Monday, June 13, 2011

Yellowstone National Park

Another check on the bucket list - Yellowstone!!  We spent 4 days in the park and enjoyed visiting many of the places we have seen on TV and read about.  The weather didn't cooperate at times and we had to deal with road closures due to snowfall, ice, avalanches and rock slides.  Going in the spring and early summer means less crowds, more baby animals....but 'iffy' weather!
The North Entrance - Roosevelt Arch

Yellowstone is America's first national park established in 1872.  There is no way to see all of the park in a week - or even a year!  There are 3,472 square miles of Yellowstone park - larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  The park is located mostly in Wyoming, but also parts are in Montana and Idaho.  With so much area, 5 entrances, 466 miles of paved roads, 9 visitor centers and museums, 9 hotels, one marina and soooo many trails, scenic vistas and features it is overwhelming!!  We suggest to get a good guide book, check out a few forums online and talk with friends and family who have gone before you.  (If anyone in our area is planning a trip we would be happy to share our resources with you!)  We purchased the Yellowstone Expedition Guide a few months before our trip to help with planning.  It is a great book with an audio CD, DVD of the park and lots of easy to use information and maps.

People come to Yellowstone to see the thermal features (geysers, fumaroles, mudpots) and for the wildlife viewing (bears, elk, bison, eagles, wolves).  We were able to do a little of both.

Please heed the warnings that are posted and given to you in pamphlets about not getting close to the animals.  They are wild and have been known to attack.  We were fortunate and saw black bears on 3 occasions - even were able to get some pictures.  Bison are hard NOT to see...they are everywhere and in the roads, on the sidewalks and boardwalks.  The elk, bighorn sheep, wolves and moose are in their 'home range' areas and marked on some of the park maps.  These animals are not fenced in anywhere...just tend to stay in certain areas.  Internet forums were helpful on locating these areas and often listed daily sightings from others.

Bison at Old Faithful

Mountain Bluebird

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Black Bear - it is snowing at this time

Many of the trails we wanted to hike were either still under a few feet of snow, or closed for 'bear management'.   The bears come out of hibernation in the spring and head for the lower elevation areas that are snow free to forage for food.  These trails are closed due to the heavy bear activity.  Even on the trails which were open - and easily accessible from the very populated areas we saw many signs of bears. 

Claw marks on a tree

Black bear with a bison carcass

Old Faithful was right next to our hotel, so viewing that geyser and the basin was easy.  The trails are elevated boardwalks with benches to rest or enjoy the views.
Old Faithful
The 'essental attractions' are easy to get to and most are on boardwalks and overlooks.  This is where your maps will come in handy.  Road closures did cause us to have to miss the Lamar Valley area, but gives us a reason to return someday!

Thermal pool - blue = HOT water


National Park Mountain - the plaque tell that this is where Roosevelt and his crew decided to make Yellowstone our first national park
Morning Glory Pool
Looks like another planet!
A Winter Wonderland (in May!)

One of many waterfalls

We enjoyed all of our time in Yellowstone and will keep it on our list of places to visit.  Next time we would like to take a trip in the fall and see the Elk with their antlers and the changing colors of the fall foliage.


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