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What Is Yellowstone Lake?

Located within Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high altitude lake in North America.
Yellowstone lake is frozen for about six months out of each year, only thawing out during the late spring, summer, and early fall months.
Many people enjoy fishing and boating on Yellowstone Lake.
Canyons and geysers can be found along the floor of Yellowstone Lake.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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Yellowstone Lake is located within Yellowstone National Park in the northwestern corner of Wyoming in the United States. Covering approximately 132 square miles (about 212.4 square km), it is the largest lake in North America that is located at a high altitude. It is a source of many forms of recreation, such as boating and fishing. Unique landforms and geothermal features, such as canyons and geysers, are found on its floor as well.

While many lakes are located at high elevations, Yellowstone Lake is unique in that it is such a large lake and is located well above 7,000 feet (about 2,133 m) in elevation, at 7,733 feet (about 2,357 m) to be exact. Due to its high elevation, the lake is frozen for approximately six months out of every year. It only thaws out during the late spring, summer, and early fall months.

Scientists are always learning new facts about the land formation and geology relating to Yellowstone Lake. They believe that hundreds of thousands of years ago a volcano erupted, causing the land to collapse and form a caldera. The caldera made a pot-like hole in the ground that eventually filled with water. Once filled, Yellowstone Lake came into existence.

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Yellowstone National Park is filled with unique geological features, including the unusual features on the floor of Yellowstone Lake. For example, scientists have discovered deep canyons, rock spires, geysers, and hot springs at its base. As new technology becomes available, researchers continue to discover new features.

Yellowstone Lake is also constantly changing. For example, at one point the lake was actually on a tilt, wherein the water was deeper on its northern end. Then, the lake began to tilt the opposite direction, and it became deeper on its southern end. As time continues, the lake will continue to fluctuate, particularly since the land is rich with seismic activity, moving faults, and other geological features.

One of the main draws to Yellowstone Lake is the recreation. Visitors to the park can take guided boat tours, learning more detailed information on the lake's formation and the hidden features beneath the water. Boat rentals are also available for individuals who want to enjoy the scenery but who are not interested in joining a tour. The park has strict rules on boat use, so it is important to know those rules and follow them. For example, waterskiing and jet skiing are not allowed on the lake, but other forms of motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed.

Many people enjoy fishing at Yellowstone Lake as well. As with many activities in the park, there are rules and regulations on fishing. For example, a permit must be purchased, and any native fish, such as the cutthroat trout, that are caught must be released. Other fish that are not native to the lake may be taken as food or as a trophy, especially since park rangers are trying to limit the number of non-native fish species that live in the lake.

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Oh wow! As if I weren't dying to go to Yellowstone National Park already! I was unaware of its status as the largest high-altitude lake in North America--how does it compare to the Great Lakes? Is it on par with them size-wise at all?

I would also love to know how deep the lake is--it seems its many canyons and other floor features equal a variety of depths. How deep is its deepest section?

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