Map showing the path of the Yellowstone hotspot.
Yellow and orange ovals show volcanic centers where the hotspot produced one or more caldera eruptions- essentially "ancient Yellowstones"- during the time periods indicated. As North America drifted southwest over the hotspot, the volcanism progressed northeast, beginning in northern Nevada and southeast Oregon 16.5 million years ago and reaching Yellowstone National Park 2 million years ago. A bow-wave or parabola-shaped zone of mountains (browns and tans) and earthquakes (red dots) surrounds the low elevations (greens) of the seismically quiet Snake River Plain. The greater Yellowstone "geoecosystem" is outlined in blue. Faults are in black. Used with permission from "Windows into the Earth, The Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park", Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel, Oxford University Press, 2000.