Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Long-term limnological data from the larger lakes of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

January 1, 1997

Long-term limnological data from the four largest lakes in Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone, Lewis, Shoshone, Heart) are used to characterize their limnology and patterns of temporal and spatial variability. Heart Lake has distinctively high concentrations of dissolved materials, apparently reflecting high thermal inputs. Shoshone and Lewis lakes have the highest total SiO2 concentrations (averaging over 23.5 mg L-1), apparently as a result of the rhyolitic drainage basins. Within Yellowstone Lake spatial variability is low and ephemeral for most measured variables, except that the Southeast Arm has lower average Na concentrations. Seasonal variation is evident for Secchi transparency, pH, and total-SiO2 and probably reflects seasonal changes in phytoplankton biomass and productivity. Total dissolved solids (TDS) and total-SiO2 generally show a gradual decline from the mid-1970s through mid-1980s, followed by a sharp increase. Ratios of Kjeldahl-N to total-PO4 (KN:TP) suggest that the lakes, especially Shoshone, are often nitrogen limited. Kjeldahl-N is positively correlated with winter precipitation, but TP and total-SiO2 are counterintuitively negatively correlated with precipitation. We speculate that increased winter precipitation, rather than watershed fires, increases N-loading which, in turn, leads to increased demand for TP and total SiO2.