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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is in Yellowstone National Park in the northwest corner of the state of Wyoming. It is 20 miles long, 800 – 1200 feet (244m – 366m) deep and 1500 – 4000 feet (.45km – 1.2km or 1/4mile – 3/4 mile) wide.

The canyon was carved into rhyolite lava deposited after huge volcanic eruptions 600,000 years ago by rivers and three separate glaciers.
Steam and hot gasses assisted in weakening the lava and continue to rise from vents in the canyon today. Multi-colored rocks in the canyon walls are indicative of oxidation of iron compounds in rhyolite rock that has been hydrothermally altered (rust).
There are several locations to view the canyon along both the north and south rims. Two spectacular waterfalls — 109 ft. and 308 ft. high — with 5,000 – 63,500 gallons per second of Yellowstone River water pouring over their rims can be seen from multiple viewpoints.
Don’t miss the Canyon Visitor Education Center for films, relief models, murals and other exhibits that describe Yellowstone’s supervolcano. Included are some of the best explanations of how volcanoes, geysers and hot springs and geologic history shape the land not only in the past but into the future.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Pictures

I’ve included a shot of a map of the canyon area to indicate where each photo was taken (3rd image down).

Upper Falls

Upper Falls, Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Chittenden Memorial Bridge

The Upper Falls is best viewed from the viewpoint at the Uncle Tom’s trail turnout on the South Rim of the canyon.
Uncle Tom Richardson, an early concessioner, led guided trips into the canyon. The Chittenden Bridge at the top of the picture was completed in 1903 and replaced in 1963. The bridge crosses the Yellowstone River for access to South Rim viewpoints.


People standing at the Brink of the Upper Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

You can look109 feet down the waterfall from the Brink of the Upper Falls viewpoint on the North Rim of the canyon.
Look closely and you can see the spot where these people are standing in the first photo above.


The map in the photo below is from one of the viewpoint location graphics. Chittenden Bridge is at the lower left corner. In addition to the above photos from Uncle Tom’s Trail and Brink of the Upper Falls viewpoints I’ve included pictures from the Artist Point viewpoint on the South Rim and Brink of the Lower Falls, Lookout Point, Grand View and Inspiration Point on the North Rim following the map.


Canyon area map

The map shows Canyon Rim Roads, Viewpoints and Trails along the North and South Rims.
Norris is to the west,Tower - Roosevelt to the north and Fishing Bridge to the south.


Artist Point

View of Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist Point

The view southeast, upstream from Artist Point on the South Rim is quite spectacular.
I highly recommend bringing a pair of binoculars or telephoto lens for images like the one below.


Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The vertical green line on the top left side of the Lower Falls — seen in this telephoto shot from Artist Point — is caused by a notch in the lip making the water at that point deeper and less turbulent going over the edge so that you can see its natural color.
There are approximately 290 waterfalls, 15 ft. or higher in Yellowstone National Park,
at 308 ft. (94 m) the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is the tallest.


View to the north from Artist Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Looking in the other direction from Artist Point, north and downstream you can see how steep the canyon walls are.


Trees, canyon wall and Yellowstone River

The view is amazing in every direction from this well named viewpoint. Here we look down and to the northeast.


Steep jagged canyon wall

Trees cling to the canyon wall in this telephoto shot of the area below the North Rim from Artist Point.


Lookout Point

Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Lookout Point

The Lower Falls is also visible from Lookout Point on the North Rim.
There aren’t any viewpoints where you can see both waterfalls because of a bend in the Yellowstone River between the two falls.
The trail on the lower ridge near the center of this photo leads to Red Rock view area.


Panoramic picture of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Lookout Point
A visitor to Lookout Point on the North Rim enjoys a panoramic view of the canyon and Yellowstone River.


Small tree clinging to rocky protrusion
This small tree clinging to a vertical outcropping reminds me of the famous Lone Cypress on the California Coast.


Three Osprey standing on and one flying near a nest in the middle of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This family of Osprey have built their nest on top of a rocky pedestal in the middle of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


Grand View

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Grand View
It is easy to see why they named this viewpoint Grand View. Looking downstream to the north east.


Inspiration Point

Distant waterfall, canyon view and glimpse of river
Inspiration Point is the furthest down river viewpoint that you can drive to. Looking upriver from here you can glimpse the Lower Falls and a bit of the Yellowstone River before it is obscured by a bend.


Canyon and river distant view

Looking downriver from Inspiration Point the canyon walls are not as steep and mostly tree covered.


Canyon Visitor Education Center


Canyon Visitor Education Center is a must stop for anyone who wants a better understanding of the forces that shaped Yellowstone National Park. Located in Canyon Village near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Canyon Village includes camping sites, Canyon Lodge and Cabins, places to eat, a ranger station, gas station and several stores including a general store.

Visitors view a large reliev map of Yellowstone National Park

This large relief map of Yellowstone is one highlight of the Canyon Visitor Education Center.


Yellowstone caldera formation movie and timeline

Another highlight is a movie detailing the timeline and formation of the Yellowstone Caldera.


Volcanic rock display

There are lots of other educational exhibits as well including this one explaining what types of volcanic rock exist in
Yellowstone National Park and how they were formed.


Don’t miss my photo essays on Yellowstone National Park (Intro to Yellowstone and photos of bison, rivers and lakes) and Yellowstone National Park’s Hydrothermal Features (geysers, hot springs, boiling mudpots and fumaroles at multiple locations within the park).
Visit other National Parks and National Monuments in the US from my National Parks page.

Next — Yellowstone Hydrothermal Features / Previous Yellowstone National Park

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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson