TODAY | July 04, 2013
>>> back now at 7:41 on this independence day morning with a special look at the nation's first national park . yellowstone was established back in 1872 . today more than 3 million people visit every year, among them, nbc's tom brokaw .
>> reporter: think yellowstone and what comes to mind? hotels and hot springs ? is bisons and bears? it is all of that and so much more. 2 million acres of nature's wonders. i first came here when i was just 10 years old, and i've been coming back ever since. now i'd like to show you my yellowstone , beyond old faithful. it is called the park, but it's really a vast wilderness of wildlife, mountains, canyons, and valleys, forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls. and beneath it all, a great furnace, the molten remains of a gigantic volcano still smoldering more than 2 million years after it erupted. a still active volcano , but not a dangerous one. i've got property about 40 miles from here. should i lose sleep at night?
>> no. the last time there was a volcanic eruption in yellowstone was before people inhabited north america .
>> reporter: above and below ground, nature is constantly renewing yellowstone . 25 years after the great fires, new forests have taken hold. the spring brings new life to the permanent residents before the summer brings the cars, the motorcycles, the buses. highways make up about 2% of yellowstone national park , and unfortunately, most people spend most of their time on the highways because they can see a bison just off the side of the road . but if you really want to know this park, you've got to go there, into the back country, the american serengeti, the lamar valley. hike or ride among the sprawling herds of elk and bison. always be on the watch for the massive grizzly that prowl the back country. maybe, if you're lucky, you'll see a pack of the newest residents, wolves. the top of the food chain and the most controversial. they were reintroduced to the park in 1995 . doug smith is the park biologist in charge of wolves.
>> we brought back wolves with the idea that we wanted to restore natural systems. how can you do that without natural predators?
>> reporter: the yellowstone wolves, the call of the wild , a reminder this is not your ordinary park.
>> such a beautiful place. you tell me a better way to start the fourth than tom brokaw telling you about yellowstone national park .
>> i'm hoping my son was watching. that is beautiful.
>> tom, thanks so much.