Within a space that can be covered on a map by the tip of one finger, forests, mountain ranges, geysers, mud pots, and river valleys congregate in a surfeit of scenery. It as if the vertigo-inducing flats of the American Midwest toppled to a halt right here and made up for the relatively bland expanse of the prairies with more than ordinary remorse.
Here is how this uneasy scenery was born: About 13 million years ago there was a time of great violence, and a series of immense earthquakes, separated by pauses of about two thousand years, ripped along a fault found where the Teton Range now meets the valley floor. By 12,000 years ago glaciers had carved canyons through the resulting uplift and created a sequence of stark, steep-flanked peaks, the tallest of which, the Grand Teton, surges well over a mile above the sagebrush flats into the sky. Conceived in even greater violence, Yellowstone's central plateau was born in a succession of massive volcanic eruptions, the last of which occurred some 600,000 years ago.
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