YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Robot will explore the depths of Yellowstone Lake

Robot will explore the depths of Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake Mount Sheridan

Part of Yellowstone Lake with Mount Sheridan

Just coming off the deadlines for suggesting changes to the designer’s files for my next book, Through Early Yellowstone, I want to pass on a delightful link from the Yellowstone Insider. On January 27th publisher Kevin Reichard passed on some interesting news published in Jackson Hole News and Guide. Hey! Sharing good stuff is what the Web is for, isn’t it?

My interest in microorganisms stems from a Yellowstone Institute class I took with researcher Anna-Louise Reysenbach way back in July 1999. Microbial research is a fascinating but very complex subject, and in recent years I’ve been learning and writing more about it. Take a look at my website “nuggets” from July 8 and 9, 2014, on “Yellowstone Park and the Quest for the Origins of Life.”

In a nutshell, some major research bodies, such as the USGS, NOAA, and several universities, are collaborating with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration to build a research boat and diving robot that will explore the bottom of Yellowstone Lake.

If all goes as planned, starting next summer the robot will take pictures and return samples of what it finds there. This will follow up on lake bottom research reported by USGS scientist Lisa Morgan and colleagues as part of a series of articles published in 2007: “Integrated Geoscience Studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” USGS Professional Paper 1717.

For more details and a fascinating ten-minute video from the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration—starring microbial ecologist Dr. Reysenbach—watch this:

Although the video does not show us any microbes (seen only under a microscope), it does show some views of the thermal vents on the ocean bottom, teaming with hitherto unknown life.

I can’t resist an aside: Anna-Louise converts 60 degrees Celsius to “about 120 degrees Fahrenheit,” but that should be 140 degrees F. For a quick answer to this sort of question I always use the little conversion chart I put on page 363 in Yellowstone Treasures, updated fourth edition.

Photo credit: This photo from page 144 of Yellowstone Treasures was taken by Bruno Giletti.

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Over four million visitors enjoyed Yellowstone in 2015!

The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone Park has just had another record year. Nearly 600,000 more people passed through the park’s five entrances in 2015 than in 2014, a total of 4,097,210.

As always, the West Entrance was the most popular, and more people visited in July than in any other month, with August and June just behind in numbers.

The NPS attributes this year’s popularity to lower gas prices, stepped-up marketing by Montana and Wyoming tourist bureaus, and the NPS’s own “Find Your Park” program. In addition, beginning last year, to encourage visitation, all families that have a fourth grade student may enter any national park without paying an entrance fee.

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All about fountain-type geysers

Geysers can be categorized as one of two types: cone and fountain. Let’s see what page 61 of Yellowstone Treasures has to say about fountain-type geysers.

Such geysers have a very broad pool rather than a cone or narrow vent, and they usually erupt in a series of bursts, sometimes beginning with a blue dome-shaped surge.

Great Fountain Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser (1996)

Great Fountain is perhaps Yellowstone Park’s largest fountain-type geyser. Eruptions usually range between 100 and 150 feet (30-45 meters) in height, and its vent is 16 feet (4.8 meters) across! In case you missed it, here’s Janet’s report on this blog about an early evening eruption of Great Fountain Geyser in 2014. She includes a video.

Another classic fountain-type geyser is Fountain Geyser, which may erupt as high as 100 feet (30 meters). Last year photographer and videographer Neal Herbert took a great short video of its eruption. Watch closely and you’ll see flashes of bright blue as steam bubbles explode and propel water from the crater (especially at the 50-second mark).

The most recent statistics of major geyser activity compiled by the National Park Service are from last November, “Current Activity of Selected Geysers.” When you travel there and want current predictions, you can either

  • call (307) 344-2751 or
  • follow @GeyserNPS on Twitter.

Great Fountain Geyser and Fountain Geyser are both in Lower Geyser Basin, but only the former is predicted, with an average interval of 10 hours 45 minutes (+/- 2 hours).

Find out more about geysers elsewhere on this website, including “Yellowstone Geyser Eruptions: How Do They Work?

—Beth, Publisher and Editor

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Holiday sale ends Friday

holiday candle Time is running out to get Yellowstone Treasures at a 20% discount off the list price. That means you pay just $19.96 for an award-winning, 400-page guidebook packed with maps, historical information, a field guide to the animals and plants, and more! And we updated many things even in the 2015 second printing. This price beats Amazon.com. To get the discount, just enter “HolidaySale” in the Voucher box in the shopping cart when you tap or click this button:

Buy now!

But hurry, the sale ends this Friday, January 8, 2016, at midnight.

Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Update on Through Early Yellowstone

Through Early Yellowstone cover

Janet Chapple’s early Yellowstone anthology, forthcoming June 2016

Janet’s next book will be published in time to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. She has carefully selected and annotated travel stories from the first five decades of the park. The crown jewel of the book is the set of 1884 watercolors by Thomas H. Thomas, shown here for the first time outside Wales. We feature his image of Grand Prismatic Spring on the cover. Click on this picture for a larger image, and you can see two men and their horses standing close to the hot spring before any boardwalk was built.

There have been many steps along the way, beginning with Janet’s several years of research at historical societies, public and university libraries, and the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center Library. In 2014 Granite Peak Publications acquired the book and decided to issue it as a trade paperback. We sought feedback from friends and publishing experts, including sending out a survey that helped us switch from the tentative Magnificent Playground to the current title. The stories are told by active explorers and adventurers, so we wanted to express that in the subtitle, “Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis.” Our designer, Vicky Shea of Ponderosa Pine Design, is working on the second stage of page creation, altering image sizes and putting in the corrections that our proofreader found.

Already Amazon.com is offering pre-orders of the book. To find out more and browse the table of contents, go to the book’s web page, ThroughEarlyYellowstone.com.

Do you have questions for us about this new book? Be sure to comment below or use our contact form.

Warm wishes for the winter season,
Editor Beth Chapple

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Winter season opens in Yellowstone

[December 16: The snow cover at Old Faithful looks even better on the webcam than it did yesterday, as you can see in this late afternoon screen shot. I need to make a slight correction to yesterday’s post—]

OFG_Webcam_12_16_15

Starting today, December 15, 2015, three of Yellowstone’s entrances are open to over-snow vehicles, park officials announced. A fresh snowfall assured that the planned opening day can take effect, and snowcoaches and snowmobiles can enter through the West, South, and North Entrances. However, over-snow vehicles really take over at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is five miles from the North Entrance. Starting next Tuesday, December 22, the East Entrance will be open.

The road from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance is open year-round to wheeled vehicles, meaning the roads are plowed. Still, you might be wise to use all-season tires or carry chains.

If you’d like to read about my winter experiences in the park as well as about the wolf-watching trip taken by my friend Rita Reining last year and excerpts from a historical account of skiing through the park long ago, select “Winter” from this website’s “Categories” box.

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Let’s watch geyser videos!

While we wait for Yellowstone’s winter season to open (that happens on December 15th), let’s enjoy learning what happens inside a geyser. I thank Jeff Cross for getting me started on this, with his link to a geyser eruption in New Zealand.

This led me to a 2009 video that I had somehow missed. Brian Davis explains geyser action in a remarkable animation, for which he hand drew each frame of the animations (sort of like for early Disney movies?).

Go Giant! Go Giantess! Go Fan and Mortar! Go Steamboat! These are all wonderful but erratic and uncooperative geysers in Yellowstone—I’ve never ever seen Steamboat.

Giantess Geyser

Giantess Geyser

Our mapmaker Linton captured this eruption on September 5, 2001. It now appears on page 98 in Yellowstone Treasures. I flew home from the park that year on September 10th. You know what happened on September 11th.

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Giving thanks nine ways

male grouse display Yellowstone

Male dusky grouse displaying in Yellowstone National Park
(Click for larger image)

While Yellowstone has no wild turkey, there are several kinds of grouse and other similar birds in the back country. You might like this photo on Flickr by nature photographer Diana, of a female spruce grouse she saw at Dunraven Pass in the park.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and taking a cue from Janet’s Acknowledgments and Best Sights of Yellowstone pages in Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition, here are some of the people and places we are thankful for:

  1. Artist Point, an incomparable view of the Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
  2. our geology advisers, Bruno Giletti and Jo-Ann Sherwin, along with our other team members
  3. the Geyser Observation and Study Association and other supporting organizations
  4. Great Fountain Geyser, whose tall and exciting eruptions are safe to witness at close range
  5. Inspiration Point, with its outstanding view of Canyon colors
  6. Old Faithful Inn, the immense hundred-year-old log building that rivals its namesake geyser in beauty and interest
  7. the park rangers who protect Yellowstone and educate visitors
  8. the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
  9. you, our readers, who have kept us going since 2002!

Photo credits: The dusky grouse is an NPS photo in the public domain.

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Record Yellowstone visitation achieved

In case you haven’t heard, a record number of people visited Yellowstone this October—in fact, 29% more than the previous October record. Also, total visitation so far this year has already topped all records, exceeding the four million mark.

This may be due to unseasonably warm weather, lower gas prices, or simply a relatively upbeat economy. Whatever the reason, Granite Peak Publications likes to think we might have played a small part in informing lots of potential visitors of the unique wonders in store for them when they visit!

granite-peak-publications-logo-labeled

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What is meant by “Greater Yellowstone”?

Back in 1872, when Congress was wise enough to set aside a large area of “useless” land and name it the Yellowstone National Park, the main purpose was to reserve the remarkable geothermal features and their surroundings “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” This phrase was later inscribed on the park’s North Entrance Arch. Park boundaries were set to correspond to obvious natural features and partially along lines of longitude and latitude.

Protecting wild animals was not a big concern in 1872, since there seemed to be a great many of them. But it soon became apparent that they needed protection from overzealous hunters. Concern for the buffalo (now usually called bison) was great. They were rapidly being wiped out, largely because of government policy that rewarded buffalo hunters richly. Native American Plains Indians depended upon the buffalo for their very livelihood, but U.S. officials wanted the tribes to settle on reservations and make life safer for Eastern homesteaders.

Bison herd in winter, by Bruno Giletti, "Yellowstone Treasures," page 343

Bison herd in winter, by Bruno Giletti, “Yellowstone Treasures,” page 343

Even before bison were nearly driven to extinction, people who cared about preserving wildlife and the western lands from rampant development moved to set aside more land for special protection. In 1891 the Department of the Interior created the Yellowstone Park Forest Reservation (now part of Shoshone National Forest), paving the way for today’s 155 national forests.

Now we skip ahead one century plus a year after Yellowstone Park was designated. In 1973 concerned thinkers and planners convinced Congress to pass the Endangered Species Act. By then, bison were thriving but the grizzly bears were not;

Grizzly bear, Courtesy of NPS, "Yellowstone Treasures," page 344

Grizzly bear, Courtesy of NPS, “Yellowstone Treasures,” page 344

local agencies also found by the 1970s that cutthroat trout, pronghorn (also called antelope), whitebark pine, and quaking aspen trees were of special concern. An area of about four million acres with Yellowstone at its center was christened the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 1986 the federal government recognized Greater Yellowstone, when a joint congressional committee report outlined shortcomings in interagency coordination and concluded that the area’s essential values were at risk.

Exact boundaries of the GYE are hard to define, and they  keep changing over the years.

Exact boundaries of the GYE are hard to define, and they keep changing over the years. Map from Greater Yellowstone Coalition website.


The National Park System now describes the GYE thus:
• 12–22 million acres; 18,750–34,375 square miles (Sizes, boundaries, and descriptions of any ecosystem can vary.)
• States: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
• Encompasses state lands, two national parks, portions of five national forests, three national wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management holdings, private and tribal lands
• Managed by state governments, federal government, tribal governments, and private individuals.

In addition to government agencies like the Interior Department’s National Park Service and the Forest Service (part of the Department of Agriculture), a number of nonprofit agencies work to help preserve Greater Yellowstone; National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition are three of them. Two prime concerns of all these entities are climate change and providing corridors for wildlife migrations.

Another spectacular mountain area farther north is the Crown of the Continent, an initiative spearheaded by University of Montana geography professor Rick Graetz with the assistance of his wife Susie Graetz and others. Covering the area centered upon Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, it extends some 250 miles from Alberta, Canada south along the Continental Divide into central Wyoming.

A stated goal of this coalition is to maintain “wildlife corridors [that] may mean the difference between a robust grizzly population and one needing continued human protections, particularly in an age when movement will be essential for both grizzlies and other species that might need to head north to weather the impending climate storm.”

Educators and governmental agencies in this entire area are stressing the interconnectedness of the ecology of this beautiful mountainous area all the way from Alberta, Canada to west-central Wyoming. I was interested to find that western North America is not the only part of the world pondering this question. An Australian website states: “Wildlife corridors can range in size – from small corridors created by local communities to large corridors that stretch across many different landscapes.

“For example, a small corridor might be an area along a creek that has been revegetated by a local community group to link two patches of forest. Native animals could then move more freely between these forests to find food, shelter and opportunities to breed.

“Large-scale corridors might span tens or hundreds of kilometres across multiple landscape types and jurisdictions. Typically a large-scale corridor would require collaboration between a wide range of groups working in partnership to manage them.”

A puzzle I have not been able to solve in my research into the two U.S. entities is whether they would wish to connect the Crown of the Continent with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, since there’s a large part of Montana between them where many people live. Grizzlies and wolves are not compatible with what we consider civilization. Perhaps just making more people aware of the beauties of the two areas, the threats to the species we share them with, and how we can help preserve them is enough for now.

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