It's that time of year again. Dad is gassing up the car. Mom is playing Tetris with the luggage in the trunk. The kids are memorizing those annoying driving songs. Yes! It's summer family vacation time and because of the occasion; I have gone ahead and updated this article with MORE crazy facts about Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone may have been the first National Park to be created in the US, but how well do you know it? Is it like a distant cousin you sometimes see at someone in the family's wedding, who you bond with over the weekend and then never speak to again? Or is it like your closest childhood friend who knows exactly what scares you in the dark? Sadly, as a Wyoming native it is somewhere I have never set foot but that definitely doesn't stop me from being impressed by the awesome and crazy things the park has to offer. Here are some things you may not have realized about our dear friend Yellowstone.
Taking that family photo in front of a charging buffalo could get you jail time.
You think that the park rangers would start to do more about stopping tourists from getting so close to the animals. I mean a young girl was gored by a buffalo just last week trying to take a selfie. But this is not about the tourists at all. Recent legislation has been passed in Wyoming that states that data cannot be collected and shared from/about the park and its environs. This means if you take a picture of the park and share it with anyone, you are violating state law. Does anyone believe this will stop the absolutely crazy tourists who get injured by the wild (WILD) animals that they get way too close to? No, and that's not what the law is for. According to this article the statute was signed into affect by the governor to stop collection of data about pollution in the park. According to Jed Oelbaum "After an eco-group called the Western Watersheds Project (WWP) found elevated levels of bacteria in streams and rivers that pass through Wyoming’s public lands, state lawmakers leapt into action. No, not to protect the people and wildlife that might be negatively impacted by the contamination; instead they chose to step in on behalf of the industrial ranching businesses whose cattle are causing these unsafe conditions (Your Yellowstone Selfies May be Illegal. Good Magazine. 23 May 2015). What this means for you and me, is that while unlikely that the state would go after you for taking a picture of Old Faithful, the statute is written broadly enough to allow for this. Nudes in the thermal pools always get a pass though.
The reintroduction of wolves has changed the entire landscape.
Do you feel important in your small sliver of the world? Do your friends turn to you for advice? Well sorry to burst your bubble humanity, but people aren't the only species that an radically change the environment. Another top predator has been putting in some overtime in the office of life and getting some shit done. Who would do such a thing? Why the ever maligned wolves. As mentioned, I am from Wyoming and the reintroduction of the wolves into Yellowstone has been a big source of contention for the inhabitants since the idea was first born. Wyomingites, in a general consensus, hate the wolves and want to be able to hunt them all to extinction again. These people don't understand the ecological advantages the wolves have brought to the area.
Since the wolves came back, the rivers have become stronger, the vegetation has grown like never before and the animal populations are healthier. It's like the wolves are the magic vitamin to help everything grow. Keep grinding those babies up for your protein shake. You can watch this awesome video that visually illustrates the benefits that have occurred because of the wolves.
You are more likely to drown than be mauled to death by a bear.
I know. I know you were dreaming of that romantic evening when you go to fight off a bear that has decided to eat your girlfriend and heroically die in the attempt. That isn't likely to happen friend. Condolences.
I feel this is slightly comforting, but only slightly because drowning/being burned to death in a thermal pool sounds pretty horrendous in the lottery of ways to go. But being chewed on by a bear also sounds pretty bad. I suppose the only way bear-death beats drowning is if the bear accidentally kills you before it starts tenderizing your flesh.
This article explains that over the course of Yellowstone’s history only 7 people of the millions of visitors that go to the park each year have been killed by bears, while people seem to drown pretty regularly in the park. At least 20 people have died from burns sustained from the hot springs.
Let this be a lesson to you. Do not take the road less traveled. There are third degree burns awaiting you there. Robert Frost was wrong!
You could get away with a crime there.
Ever felt like offing a co-worker? Family friend? Any one at all? Well Yellowstone has the place for you! There is a small portion of Yellowstone that oozes into Idaho, but it can be technically claimed by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho at once. Now because of the districting of Yellowstone to Wyoming and the 6th Amendment specifying that a jury must be from the state and district that the crime took place in, this little crime haven could possibly lead to a clean get away.
Because the states that could possibly try the case do not have any population in the district, (Montana comes the closest but would have trouble filling all the juror spots), serious problems would arise for any court that attempted to try, say, a murder that happened on this land. Brian Kalt is the one who wrote a great article on this what-if scenario. You can find it here.
But before you pack up your camping gear and best hunting rifle with the thought of a bigger kind of prey in mind, remember that plotting a crime in any of the states bordering this no-mans land can definitely get you jail time. It’s a bit like OJ Simpson getting away with murder but then getting arrested for robbery several years later. Please don’t make his mistakes.
(Side bar: Does any one else find it karmacally (my word) right and spooky that OJ was was convicted of robbery 13 years to the day after he got off for the murders? Karma rides a slow pony, but it will get you.... eventually)
It’s going to kill us all (well most of us) one day.
Maybe you've been living under a rock, but lately my news feed on Facebook has featured the omnipresent, inevitable destruction the super volcano, which just happens to sit under Yellowstone, is going to wreak on us. It fills me with warm fuzzy terror and leads me to want to defect to Europe. As this National Geographic article explains, the eruption of the volcano under Yellowstone could spew up to 240 cubic miles and would change the global climate as well as spread ash and molten materials across most of the US.
You mean all those thermal pools are not a good sign? Okay fine, well when Yellowstone does kill us I will be sure to get a postcard before hand. Good news though, scientists say the chance of the volcano erupting any time soon are “1 in 730,00”, but you know since no one at all knows exactly when it will blow, it’s probably best to start brushing up on your German.
Despite all those not so appealing facts I just laid on you about Yellowstone, it's definitely somewhere I plan to visit and when I do I'll update this post with pictures! I also may have future updates, as tourists can't be trusted and continue to do incredibly stupid things in the park.