YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

Entering Yellowstone from the North Entrance may be a little tough going and not aesthetically pleasing for most of this year, since there’s a humongous construction project going on to completely revamp the entrance area at the little town of Gardiner. But five miles and a thousand feet up the road is Mammoth Hot Springs, and, in addition to seeing the springs along the Upper Terrace Road, I recommend spending an hour or so at the redone Albright Visitor Center. It has excellent hands-on dioramas of all of the park’s bigger mammals and kiosks for park orientation on the first floor. In the basement level, completely accessible with a new elevator, are great historical displays and the restrooms. For more about this see the Yellowstone Insider’s recent article.

One of Upper Geyser Basin’s most popular sites is the wonderfully regular Riverside Geyser. It almost always erupts every six to six-and-one-half hours. Here is the eruption I caught on my all-too-short visit to the park in mid June.


You can hear (1) a geyser gazer transmit by FRS radio the time of eruption to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, (2) the excited crowd,(3) the swishing of the main eruption, and (4) the rumbling of the side spouter that always accompanies Riverside’s eruptions. It always erupts quite a bit longer than this little video, which was edited for Granite Peak Publications by Jens Paape.

You can reach Artemisia Geyser’s beautiful pool and formation in one of two ways.Artemisia Geyser One is by walking beyond Riverside Geyser about half a mile up what used to be the main road and is now a rather rough trail past Morning Glory Pool (page 95 in Yellowstone Treasures) or by parking at Biscuit Basin and crossing the road to reach the other end of the trail from Morning Glory Pool. Up the hill in the distance in my picture is Hillside Springs, which old-time stagecoach drivers called Tomato Soup Springs.

I did not see any grizzly bears on this trip, but there are now enough of them in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so that visitors are seeing them quite frequently. The national media covered the recent very unusual event where a grizzly climbed on the hood and sides of an occupied car, leaving some scratches but giving the occupants of the car the thrill of their lifetime and their own video.

One thrill of this visit for me was being assigned for three nights to what has to be the best room in the Old House of Old Faithful Inn (Room 229). It was inside the farthest east of the five dormer windows that span the third floor front of the inn. Two mornings I awoke to a swishing sound, opened the side window, and there was Old Faithful Geyser erupting for my private enjoyment!

For fishermen and others interested in what is happening with the fish in Yellowstone Lake these days, take a look at the Great Falls Tribune’s story about the good news regarding the struggle against illegally introduced lake trout.

Share Button

Summer sale on Visiting Geyserland ebook!

Yellowstone Treasures geyser walks ebook We recently improved Visiting Geyserland, adding more direct links to the geyser routes and maps. Visiting Geyserland is our guide to the geysers and hot springs in the ten Yellowstone geyser basins and other hydrothermal areas convenient to the roads. It’s handy to have the geyser walks at your fingertips on your phone or tablet when you are in Yellowstone. You can zoom in close to the maps and use the hyperlinks to jump to the correct section of the trails as you choose to follow them.

All summer we are offering this short ebook at $4.99, discounted from the list price of $8.49. The Buy now button on the Visiting Geyserland page takes you to our distributor IPG, where you can choose the format that works for you: ePub, Kindle, or PDF. Might be a good way to introduce a friend to Yellowstone Treasures!

—Editor Beth

Share Button

Heads-up on summer road construction

For anyone who’s planning a trip to Yellowstone in the next couple of months, the good news is that the Isa Lake bridge between Old Faithful Village and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake is opening this Thursday, June 11, after total reconstruction. Landscaping projects will be ongoing until about September 10 causing some delays, but at least you will no longer have to take a big detour to go between those two popular points.

All summer, however, there will be delays up to 30 minutes between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Campground. I’m going to try to avoid that stretch except for once during my time in the park (June 11 to 16).

The total revamp of the Gardiner area around the North Entrance Arch will also be going on for the indefinite future—that is, they are hoping to complete the first phase of it in time for the celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016. Here’s where to find more information about this project.

Current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

Share Button

Enjoying Geyser Eruptions, 1939 to Today

The countdown to my getting back to Yellowstone is down to seven days now, and the excitement grows! Anticipating seeing my favorite geysers and places and visiting with friends while I do it, I can hardly wait. So there’s lots to be done before I leave, and maybe you’ll forgive me if I go back eight years to a blog post I wrote when I was still blogging on Amazon.

In those blog posts I was reminiscing about my unforgettable four childhood summers (beginning in 1939) at Old Faithful, where my father was working in the Inn as Transportation Agent, and my mother took my sister and me to wonderful places, always driving, since she didn’t like to walk. So, from 2007, here goes. . . .

Two geysers we saw quite often when I got to live at Old Faithful were Great Fountain and Lone Star, both accessible by road in those days. We would take a lunch and a book or our game of Parcheesi and drive out north or south to wait for these geysers to erupt. It seems to me we would often have them to ourselves. LoneStarG_B.LasseterTo the left is Lone Star Geyser by Barbara Lasseter, from Yellowstone Treasures, page 106.

The most thrilling geyser viewing experience I can remember was being roused in the night to drive over to see Giant erupt. Daddy took me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. Somehow, the group excitement made more of an impression than the actual eruption! According to George Marler’s Inventory of Thermal Features, the first half of the 1940s was a relatively quiet time for Giant, so I was privileged to be there at an eruption. And the next time I got to see one was on July 3rd, 2006—again with a lot of excited viewers. Recently Giant has been erupting quite reliably every few days and thrilling hundreds of us. [Oops! Not these years. Giant hasn’t erupted since 2008.] You can sometimes even see the huge steam cloud from its eruptions on the Old Faithful Webcam.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned there are actually hundreds of active geysers in Yellowstone, maybe 500 of them, but changing all the time. Each one has its own shape, size, and personality. There are many “geyser gazers” who go to the park only to watch and study the geysers.

Share Button

Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

Share Button

Wonderfully clear and sensible statement about the Yellowstone volcano

Thanks to the USGS and probably attributable to Jacob Lowenstern, this month we have a new statement from some of the world’s best authorities on the so-called Yellowstone supervolcano. They call it Five Things Most People Get Wrong About the Yellowstone Volcano, going at the problem of media sensationalism from the back side.

Lowenstern is Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and studies magma and volcanic phenomena in Yellowstone and all over the world for the United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA.

The misconceptions this article lists are:

  • When Yellowstone erupts it will be Armageddon
  • The Yellowstone magma chamber is growing
  • Yellowstone is overdue for a supereruption
  • Yellowstone is rapidly rising
  • Earthquake data indicates moving magma.

All this is well worth absorbing and passing on to any worrywarts you know! And if you want to read more of the “true facts” (what are false facts?) about supervolcanoes, the Volcano Observatory has recently updated another great page by the world’s best authorities on the subject.

Share Button

Historic Yellowstone buses you can ride

1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

A 1937 White Model 706 bus on display at Historic Flight Foundation

For me, guidebook editor Beth Chapple, last month was the month of the Yellowstone bus. Not only did I discover that one of my nearby aviation museums has a beautifully restored bus, but Wyoming Office of Tourism sent one over on a week tour of Seattle, to convince people to visit their state!

Historic Flight Foundation keeps famous, well-restored airplanes from 1927 to 1957 in a large hangar at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. But among the planes, including a Grumman F8F Bearcat and a Beechcraft Staggerwing, is a little known secret: they own one of the tour buses built in the 1930s to convey tourists around Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. The museum’s website doesn’t even mention it, but it’s a beauty they’ve had since 2012. The bus was created by the White Motor Company of Cleveland in 1935. Yellowstone Park ordered 27 of the White Model 706s for the 1936 season and there were 98 in use in 1940. In the mid 1960s the remaining buses were sold.

The buses were brought back to Yellowstone in 2007, and now anyone can take a half- or full-day tour of the park in one. It’s a great way to learn from your tour guide and see wildlife.

back of Yellowstone bus

HFF’s 1937 bus has THREE license plates on the back, including Montana’s (not shown).

When the bus visited Seattle, it posed at the city’s most photogenic places, including the Fremont Troll and the Space Needle. Driving the Wyoming Tourism bus was guide Leslie Quinn, according to Beth Shepherd’s post, called “Yellowstone National Park: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” We at Granite Peak Publications know Quinn as the Xanterra interpretive specialist who wrote the latest wonderful review on our Reviews page, which we also feature on the back of the guidebook. There’s something very cheerful about glimpsing one of the historic yellow buses with the retractable canvas top.

Share Button

Yellowstone Wallet Alert!

Like most everything worthwhile in our world, visiting Yellowstone—and the Tetons—will take more out of your wallet this summer. Entrance fees have remained the same for the past nine years. Fees are charged per vehicle.

About vehicle passes

Beginning June 1, 2015, visiting Yellowstone for one to seven days goes from $25 to $30 per passenger vehicle. Grand Teton National Park will have a separate pass for $30. This is a major change, since previously one fee provided visitors with a seven-day entrance permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But people visiting both parks will now be able to save $10 by purchasing a $50 two-park vehicle pass, also valid for one to seven days.

Motorcycles can enter Yellowstone for $25 for one to seven days or both parks for $40, and
individuals (by bicycle or on foot, for example) will pay $15 for Yellowstone or $20 for both parks.

An annual pass for Yellowstone will be $60. This pass offers visitors in the local area an option that is less expensive than the $80 Interagency Pass. Interagency Pass rates remain the same: Annual ($80) and Senior ($10). Military passes and Access passes (for people with permanent disabilities) will remain free.

Free park admission

There’s still one way for people living near Yellowstone to save money. Fee-free days in the second half of 2015 will be:
August 25: National Park Service’s 99th birthday
September 26: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day

About backcountry passes

Backcountry pass fees are going up this year from Memorial Day to Sept. 10. These fees apply per night for all individuals 9 years of age or older. Backpackers and boaters will pay $3 per person, per night, up to a total of $15 per night for groups of 5 or more. Stock users will be charged $5 per person, per night.

You can purchase an annual backcountry pass for $25, and the fee for advance reservations remains $25.

Share Button

For wolf devotees and other wildlife lovers

For a small investment, you can watch from afar the comings and goings of Yellowstone Park’s wildlife. This is a worthwhile website with reports by real naturalists and experienced wolf-watchers.

Besides the almost daily reports, you can also find pictures of the animals and birds the naturalists are seeing. Spring is a great season to be watching all this! And it’s a time when—for personal reasons—very few of us are likely to be there. In fact, these weeks are also not the best time to visit most of the park, because not all roads and facilities are open yet, and because the weather is usually quite iffy until mid June or so.

Share Button

A week with wolves

Guest Post by Rita Reining, a nature lover and outdoor enthusiast. She can often be found hiking the hills around her home in Oakland, CA and serves as a docent in the Natural Sciences Gallery of the Oakland Museum of California.

When my friend Ellen and I decided to sign up for Wolf Week—a five-day course presented by the Yellowstone Association at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch the last week in March—I had no idea of the adventure that was in store.

After dinner on our first evening the instructors gave out a picture and a short bio of a wolf living on the North Range of the park to each pair of participants. Each couple presented their wolf information to the group. We learned about the 11 different packs in the park, but we concentrated on the eight packs that currently call the North Range home. The specific wolves we learned about all have radio collars. The wolves generally don’t have names but are known by their number. Also, we learned a little of the genealogy of the wolves, many of whom are descendants of the Druid pack which were the original wolves introduced to Yellowstone in 1995. We felt a bit better acquainted with specific wolves and the packs that we might encounter.

The next morning (and for the following two mornings) we were up at 5 AM in order to be on the bus to start looking for the wolves before sun-up. We drove to the Little America area where we came upon a group of people with spotting scopes focused on the Junction Butte (JB) pack about one-half mile away up the hillside enjoying the remains of an elk brought down a couple of days earlier. We quickly set up our scopes to observe our first wild wolves of this trip. It was so exciting!

As we watched them, I was surprised that their behavior was quite sociable. When we arrived, the big gray alpha male, 911M, was eating. A bit later the alpha female, 970F, and then two other females settled in to feed. No snarling or fighting such as I had expected. When it seemed that all had had their fill, the pack began to howl. First one, then another, then everyone. Each wolf has its own tone and voice. It was an exhilarating chorus. From across the way, more howling was heard. This was by the Prospect Peak pack (PP). The JBs evidently did not want to interact with the PPs and they ran up the hill and disappeared over the ridge.
Wolf March 2015 by Rita Reining
There are several groups of dedicated wolf watchers. First there are those who are associated with The Wolf Project, consisting of teams who follow all the packs in the park. Then there are the rangers, photographers, bloggers, and local residents who are out every day recording and reporting what they see. All seem to be connected by radio, and we relied on this communication every day in order to follow the wolves.

Thus, we learned that there was wolf activity in the Lamar Valley. This time we watched a gray pup of the Lamar Canyon (LC) pack busy at an old bison carcass. Soon the black alpha female, 926F, walked by, stopped for a moment by the carcass and continued on her way, followed by another black pup.

We followed 926F and her six pups’ activities during our wolf week. The picture above was taken by Jane Morse, a fellow participant, and this wolf looks very much like 926F. The stories about 926F made our observations all the more interesting.

About ten days before we arrived in Yellowstone, the LC alpha male was killed by the PPs. (The highest cause of wolf deaths is by other wolves.) The larger PP pack encountered the smaller LC pack. The reason for the PP aggression is unknown, but as they were advancing on the LCs, all the LCs ran away except the alpha male. He stood his ground as the PPs edged closer, and then he turned and ran away in the opposite direction from the rest of his pack. Unfortunately the PPs caught and attacked him, leaving him for dead. 926F came back and lay by him as he died.

Now 926F had become the leader of the LC pack, consisting only of a pregnant 926F and her six yearling pups. She was solely responsible for getting food for herself and her pups. Wolves only begin to learn to hunt after their first year. 926F will need a new mate. All the wolf watchers were concerned for the future of the LC pack. 926F would be denning soon to have her new pups. Mother wolves do not leave the den until the pups can be left without her for a short time. Usually the alpha male stays near her, and he and other members of the pack bring her food. The LC wolves were in danger of starving, since the yearling pups were useless as hunters.

The next morning we saw a deer carcass in the ditch by the road. It had been hit by a car the night before. Here was a free meal, and 926F walked right by a small herd of bighorn sheep to get to the carcass. But she ran off when the rangers came to move the carcass away from the road for the safety of the wolves as well as to avoid a traffic jam. As soon as the rangers left, a golden eagle, some magpies, and a coyote returned to the carcass. But, 926F wasn’t going to let the lesser beings take food away from her and her pups, so about noon she came and dragged the carcass into the woods.

On the final morning in the field we went back to where we had last seen 926F. We had only just left the bus when we heard her howling. Shortly, her pups joined in. The howling had the bighorn sheep across the road on high alert, but we couldn’t spot any of the wolves. About a half hour later, we saw them crossing the ridge under a cliff. A lone bull elk was standing at attention on an outcropping as they passed by him within 100 yards. The pack seemed to ignore him. Two elk were on top of the cliff, on alert, scanning in opposite directions. Just then we saw one of the pups approaching the elk. Both elk turned and faced the wolf. The wolf got to about 50 feet from the elk, stopped, backed up a couple of paces and gave the elk a wide berth as he walked around them. Then we saw him walking toward the elk from uphill. He more or less repeated his previous approach from below, then walked away. Maybe he was just practicing for future hunts. This was the closest we came to seeing any real drama on this trip.

The pack was moving west, so we went west to the other side of the ridge. We spotted the pack bedded down at the edge of the woods. After a while they began to move around. I watched as one of the pups laid on his back in the snow rolling back and forth, just like my dog does. Making wolf “angels”?

Then 926F must have given some signal. She started moving west again at a determined pace with the pups following. We watched until they were out of sight.

All too soon our week at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch ended. We left Yellowstone hoping to sign up in the future for another exciting and interesting course with the Yellowstone Association. Also, I was wondering what the future would be for 926F.

Post script for 926F: Shortly after my visit, four adult males from another pack joined the LCs. The wolf watchers were optimistic that 926F would choose her alpha male from one of them and, with the yearling pups, have a sustainable pack. It was not to be. As of a month after I left Yellowstone, I learned that 926F was now alone. Her yearlings were gone and so were all four of the males. The last I heard, 926F had not yet gone to den. She is very lean but has managed so far to survive on her own. Her saga continues.

Share Button