Sep 26

Animals of Yellowstone

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America’s Serengeti.   The animals of Yellowstone National Park make up the largest concentration of wildlife in the contiguous United States.  Nowhere in the lower United States is there a better chance to catch the interaction between predator and prey relationships on such a large scale.  Now realistically is there a chance you will see wolves taking down an elk, no.  However, there is a great chance of seeing some of the most famous animals in North America.  The animals of Yellowstone include bears both black and grizzly, wolves, moose, big horn sheep, elk, and of course bison.
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My first trip to Yellowstone National Park happened around the time I was five. The great family road trip.  Unfortunately, I do not remember much of the trip but some things I do remember are the animals we saw there.  The animals of Yellowstone can have that lasting impact on a young child.  Some of those fond memories include a large moose that decided to lay down in the clover behind our cabin, seeing what we thought was an eagle but probably an osprey in flight swooping down to catch fish in a river, and big horn sheep climbing a rocky cliff.
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Each successive trip to the park has netted me a chance to see most of the animals that call the place home.  While I have not seen all of them I have had the chance to see a lot.  Every trip, each time is as special as the first.  In particular, our last trip to Yellowstone we were feeling a little bit of a bust because we had not seen a bear yet. Don’t get me wrong we loved our time in the park and it was ending up as a special trip.  However not seeing a bear was leaving us with a feeling of wanting.  Then as we were driving out of the park on the East Entrance Road we came across a mother grizzly and her cub.  That encounter was the icing on our vacation cake.
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Animals of Yellowstone (Quick Facts from the National Park Service website)

  • 67 different mammals live here, including many small mammals.
  • As of 2014, between 674 and 839 grizzly bears live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
  • Black bears are common.
  • Gray wolves were restored in 1995. As of December 2014, 95 live primarily in the park.
  • Wolverine and lynx, which require large expanses of undisturbed habitat, live here.
  • Seven native ungulate species—elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and white-tailed deer—live here.
  • Nonnative mountain goats have colonized northern portions of the park.

One of the great things about Yellowstone National Park is each trip is unique.  A visitor never knows what might be just around the bend.  A visitor must have a sense of adventure when seeing the park.  Be ready for the unknown.  Otherwise they will walk away disappointed.  Karen and I have never had the same visit twice.  The first time we went we purposely looked for wildlife and found it in abundance. Several bear sightings, wolves in the Lamar Valley, baby elk and bison.  The last few times have been more about the park’s geological features, dropping our number of animal sightings.  The duration of your trip and what you plan to see will likely determine the number and species of animals you spot.  The main thing is don’t get disappointed if you don’t get to see all the animals you want to see.  Just enjoy the ride.

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While anywhere in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem has the chance to yield spectacular sightings of animals, there are a few areas of the park that give a better chance of spotting some of the free-range wildlife on display.

Top Spots to see the Animals of Yellowstone

  • Lamar Valley
  • Hayden Valley
  • Northeast Side of Yellowstone Lake
  • Tower-Roosevelt
  • Swan Lake Flats

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Yellowstone is a spectacular park and part of that is seeing the incredible animals of Yellowstone.  Hearing the thundering herds of bison, bears and wolves on the prowl, or a bulk elk establishing a harem are just some of the experiences that you could be having in Yellowstone National Park.  Though those experiences come with responsibility.  Wild animals are unpredictable especially if they have young with them.  Keep a safe distance from all wildlife.  Never approach bears or wolves within 100 yards and 25 yards of other wildlife.  All of Yellowstone is bear country so be bear aware and prepared especially if hiking any trails.  Remember if you cause an animal to move and take notice of you, you are too close.  A safe trip is always a better trip.

Sep 22

Crecelius Cascade: Yellowstone National Park

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Crecelius Cascade is one of the many unmarked waterfalls found in Yellowstone National Park.  In fact, some have said that Yellowstone has the most waterfalls per square miles in the world.  With over 300 waterfalls and counting many of them unnamed and off any marked trails Yellowstone is a waterfall hunter’s paradise.  Crecelius Cascade like so many other waterfalls will not be labeled on any national park map.  However, unlike those, Crecelius Cascade is a wonderful roadside attraction. Located directly off the East Entrance Road on the south side, just before Sylvan Lake.  Unlike many of the other roadside waterfalls Crecelius Cascade has no pullout or sign that marks its location.  It is possible to park on the side of the road and take a closer walk to the falls.  Crecelius Cascade is a pretty two-tiered waterfall that might be seasonal.  We have only been on the East Entrance road twice, in early summer and Crecelius Cascade was flowing during both of those trips.
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The abundance of natural richness is all around in Yellowstone.  Looking for things not found on the park map is one of the great things about the park.  A personal new discovery is just around the corner in Yellowstone.  That is why I love the park and can’t wait to get back there.

  • Waterfalls of Yellowstone

There are many waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park to choose from, some are roadside falls like Firehole falls mentioned above Firehole Falls,  Undine FallsVirginia CascadeMoose FallsGibbon Falls, Rustic FallsTower FallsLewis Falls  Kepler Cascades, and of course the extraordinary Upper and Lower Falls while others require a hike to see like Wraith FallsLost Creek FallsFairy Falls or Mystic Falls. Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the great waterfalls that can be found in the park.

Sep 21

Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District: Yellowstone National Park

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To take a walk through history is to take a stroll through Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District.  This area of the National Park really hits home the fact that Yellowstone is really old.  It is hard to imagine but in 1886 the U.S. Army marched into Mammoth Hot Springs to protect Yellowstone’s natural resources.  So to take a walk and see the old cavalry barracks and the parts of Old Fort Yellowstone that are still up is like taking a promenade through the past.
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Now if you have never been to Yellowstone National Park I do not recommend spending a lot time in the town and villages found in the park.  The park is huge.  There are just so many things to see, do, and hike.  That large amount of time spent not doing those things will probably end up feeling like a waste.  The towns can be a good place to learn about the park, but take it from this teacher, the best way to learn is by doing.
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However, if you have been to Yellowstone, checking out the visitor centers, historical museums, and villages can be a great way to get a fuller picture of the parks history.  A great place to do this is the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District.  There they have guided and self-guided tours or if time is pressing take the online tour of Fort Yellowstone. For families with young children a stop here especially the Albright Visitor Center can be a nice treat for the kiddos.  They have a dedicated children’s area with hands-on displays, dioramas of the animals found inside the park, as well as their famous junior ranger’s programs.
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During our first two visits to Yellowstone National Park we spent as much time as we could on the trails and seeing the sights.  On our most recent visit we spent a little bit more time in areas like the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District.  One of our kids loves touch tables and interactive exhibits and just learning things in general.  We have been lucky in that area.  Secondly as awesome as seeing hot springs and waterfalls are sometimes it is nice just to go someplace, sit down and relax a little.  Working on a junior ranger’s worksheet provides a little bit of a break between drives not only for us but our kids as well.
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Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District is a nice little stop if you have the time.  Mammoth Hot Springs should be a place on your list to visit when in Yellowstone.  The Hot Spring Terrace are an incredible sight.  Also the resident elk lounging about the buildings and homes is fun to see.  While a visit to Yellowstone will probably afford you many chances to see elk there is something about seeing them munching on the grass lawns in Mammoth that makes Yellowstone a unique experience.
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Sep 20

Firehole Falls: Yellowstone National Parks

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Firehole Falls is a small scenic roadside waterfall in Yellowstone National Park.  Located on the 2-mile one way Firehole Canyon Drive.  This off the main road waterfall is quick stop that can turn to a much longer adventure.  The Firehole Canyon Drive is home to one of the two park sanctioned swimming holes.  The swimming area is just a mile up the road from Firehole Falls. This 40-foot waterfall is located just south of Madison and makes for a scenic detour when in that part of the park.  While smaller than many other waterfalls in the park it is still nice and makes the scenic Firehole Canyon a better stop.
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Like most of the roadside waterfalls in Yellowstone Firehole Falls has signs posted and small pullout areas for vehicles.  Firehole Falls makes for a nice little photo op before continuing on to bigger and better attractions the park has to offer.

  • Waterfalls of Yellowstone

There are many waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park to choose from, some are roadside falls like Firehole falls mentioned above Undine FallsVirginia CascadeMoose FallsGibbon Falls, Rustic FallsTower FallsLewis Falls  Kepler Cascades, and of course the extraordinary Upper and Lower Falls while others require a hike to see like Wraith FallsLost Creek FallsFairy Falls or Mystic Falls. Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the great waterfalls that can be found in the park.

Sep 14

Fountain Paint Pot: Yellowstone National Park

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Visiting Yellowstone National Park is an otherworldly experience.  Hiking the boardwalk trail at Fountain Paint Pot brings that notion to life.  The bubbling mud pots, the vivid oranges, browns, and blues of the hot springs, geysers shooting water in the air and the fumaroles make the Fountain Paint Pot a fun little hike.
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One of the great things about the Fountain Paint Pot Area is that it has all four geothermal features of the Yellowstone ecosystem.  At less than a mile for the round trip Fountain Paint Pot trail is one of the best bangs for your buck in the park.  It is an easy flat walk. So very popular.  Meaning the earlier in the day the less fighting the crowd to get a good long look of Fountain Paint Pot’s cool features.
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The bubbling mud pots are probably the weirdest thermal feature in Yellowstone.  My eldest daughter laughed and shouted with glee as they popped and gurgled.  For those that have a different taste than seeing mud bubbles the rich blue pools Celestine Spring and Silex Spring are worth a look.  With any luck one or more of the many geysers will go off during your trip around the Fountain Paint Pot boardwalk.
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The whole Lower Geyser Basin, which the Fountain Paint Pot area is just a small part of, is worth some of your Yellowstone Time.  The hike around takes roughly 15 minutes plus or minus a few depending on how long you watch the thermal features.  Located just a few miles north of Upper Geyser Basin on the Grand Loop Road.  Personally I like to couple a stop here with the Old Faithful area getting my fill of geothermal activities all in one day.
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There are many geothermal areas of Yellowstone National Park and all have unique and wonderful features. Upper Geyser BasinNorris Geyser BasinMidway Geyser Basin,  Mammoth TerracesBiscuit BasinWest Thumb Geyser BasinBlack Sand Basin, Mud Volcano, and Artists Paint Pots.  Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the geothermal areas the park is famous for.

Sep 13

Artist Point: Yellowstone National Park

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One of the grand sights of Yellowstone National Park can be seen at Artist Point.  The famous overlook that countless number of families have used for a family photo backdrop.  There is a good reason for that.  The marquee overlook of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone features the 308 foot Lower Falls as its beautiful pastel colored canyon walls frame the waterfall on both sides.  Artist Point is truly an awe-inspiring sight.
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Famous is synonymous for crowded.  Artist Point is not the exception to the rule. Best bit of advice is go early if you want to avoid the crowds.  Parking lots will fill up and the more people there the harder it will be to get that family photo.  Personally when I am looking out at a scenic view I like a little peace and quiet to soak it all in.  Artist Point in my opinion is better viewed early in the morning, the closer to sunrise the better. Now if crowds do not intimidate you then mid-morning until early afternoon the sun will light up Lower Falls.
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Artist Point along with the whole Canyon area of Yellowstone is a must see for us every visit.  We highly recommend seeing more than just the overlooks like Artist Point.  There are some really nice trails in the area like the one to Clear Lake or if you feel like a stair workout take Uncle Tom’s Trail.  Artist Point is great scene to take in, but do not forget that great views can also be had just feet down the trails.

  • Waterfalls of Yellowstone

There are many waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park to choose from, some are roadside falls likeUndine FallsVirginia CascadeMoose FallsGibbon Falls, Rustic FallsTower FallsLewis Falls  Kepler Cascades, and of course the extraordinary Upper and Lower Falls while others require a hike to see like Wraith FallsLost Creek FallsFairy Falls or Mystic Falls. Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the great waterfalls that can be found in the park.

Sep 11

Old Faithful Visitor Center: Yellowstone National Park

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With so much national beauty to see in Yellowstone it is hard to go inside to see an attraction.  However, the Old Faithful Visitor Center and others like it in the park are worth it.  Especially if you are spending multiple days in the park.  The Old Faithful Visitor Center is a great place to start before seeing the Upper Geyser Basin.  It will have up to date information on the several timed geysers they have in the area.  On cold days it will also be one of the best places to see Old Faithful burst to life.
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Old Faithful Visitor Center is jammed pack with information. A wonderful orientation film as well as many information charts and interactive displays.  The exhibits are great but the best source is the park rangers that work there.  Park rangers have given us all sorts of interesting tidbits whenever we ask.  For the most part they have all been friendly and helpful.  I can only think of one time we come across one that wasn’t, but everybody has an off day once in a while.  (Sorry to my middle school student in 2011 with the stained hot Cheetos fingers all over my textbook, but I was just having one of those days.)
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When it was just Karen and I traveling we would stop at this visitor centers to get the park rangers to answer any questions we might have.  Now with our two little girls in tow the visitor centers offer a nice respite for them.  I mean there are only so much hiking and sightseeing little kids can take.  They need some wind down time of touch tables and interactive displays.  The Old Faithful Visitor Center has a really neat educational/ kid’s area that teaches about how the geothermal features of Yellowstone work.  My daughters really enjoyed their time there.
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Of course the Old Faithful Visitor Center had the usually suspects. The souvenir shop with all the stuff one would buy to recapture the essence of the trip. The clean indoor bathrooms. National park passport stamp stations and a place for the little ones to get started on their junior ranger programs.  Though most information can be found online from various websites and travel blogs which I hope that you do checkout and often.  A stop at a visitor center like this one is still the best source for knowledge about the park because it gives a visitor a chance to converse with the people that call the park their home.
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For more information about the Old Faithful Visitor Center visit the Yellowstone National Park website at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/oldfaithfulvec.htm

Sep 09

Firehole Canyon Drive: Yellowstone National Park

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Looking for a short scenic drive in Yellowstone with waterfalls?  Then Firehole Canyon Drive is the place to go.  A real hidden gem.  Just a 2-mile one-way drive located south of the Madison Junction is one of our favorite areas of Yellowstone National Park.  Our love for the Firehole Canyon Drive started during our first visit to Yellowstone National Park.  My wife and I, on a whim, decided to take the side road before heading back to our hotel in West Yellowstone.  We were glad that we did because we got to see two baby elks frolic and play in one of the streams in the Firehole Canyon below. The Firehole Canyon Drive winds itself through the scenic canyon with cliffs raising above and the Firehole River raging below.  The only bad thing about the drive is the limited parking.  Of course, that can be said about any Yellowstone attraction during the busy summer months.  Firehole Canyon Drive is a place that becomes more popular as the summer grinds on.  This is due to the fact that it has a great little swimming hole to cool off on those warm summer days.  There is a sign and parking next to the road for the swimming hole.  There is no lifeguard on duty and the area can be closed during high water.
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Those not looking to swim the Firehole Canyon Drive is worth the visit.  It is a beautiful canyon area that is home to not 1 but 2 waterfalls.  The bigger Firehole Falls has an elevation drop of 40 feet and the Cascades of the Firehole is good place to feel the strength of the river running through the canyon. The waterfalls are not the most impressive in the park, but well worth the 15 to 25-minute detour it takes to cruise the Firehole Canyon Drive.
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Not every visit has been as exciting as the first.  However, we have never driven away from the Firehole Canyon Drive asking ourselves why did we just do that.  Because of our first trip we are always on the lookout for wildlife.  Sometimes we are lucky and see elk or raptors in the sky other times it is just the scenery that captures our senses.  Either way the Firehole Canyon Drive has never left us wanting.

To see our reviews of other Yellowstone Attractions like Firehole Canyon Drive, click here   

Sep 05

Mud Volcano: Yellowstone National Park

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Ooooh that smell, can’t you smell that smell, Oooh that smell.  I don’t think the band Lynyrd Skynyrd had the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone National Park in mind when they came up with those lyrics.  Though they could have.  It certainly fits the area.  The rotten egg smell that permeates from Mud Volcano is actually caused by bacteria.  This bacterium eats the sulfur and creates sulfuric acid. When it vaporizes it becomes hydrogen sulfide gas, the lovely smell that surrounds you.
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Mud Volcano is located north of Yellowstone Lake on the way to Canyon on the Grand Loop Road.  It is a small geothermal area with a boardwalk trail that runs a little under a mile.  There is some elevation to it.  However, since it is a short trail it is suitable for all ages and physical abilities.  Large mud bubbling pools, the loud sound of hiss and steam escaping from the ground, and the pungent odor will make Mud Volcano a hard place to forget.
29381373042 7da64937be z Mud Volcano: Yellowstone National Park
Be on the lookout for wildlife when visiting Mud Volcano.  It seems like every time we are there bison are right of the trail.  Maybe they like the smell.  We have also heard that bears frequent the area though we have never seen any at Mud Volcano. Karen and I have seen many near the Yellowstone Lake area.
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A small area of Yellowstone when compared to some of the more famous hot springs and geyser basins.  It should not be overlooked.  Especially if you are on a multiple day visit to the park.  The strong smell may deter many, but it is worth seeing Mud Volcano’s key features like Mud Cauldron, Mud Geyser, and Dragon’s Mouth Spring.  The interesting geology of the area along with a chance to see some wildlife up close makes Mud Volcano a fun little stop.
29489842935 690823c7e1 z Mud Volcano: Yellowstone National Park

There are many geothermal areas of Yellowstone National Park and all have unique and wonderful features.Upper Geyser BasinNorris Geyser BasinMidway Geyser Basin,  Mammoth TerracesBiscuit BasinWest Thumb Geyser BasinBlack Sand Basin, and Artists Paint Pots.  Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the geothermal areas the park is famous for.

 

Sep 04

Upper Falls: Yellowstone National Park

29171180650 8255d135da z Upper Falls: Yellowstone National Park
Upper Falls is one of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River.  Not as tall or spectacular as Lower Falls.  However, that is like saying the first time you saw rainbow is not as awe inspiring as the next.  Still an incredible sight after any storm.  Just like Upper Falls will always be a beautiful waterfall to me no matter how many waterfalls I see.

Impressively powerful this 109-foot waterfall is worth a visit every time.  I love the Canyon area of Yellowstone National Park.  The Upper Falls and Lower Falls are a major part of why this National Park is the first national park.  As N.P. Langford of the 1870 Washburn party said, “As the view grew upon us, and we comprehended the power, majesty and beauty of scene, we became insensible to the danger and gave ourselves up to the full enjoyment of it.” I do not know if there have ever been truer words spoken about Yellowstone.

There are several nice views of the Upper Falls but the views we like the best are near the parking lot from Uncle Tom’s Trail.  A classic view of the falls with the Chittenden bridge in the distance.  The Canyon area of Yellowstone is an all-day adventure.  Lots of family friendly trails and the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are some of the best in the state.

29379932851 f144852f70 z Upper Falls: Yellowstone National Park

  • Waterfalls of Yellowstone

There are many waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park to choose from, some are roadside falls like Undine FallsVirginia CascadeMoose FallsGibbon Falls, Rustic FallsTower FallsLewis Falls  Kepler Cascades, and of course the extraordinary Upper and Lower Falls while others require a hike to see like Wraith FallsLost Creek FallsFairy Falls or Mystic Falls. Whatever your plans are when you visit Yellowstone National Park make sure you seek out some of the great waterfalls that can be found in the park.

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