Think there is only one Grand Canyon? Think again! Ones that come to mind other than the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona include: Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania at Pine Creek Gorge, Grand Canyon of the East at Letchworth State Park in New York, Grand Canyon of Pacific at Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, and one of my favorites Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in the northwest corner of Wyoming.
Twenty four miles long on the Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is downstream from Yellowstone Falls, whose scenic beauty flows over rapids in its course through the beautiful canyon. During the Washburn expedition in 1870, Lt. Gustavus Doane described the canyon as follows:
“There are perhaps other canyons longer and deeper than this one, but surely none combining grandeur and immensity with peculiarity of formation and profusion of volcanic or chemical phenomena.”
Indeed this is a beautiful canyon and one many miss while taking a peek at the Grand Canyon itself. Upper Yellowstone Falls flows into a deep canyon below, then the stream takes a wild ride over rapids throughout its course. About 10,000 years old, today the forces of erosion continue to sculpt the canyon through rain, wind and earthquakes. Lookout Point was one of the early popular spots for viewing the canyon, so back in 1880 the park superintendent decided to put the first railing around this area for safety measures.
Since this is an area of bubbling volcanic activity, it is not surprising that earthquakes happen here frequently. Tremors are felt here all the time. Actually the lookout for Inspiration Point has been shortened several hundred feet due to the quakes in this area. Today on this overhang, there is a nice platform with rails, which provides fantastic views of the canyon both directions.
A zigzag path, Uncle Tom’s Trail, down to near the bottom of the falls at Inspiration Point, created quite an afternoon diversion. The trail was named for Bozeman resident, H F Richardson (known as Uncle Tom), who operated a ferry in 1890 across the Yellowstone River in the canyon. Today that trail has been considerably improved; yet, with a drop of over 500 feet, at least 300 steps and lots of paved inclines, it still requires some perseverance. Slowly strolling down the steep blacktopped path, you could hear the roar of the falls and the peace of the canyon all at the same time. The climb back up was a bit more tiring and a lot slower. Rested at the top and took a picture of the route taken as seen in the picture above.
At the Lower Yellowstone Falls, beautiful Artist Point has a picture post card view of the canyon and falls. This spot is off the beaten path, holding its beauty for the fortunate to discover. The combination of metallic lusters on the face of the canyon walls creates breathtaking color combinations that are one of a kind. This Lower Falls is 309 feet high, nearly twice the height of Niagara Falls but does not have nearly the same volume of water flowing over it as Niagara does. A member of the 1870 Washburn party, N. P. Langford, gave this brief but poetic description of the Lower Falls: “A grander scene than the lower cataract of the Yellowstone was never witnessed by mortal eyes.”
To end the day, made a relaxing stop at Green Dragon Spring where steam often fills the caverns of the hot spring. Visitors must wait patiently for a glimpse of this sulfur lined cave with boiling green water. This is a land unlike any other in the United States and Theodore Roosevelt described it well when he stated: “The beauty and charm of the wilderness are yours for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.”
It is difficult to comprehend the beauty, majesty and power of the beautiful Yellowstone area without exploring it firsthand.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is located very close to Canyon City, Wyoming in the northwest corner of the state. Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road arrives there from all directions. This road is usually accessible from May through October. During the winter months, roads are often snow covered and access to the park is either by snowmobile or commercial snow coaches.