific Research

This work is supported by

National Science Foundation    Yellowstone Park Foundation
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