Yellowstone NP

Yellowstone boundaries go into Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, with the majority of the park area in Wyoming. The main part of the park has a figure-eight shaped road through it. The top loop has two entrances; Mammoth Hot Springs in the North and Tower Roosevelt in the Northeast. The bottom loop has three entrances; Madison to the West, Grants Village to the South, and Fishing Bridge to the East.

My dad and I chose to camp near Lewis Lake which is on the road to Grants Village. When we arrived, we chose our site and hit the road to drive the right side of the bottom loop. We stopped at the Fishing Bridge Visitors Center and got a little more information about the park and where we could see different things and some nice hikes.

Our first stop was the Mud Volcano area and our first real experience of the geothermal activity that Yellowstone has to offer.

One of the notable mentions of that area is Dragon’s Mouth Spring (pic below). It was named in 1912 because of the water surging from the cave like a dragon’s tongue as well as the rumbling inside the caverns and the steam exiting the mouth of the caverns. Be sure to check out the videos in this post, it really shows how these things work. Many times, photos don’t do them justice.

Mud Volcano and Mud Geyser are also two notable features. The amount of steam and the smells is almost overwhelming.

Now you just have to believe me, but the picture below has a grizzly bear in it… 🙂 but keep reading to seem some better pictures of wildlife.

Our next stop was Yellowstone Canyon and Artist Point. These pictures look photoshopped, but they are not. The view of the falls from Artist Point truly are breathtaking.

Day one we saw about 2 deer, 1 bison and an elk (not that impressive for what I’d heard about Yellowstone).

For our second day we would do the left side of the bottom loop and on our way back to the campsite we would complete the right side of the bottom loop (what we did day one, but this time not any hikes).

Our first stop was the Old Faithful area.

I was first able to complete a requirement for the Jr. Ranger badge of attending a ranger led program. As you can probably tell I was a little older than the other participants. **But no one is too old to become a Jr. Ranger, and I strongly recommend it :)**

We saw Old Faithful, which isn’t as faithful as it used to be, but we did get to see it erupt.

While hiking near Yellowstone we stopped at Solitary Geyser. It was tapped and used for its water in 1915. After the water level lowered 3 feet, the calm spring turned into an erupting geyser. Supposedly it erupts ever 5-7 minutes, we waited about 15 minutes and didn’t see it erupt but the steam and bubbling was definitely still active.

These pools were some of my favorites. The colors are so vibrant. There can be many different colors in one pool of water because of different heat levels and growing bacteria in the water.

In the picture below, on the right, is Grotto Geyser. Geologists believe that it emerged in a stand of dead or dying trees thousands of years ago. It’s eruptions are typically 15 feet for 50 minutes, but can be as high as 40 feet and last for more than 24 hours.

Punch Bowl Springs, below, was one of my favorite features. It continually boiled without boiling over. It was a bit relaxing to just listen to it.

We had a perfect day in terms of weather, just look at that view 🙂

Below is a picture of Excelsior Geyser Crater, this is along the pathway to the Grand Prismatic. These colors are a bit skewed because of the steam, but such a beautiful, bright aquamarine color. The large gusts of wind here resulted in many hats, scarves and glasses near the waterline.

Grand Prismatic is one of the most well known geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park and it did impress. We did realize after the fact that there is an aerial view if we had taken a different hike (for next time I guess…)

Our next stop was Artists’ Paintpots, here is an above view of the path and the geothermal features here.

I got these new Yellowstone Moose socks that are amazingly comfortable 🙂

On our way back to our campsite we saw this big guy playing in the dirt to get some flies off.

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HISTORY:

Native American tribes have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. They depended on the region’s plants, animals and minerals for everyday life. They are known for how well the use a bison, for food, clothing or cloth, containers, strings, and tools. Eventually bison were over hunted here mainly by poachers.

A member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered the region in 1806. Many people believed his descriptions of “fire and brimstone” to be that of delirium. These theme continued for many years. The first detailed expedition was in 1869. This was followed by many more over the next few years. By 1870, the idea and plan of setting aside Yellowstone as a national park. With all the information that had been collected over these expeditions, the idea gained support of many senators and representatives, and in 1872 President Grant created Yellowstone National Park, the first national park ever.

For years Congress wouldn’t approve funding to aid the superintendent in protecting the park. It was vulnerable to poachers, vandals and it’s resources being raided. The winter of 1874 to 1875 estimated over 3,000 buffalo and mule deer, with nearly as many elk and antelope dead for hides (below is a photo of buffalo skulls to give you an idea of how many where killed). In 1877, a new superintendent had meager funds and did what he could to build roads and buildings. They tried to stop the criminal activity, but didn’t succeed. As a result, the U.S. Army oversaw management from 1886 to 1916. They built structures near Mammoth Hot Springs which were renamed to Fort Yellowstone. The Lacey Act of 1900 allowed poachers to be prosecuted. By 1901, there was only 25 remaining bison. Congress funded a restoration program the following year. In 1916 the National Park Service took over management.

For the longest time, the policy of the Park Service was that the park was for the entertainment of the people/visitors. They even used to feature a bear lunch where you could sit on bleachers and watch bears come to heaps of trash and scavenge. This closed during World War II.

FUN FACTS:

  • 4.257 million visitors in 2016 (top 10 most visited National Parks)
  • Park sits atop the largest super volcano in North America
  • Species numbers: Mammals-67, Birds-285, Fish-16, Amphibians-5, Reptiles-6
  • Bison herd is oldest and largest public bison herd in the US (2,500-4,500 bison)
  • More than 10,000 hydrothermal features
  • Four types of hydrothermal features
    • Geyser: Hot water and steam thrown up into the air
    • Hot Spring: Pool of hot water or hot water gently flowing
    • Mudpot: Hot acidic water breaks down clay creating hot bubbly mud
    • Fumarole: Hissing steam without much water
  • Temperatures change the organisms which change the color of the water
  • They can be over 200 degrees Farhenheit
  • Grasslands, Forests, Mountain Slopes, Wetlands, Aquatic Habitats

PEOPLE I MET:

Walter Bresnahan & Susan Couch

Walter & Susan live near Moab, UT. They travel a lot and offered to host me on their 40-acre ranch, while I visit the the five National Parks/Monuments near their house – Canyonlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion.

The Backs

The Backs were camping next to us at Lewis Lake and they were finishing up their summer road trip and heading back to Connecticut. They had done much of the stops that I had done but spent a majority of their time in Bend, OR. They have many friends that are trying to get them to move there, and of course my dad agreed and thought that it is a great place to raise a family.

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We were not sure if we would be able to find camping on the northeastern side of Yellowstone, in the Lamar Valley, but we gave it a shot. We didn’t have luck, but we did get to see all the wildlife that the Lamar Valley supports. We mainly saw, LOTS of bison!

The Lamar Valley is on the exit out the Northeast of the top loop. From there we went to Mammoth Hot Springs in the North of the top loop. Here we were again exposed to many different geothermal features. We saw features such as Canary Springs, Dryad Springs, and Cupid Springs.

Mound Springs was one that really stood out to me. The different layered pools with the build up of minerals of many colors is stunning.

At the very end of the day on our way out of the park we decided to do one last drive that I had seen recommended in a book I read. From what I read, it was far enough off the main road that, typically you could see much more wildlife and possibly more rarely seen wildlife. It is a 7 mile dirt road. We drove it and saw no wildlife whatsoever. Then, at the end of the drive, two cars in front of us were stopped in the road and getting out trying to look… We ended up driving around the corner to get back on the main road and saw this little guy….

…and this guy across the street.

Once he’d left and the cars started moving again, we continued on our way out of Yellowstone. Then we were stopped by these BIG guys crossing the road….as a wonderful goodbye to Yellowstone.

And of course, a picture of my Jr. Ranger badge and souvenirs, as well as some flyers that were handed out as you entered about bears and wolves!

NEXT TIME at Yellowstone: I would like to see Yellowstone during all four seasons. This park has so much to offer there is no amount of time that would do it justice.

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