Yellowstone National Park: Through a different lens
Our national parks are wonderful places to vacation with your family. There’s camping and hiking and so much fun to be had! Do we really want to spoil that with learning something?
In a word, yes! Yes, you do!
I grew up in Montana, with Yellowstone National Park in my “backyard.” I knew it was special, but it was not until I became a believer in Christ that this wonderland came alive to me in a whole new way.
Many kids recognize the error of millions of years of earth history, but most cannot apply the Genesis account of the Flood to what they see around them. They need field study to flesh out what they are learning! Our national parks are a great place for this, and Yellowstone is probably the best.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have written a book called The Geology of Yellowstone—A Biblical Guide to lead folks through the park using a young-earth perspective. In addition, we host a tour for families each summer to view and study this unique area. That’s how important I think it is! It is easy to be awestruck simply by the majesty of the surroundings there. But when you overlay the book of Genesis on it, your faith is impacted in ways that are altogether overwhelming. Being able to study this while enjoying the beauty of the park makes an unforgettable experience. I recommend such a visit for homeschool families.
When visiting our national parks, you must be aware that the official view of the park system concerning earth history is: uniformitarianism—the present is the key to the past. In other words, what we see today has been going on throughout billions of years of earth history. Consequently, official park literature will give fantastic dates for the age of the park based not on science, but on their view that the earth was created out of fire in a time long past.
This brings me to the heart of a Yellowstone adventure. There is another way to view these amazing sites—through the lens of what the Scriptures have recorded as the history of the earth.
Let’s examine a couple facets of Yellowstone from that Biblical view: the Yellowstone Caldera and Specimen Ridge.
The Yellowstone Caldera
Much of Yellowstone is a caldera, a super-volcano that erupted and then collapsed in on itself sometime in the distant past. A trip to Yellowstone takes you right into the heart of this caldera. In some places, you can see the rim of the volcano rising high above you. If you take a short hike (1.1 mile loop) above Old Faithful to the Observation Point you see stunning views of the rim.
Many scientists believe Yellowstone to have been the largest volcanic eruption in earth’s history. To put this into perspective, the amount of volcanic material that erupted from Mt. St. Helens in 1980 was 0.3 cubic miles. The amount of volcanic material that erupted from the two major eruptions of Yellowstone’s caldera was over 599 cubic miles!1 This is a staggering figure and should cause us to reflect on the significance of this volcanic explosion.
The Biblical account of the Genesis Flood has much to say about this. When the “fountains of the great deep burst open” on the first day of the Flood, this would have set off a series of volcanic chain reactions of such magnitude that the earth would never be the same. Thousands of observable cracks in the earth’s crust testify to the crustal upheaval and the eruption of magma. Yellowstone was one of these eruptive events which helped to create the Yellowstone Caldera. Today, we don’t see volcanic eruptions that even come close to Yellowstone’s eruptions. The present cannot be the key to the past as uniformitarian scientists claim.
Volcanism is a nasty and destructive geological event, not a creative event. Not only is there the destructive power of moving lava as in Hawaii today (visit Volcano National Park on the Big Island;) but there are poisonous gasses and choking ash that come from these things. The very nature of volcanoes would have worked against forming any kind of suitable habitat for life.
One of the most significant areas of study in Yellowstone is Specimen Ridge in the northeast part of the park. It is an area of fossilized trees and plants in volcanic ash and mudflows. Evolutionists proposed the idea that these were 30,000 years of successive petrified forests.2 This explanation was allowed to stand, not because of the science supporting it, but rather because it fit their long-ages worldview. This idea remained entrenched in the official Park explanations until 1980. Why 1980?
Mt. St. Helens in Washington State erupted in 1980. (Visit Mt. St. Helens National Monument!) Thousands of trees were moved into Spirit Lake by way of volcanic flows. It looked eerily reminiscent of the petrified trees in Yellowstone. Consequently, geologists began to change their story about Specimen Ridge, saying the trees had been moved into their present place by way of volcanic mudflows, the same as at Mt. St. Helens! They were not buried in place as forests over thousands of years.
Specimen Ridge is a strenuous three-mile, round-trip hike. Be sure to take a companion and water, and beware of bears; this is bear country! If you want an easier, shorter walk, you can see a large petrified tree west of Tower Junction.
You can explore the most famous spots in Yellowstone in a whirlwind day by traveling the “Grand Loop.” This includes Ice Age evidence, earthquake effects, rock types, and of course the marvelous geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. Be sure to get a good guidebook to help you understand just what you are seeing. These features are evidence of the enormous power of a global flood, but more importantly, of a God who is not silent.
So get started planning a vacation you will never forget! Make a trip to Yellowstone from a new perspective. It will change your life!
Patrick Nurre was in the second grade when he discovered his first big find—a large dinosaur bone in the alley behind his house! That was the beginning of a lifelong love with geology and earth science. He is a popular speaker at homeschool and church conventions on geology, the Flood, and creation/evolution. He teaches numerous private and homeschool classes in addition to leading field trips to Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and annual family trips to Yellowstone National Park. Patrick is the owner and vision behind Northwest Treasures, a business devoted to high quality geology curricula and kits and samples, from a young earth perspective. Patrick and his wife, Vicki, live in the Bothell, Washington area. For additional resources in geology, visit www.NorthwestRockAndFossil.com.
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Summer 2015. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
- http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/msh/comparisons.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yellowstone_Caldera_map2.JPG; and http://www.thelivingmoon.com/41pegasus/02files/Volcanoes_Yellowstone_Park.html. Return to text.
- https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/types-of-fossils/petrified-forests-in-yellowstone/; https://creation.com/the-yellowstone-petrified-forests. Return to text.