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How Famous Features in Yellowstone Got Their Name, Part Two

Wondering where the names of features in Yellowstone come from? The following list will explain how some of the most iconic features in the park got their name!

Yellowstone River (and subsequently Yellowstone National Park): Many people think that the name "Yellowstone" derives from the yellow rhyolite rock that is found at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. But, in reality, one of the indigenous tribes of the area, the Minnetaree, had named the river Mi tse a-da-zi, inspired by the yellow bluffs along the river near Billings, Montana.

Roosevelt Arch: Constructed in 1903, Roosevelt Arch was erected because it was thought that the north entrance of the park lacked a sense of grandeur (ha, yeah right!). Originally, it was not intended to be named after President Theodore Roosevelt-- he just so happened to be traveling through Yellowstone during the Arch's construction, so he gave a dedication speech. That was the last time he ever visited Yellowstone, so he was never able to see the completed arch.

Old Faithful: Probably the most iconic feature in Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful was named by the Washburn Expedition in 1870 because of how predictable it's eruptions are. Nowadays, Old Faithful erupts every 90 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes.

Mammoth Hot Springs: This mammoth-sized hot springs, is simply named Mammoth Hot Springs because of it's impressive size. Unfortunately, not because fossils of an ancient mammoth were found at the site.

Biscuit Basin: This thermal basin is named for the "biscuit-like deposits" that surrounded Sapphire Pool before 1959. That year, the Hebgen Lake earthquake shook the ground so much that the "biscuits" were blown away. Some of the most impressive thermal features in Biscuit Basin are Sapphire Pool, Jewel Geyser and Mustard Spring.

Black Pool: Located in the West Thumb Geyser Basin, along the shores of Yellowstone Lake, you may be wondering why it's called Black Pool when it is crystal-clear. Long ago, this water was at a lower temperature, allowing green and black thermophiles to grow. (Thermophiles are colorful, heat-loving organisms that grow in certain temperatures.) In 1991, the water temperature of Black Pool rose, killed the organisms and made the water a constant temperature that doesn't allow for the growth of thermophiles.

Isa Lake: Named by early explorers, Isa Lake is a small body of water. While the explorers were debating whether it was a pond or a lake, the lake rose into the air, opened it's big mouth and said "I's a Lake". So, of course they had to name it Isa Lake. Just kidding, the namesake of this lake is unknown. (Sorry, had to get that one in here.)

Boiling River: Located between Mammoth Hot Springs and the North Entrance, the Boiling River is where underground, hot water runoff from the Mammoth Terraces pours into the Gardner River, creating a perfect union of hot and cold water, ideal for soaking in. Although the water is not quite boiling, an early tour guide in Yellowstone, G.L. Henderson, named it Boiling River to attract visitors.

Artist Point: Located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Artist Point is where explorers believe Thomas Moran sat when he painted his famous depiction of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon. Thomas Moran accompanied the Hayden Geological Survey in 1871-- it was so important for expeditions to bring along painters and photographers, because imagine them going back East with fantastical stories of steaming ground and raging rivers through immense canyons, without having images to back it up. Thomas Moran's paintings helped inspire Ulysses S. Grant to create the world's first National Park in 1872.

Artists Paintpots: This thermal area is home to springs, geysers and mud pots. Mud pots are acidic hot springs, that have limited water supply, causing them to decompose surrounding rock into mud and clay, and take the form of gurgling and bubbling mud. It is actually quite mesmerizing to watch. The mud pots at Artists Paintpots are multicolored in shades of blue, gray and brown, and can exhibit different textures depending on the time of year and the amount of underground water. They were named Artists Paintpots by geologist Walter Reed who thought the shades and textures looked like an artist's paint palette.

Slough Creek: (pronounced "slew") Gold prospectors named this meandering creek, Slough Creek, in 1867 because it was slow moving. Later, an army escort named John P. Slough accompanied an expedition to Yellowstone in 1873 and got lost in the valley. He is mythed to be the namesake of Slough Creek, however the name Slough Creek appeared on maps starting in 1872.

Hellroaring Creek: Most likely named by the same group of prospectors in 1867, Hellroaring Creek was raging and roaring when they came upon it, so they named it accordingly.


We hope you enjoyed reading about some of the most iconic features in Yellowstone National Park, and how they got their names!

Nomadic By Nature offers guided backpacking and day hiking trips through Yellowstone. The best part about joining a guided tour is the amount of knowledge that the guide will share.

If you thought this list was interesting, just wait until you're out on tour!

This guided backpacking trip offers hikers a piece of backcountry heaven. Slough Creek is a world-famous fishing destination with it’s clear and slow-moving creek nestled between two mountain ranges, far away from the busy parts of Yellowstone.

Eventually the trail leads you over the rugged and seldom traveled Bliss Pass, where you're likely to encounter few other hikers. After the steep descent, the trail drops you into another pristine meadow, before hiking out along Pebble Creek the next day. Following the trip, you have the opportunity to drive through the famous Lamar Valley and a chance to spot more wildlife.


We hope you click through all of the trips that we offer to find one that is perfect for you.

And don't hesitate to reach out with any questions! We are passionate about Yellowstone, and want you to be also!


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