150 years of Yellowstone National Park, in pictures

Nearly 150 years ago, Yellowstone became the first official national park in the United States and has been a popular destination for nature and landscape photographers ever since. The 3,468 square mile piece of protected land spans three states, is home to a number of animal species and a wide range of landscapes. To celebrate the park’s 150th anniversary, National geographic has compiled a great photo gallery showcasing the beauty of the park over the years.

Here are some of our favorites.

Geothermal features

Old Faithful, one of approximately 500 geysers in Yellowstone National Park captured by William Henry Jackson for the US Geological Survey in 1872, Old Faithful’s first photograph.
William Henry Jackson/National Geographic

The ancient subterranean supervolcano beneath the park is responsible for some of its best-known and most-photographed natural wonders like Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring.

Old Faithful is located in the park’s Upper Geyser Basin and, as its name suggests, is known for its frequent and generally predictable eruptions. It currently erupts about 20 times a day, lasting between an hour and a half and five minutes, and expels between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons of water each time. It’s one of the park’s most accessible features, so if you’re looking to capture it without the crowds, consider planning your visit for early morning, after 6 p.m., or during the winter months.

Grand Prismatic Spring is probably the most photographed thermal geologic feature in the park, thanks in part to its vibrant colors. They are the result of microbial mats that turn the water orange and red in summer and dark green in winter.

Wildlife

Gray wolves investigate grizzly bear tracks in Yellowstone's Pelican Valley.  Once an endangered species, wolves were reintroduced to the area in the mid-1990s, as of late 2021 95 live in the park.
Gray wolves investigate grizzly bear tracks in Yellowstone’s Pelican Valley. Once an endangered species, wolves were reintroduced to the area in the mid-1990s, and as of the end of 2021, 95 live in the park. Ronan Donovan/National Geographic

The park is also home to a wide variety of animals such as bears, bison, foxes, wolves, elk, and antelope, making it a top choice for wildlife photographers. If you’re hiking in Yellowstone to photograph these animals, be sure to bring a long lens and keep your distance. Park visitors should stay 300 feet from bears and wolves and 75 feet from bison, elk and other animals.

Carefully guarded bison are herded into a trap to be tagged and tested for disease in Yellowstone National Park.
Carefully guarded bison are herded into a trap to be tagged and tested for disease in Yellowstone National Park.

William Albert Allard/National Geographic

Animals will be present in different parts of the park depending on the time of year and the current weather. Unsurprisingly, some of the best times for photograph wildlife in the park occur in winter and early spring, when crowds are at a minimum.

more inspiration

Check out more great images compiled by National geographic here. Do you feel inspired? Consider submitting some of your own photos of Yellowstone to our Photo of the Day Challenge for a chance to be featured in our weekly Readers’ Gallery.

Stewart C. Hartline