Interesting facts about Yellowstone Lake

yellowstone lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park.

It is also the largest freshwater lake above 2,100 m (7,000 feet) in North America.

The lake is at 2,357 m (7,732 feet) above sea level.

It is 32 km (20 miles) long, 23 km (14 miles) wide, covering 350 square meters (136 square miles).

Yellowstone Lake has 180 km (110 miles) of shoreline.


The lake has a maximum depth of 120 m (394 feet), and an average depth of 42 m (139 feet).

This lake is stunning from the shore, but the real wonders of Yellowstone Lake lie below. There, scientists have uncovered geysers, hot springs, canyons and the largest population of wild cutthroat trout in North America.

Although hot water flow into the lake from vents located at places along the bottom (in addition to the small amount flowing in from the West Thumb Geyser Basin), the lake’s water remains cold throughout the year – with an average water temperature of 5°C (41°F).


In winter, ice nearly 1 meter (3 feet) thick covers much of the lake except where shallow water covers hot springs. The lake freezes over by early December and can remain frozen until late May or early June.

It is thought that Yellowstone Lake originally drained south into the Pacific Ocean via the Snake River. The lake currently drains north from its only outlet, the Yellowstone River, at Fishing Bridge. Within a short distance downstream the Yellowstone River plunges first over the upper and then the lower falls and races north through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


The northern two-thirds of the irregularly shaped lake occupies the southeastern portion of the Yellowstone Caldera, an enormous crater in the land’s surface formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in the region some 640,000 years ago.

The forest and valleys surrounding Yellowstone Lake had been populated with Native Americans since pre-historic times.

The first human of European descent to see the lake was trapper John Colter in the early 19th century.


During the fur trading era of 1820-1840, the lake was probably visited by many trapping parties moving through the park region.

The lake has been known by various names as depicted on early maps and in journals. Both fur trader David Thompson and explorer William Clark referred to the lake as Yellow Stone. Osborne Russell referred to the lake as Yellow Stone Lake in his 1834 journal.

The name Yellowstone Lake appears formally first in the 1839 maps of the Oregon Territory by U.S. Army topographical engineer, Captain Washington Hood and has remained so since that time.


Yellowstone Lake has the largest population of wild cutthroat trout in North America. How a Pacific Ocean fish was trapped in a lake that drains to the Atlantic puzzled experts for years.

Angling for Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake has been a popular pastime for both subsistence and recreation since the first explorers, surveyors and tourists visited the park.

Yellowstone Lake and its environs are a haven for aquatic birds, including Canada geese, several species of ducks, sandhill cranes, common loons, American white pelicans, and the rare trumpeter swan.

Yellowstone Lake has a marina, and the lake is a very popular boating destination.