YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Record Yellowstone visitation achieved

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!


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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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Nature cooperates with Yellowstone!

Just this morning I’ve found for the first time this fall that the National Park Service webcam at Old Faithful is showing snow covering the Old Faithful / Upper Geyser Basin area. It is interesting to notice where the black sinter-covered ground still shows—these are areas where the subsurface is warm enough to melt snow no matter what the air temperature may be.

This is nicely coordinated with the closing of all Yellowstone roads to wheeled traffic, except for the all-season road between Gardiner and the Northeast Entrance near Silver Gate and Cooke City.

There are seven webcams of different parts of the park accessible at the NPS webcams page.

If your winter Yellowstone visit reservations are not yet made, call concessioner Xanterra at: 307-344-7311 NOW!

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Gateway business for the park

Following up on the theme of organizations that support Yellowstone National Park, started by Janet in her October 22, 2015, post. . . .

member logo

Member, Gateway Businesses for the Park

This year, Granite Peak Publications joined the Gateway Businesses for the Park, a program of the Yellowstone Park Foundation. What does this really mean?

The program was designed so the retailers in the gateway towns could post a sticker on their windows, showing their support for the projects that YPF organizes. While Granite Peak Publications does not have a brick-and-mortar presence, we still consider our books to offer everybody a gateway to the park, and we heartily support YPF’s conservation, youth, maintenance, visitor experience, and other projects. I’d like to share a short video showing some of the cultural treasures YPF works to preserve:

Here’s a tip that will help you find nearby trails, natural wonders, and picnic areas on your next visit to the park—the Yellowstone Outdoors app. Go to this article for screenshots and features, or just download it for free on your app store. This is yet another program of the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

You can learn more about the gateway towns, such as West Yellowstone and Cody, from the chambers of commerce websites we list on our Yellowstone Links page.

—Editor and publisher, Beth Chapple

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Good news! Merger to benefit Yellowstone Park

Two major non-profit organizations that give support to Yellowstone are merging. Governing boards for the Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Park Foundation have recently voted to become one entity, merging philanthropic and educational programs into one umbrella organization.
YA_Screen Shot
YPF_Screen Shot

The merger will be complete by spring 2016 and fully in effect by February 2017, with a new name and website, creating a single non-profit with 50,000 supporters.

Back in 1933 supporters formed the Yellowstone Library and Museum Association to preserve the park’s history and provide educational services. Later simplifying their name to Yellowstone Association, the organization began in 1976 to offer instructional courses that “highlight the park’s amazing wildlife, geothermal areas, rich history and awe-inspiring wilderness.” It also provides funding to the research library and Yellowstone Science magazine. As a member of YA I have personally profited from over twenty of the extremely well-taught courses offered by the Yellowstone Institute, and I’ve found the library (open to all) indispensable for my research.

Some of the contributions of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, formed in 1996 to raise needed funds for the park include:
1996: Began ongoing funding for the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps.
2001: Acquired the remarkable Davis Collection of thousands of pieces of Yellowstone memorabilia and historic items.
2008: Funded the restoration of Artist Point overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
2010: Contributed to the new Old Faithful Visitor Education.
2013: Completed moving and restoring the historic Haynes Photo Shop near Old Faithful Geyser.

The press release for the merger states: “Our new organization will continue the tradition and contribution made by both YA and YPF by connecting people to Yellowstone through outstanding visitor experiences and educational programs, and translating those experiences into lifelong support and philanthropic investment that preserve and enhance the park for future generations. One organization with one mission will also help the public easily understand how to support Yellowstone.”

Granite Peak Publications is proud to be associated with these organizations and with Gateway Businesses for the Park, a project of YPF.Gateway-Businesses-for-the-Park

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Planning for a Winter Trip to Yellowstone?

With things beginning to shut down and weather growing more wintry in the park, maybe it’s time to think about a trip there. It can be glorious to see everything covered in ice and snow, icicles glittering from the tree branches, frozen waterfalls, and everything cushioned with quiet.

In my post last October 24th, I quoted a snippet of winter description to whet your appetite for such a Yellowstone winter trip. From the same author, I’ve chosen some longer excerpts, the most eloquent descriptions of the Yellowstone winter scene I’ve ever read. T. Elwood (“Billy”) Hofer was guide to tourists, scientists, and hunters and an all-round capable outdoorsman. He was one of the first people to traverse the world’s first national park on cross-country skis (which he called snowshoes). He was there in the fierce winter of 1887.

Next year you’ll be able to read the whole amazing story in my historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis, to be available by early summer to coincide with the National Park Service centennial. With twenty-first century climate warming, you may not see quite what he saw—but maybe you will.

From Hofer’s “Winter in Wonderland”

On February 16 I visited Norris Geyser Basin. A heavy fog hung over the country, with a light snow. As I approached the Basin, I was startled by the resemblances to men and animals the ice-laden trees showed, as, standing sentinel duty on each side of the road, they appeared to be watching our approach. Everything was loaded down with the steam frozen as it had drifted from the geysers. There were fantastic forms of men and women looking into the pools. Up the road were seen hogs, rabbits, mules, elephants, leopards, tigers, cats and dogs; animals of all kinds and shapes, creatures that outside of the Park nothing but a disordered mind could conjure up. All were in white, but often with dark eyes, ears and mouth, or limbs or faces, where the deep green of the pines showed through the white ice. Now and then a bough free from frost projected through the ice to form the plume of a soldier or the ears of a mule or rabbit. Again there appeared the form of a woman holding a child, bending over it as if to protect it from the wintry blasts. . . .

Wandering around among the pools in the mystery of the fog, alone in the world—like one at sea on a raft without a sail in sight—I could not see the ghostly goblin band over the hill I had left behind, but I could feel their presence; and now and again I would suddenly come in sight of more of them as I approached the timber either on my right or left. I found ice and snow everywhere in the valley. I could travel on my snowshoes on snow and ice 8 ft. deep, by the side of streams of hot water, while snow was falling on me, and white rabbits were mysteriously disappearing from sight among the snow-laden trees on my left. Flies were seen on the surface of the stream, and where the water was collected in shallow pools a water insect like a worm could be seen on the bottom moving sluggishly about. Most of the colors of the rainbow lined the bottom of the stream, though the shades were pale. I followed down the stream of the waters running from Constant, Black Growler, Ink Geyser, and the pools in the northern part of the Basin, until it was joined by the waters from the Monarch, New Crater, Vixen, Spiteful, Coral and the other beautiful pools, springs and geysers in the main basin. . . .

As I approached Coral Spring I was almost tempted to shoot at a large polar bear; he was ten feet up a dead tree near the spring; he had climbed up the tree and was looking back at the hot water as if afraid of it; I could have believed him to be alive as I first saw him through the fog and falling snow. He was only ice, however, and had grown right there where he was, as the frozen steam had added to his bulk. He was at least ten feet long; and as he grasped the tree with all his legs, one foreleg thrown over a dead limb, he was a perfect picture of a great white bear. If carved from a block of ice by an artist he could not have looked more natural. . . .

Further east I came to another steam escape, somewhat sheltered from the wind. Near this was an ice-covered tree, which had taken the form of a woman, her garments covered with the most delicate frost work lace, fringes and tassels, more delicate than the finest silk, and that a breath of wind would disturb and break; a gossamer-like bridal veil of frost hung over all, looped and gathered into folds. It was the most delicate frost work I have yet seen. With one beam of sunlight all would have disappeared. The whole fabric was so fine that parts were continually breaking off and falling on the snow below, making a train for the dress. . . .

I had now been in the Basin several hours, had seen boiling water and solid ice within less than a foot of each other, and little mounds of green and blue tinted ice, where the spray from the small geyser jets fell; and I had stepped across running streams of hot water, with my snowshoes elevated above the stream by two or three feet of snow and ice. In summer no such extremes meet; nothing so beautiful and delicate as the frostwork is then to be seen. Before I left the Basin the fog lifted; the wind began to blow, swaying the trees about, rattling their icy garments; the ghosts and goblins were going through a weird dance, bowing and swaying to each other, accompanied by the mournful music of the wind as it sighed and moaned through the pines. . . .

The clouds lifting showed Mt. Holmes in the northwest. This beautiful peak with its snow-capped summit rose from the dark masses of green timber. In places the trees were so laden with snow as to give the whole forest a white appearance; the last snow had covered every limb and bough, and one could call it a forest of silver trees. In a few places the wind had blown the snow off, revealing a dark green and giving to the landscape the appearance of shadows of passing clouds.

Call the concessionaire Xanterra at 307-344-7311 for room and snowcoach reservations—or contact one of the private concessionaires, if you’d rather drive a snowmobile. And keep your fingers crossed for snow!

See my report on a winter trip to the park.

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Observing the American dipper

(Part II of Billy Hofer’s article, continued from yesterday)

[The American dipper’s] plumage is dense and compact, and is moreover well protected by a coat of oil, which he often renews from the large oil sack with which he is provided. So the dipper never gets wet, and we may conclude never takes cold, although he passes the winter about the open places of mountain torrents as far north as Alaska. His food, which he secures from the bottom of the stream, consists mainly of aquatic insects, and although his first cousin who inhabits Northern Europe has been accused of feeding on the spawn of trout and salmon, there is not a particle of evidence to sustain the grave charge.

The dipper dives into the water and gets to the bottom as soon as possible, and by means of rapid wing beats and holding on to the stones and gravel with his feet resists the constant tendency to shoot up through the water to the air above. He vigorously turns over the stones and sticks, and secures the water insects and aquatic larvae which are found in such situations, and then when he requires breath comes to the surface again. He presents a queer appearance when at the bottom, where he seems to be tumbling about in the most curious and erratic way, now for a moment stationary, and again being swept away by the force of the stream. No doubt he makes a good living, for he always seems busy, contented and cheerful.

The dipper seems to be satisfied with his own company for the greater part of the year, but during the breeding season he perforce seeks a mate, and these two build their nest close to the water’s edge, under a bank or the roots of a tree, and often amid the spray of some brawling cascade. The structure is as curious in its way as its architects. It is lined with twigs or fine, dry grass, and completely covered on the outside by an arched roof of fine green moss, which is kept fresh and living by the moisture of its surroundings, or sometimes perhaps by the birds themselves, who, it is said, after emerging from the water, fly to the roof of the nest and, alighting there, vigorously shake the drops from their feathers over the mossy covering.

– – – – –
I am quoting this from Hofer’s “Through Two-Ocean Pass,” Part XII, April 9, pages 202–3, Forest and Stream magazine, in fifteen parts, January 29 through April 30, 1885.

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A delightful bird found in Yellowstone, the American dipper

(Part I)
There’s a rather small and plain bird that I’ve loved to watch whenever I’m lucky enough to be in the Western mountains. Formerly called the water ouzel, the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) shows up on pages 337–38 of Yellowstone Treasures in a quote from Owen Wister. But there’s a longer story I came across in an old Forest and Stream magazine.
320px-American_DipperPhoto from Wikipedia Commons

The winter adventurer, Billy Hofer—whose story of an incredible 1887 ski trip through Yellowstone will appear in my forthcoming anthology, Through Early Yellowstone—must have done some research on dippers, although he does not tell us that. His delightful story about them, written two years before his winter trip, is one that all bird watchers can appreciate. Here’s what he wrote 130 years ago.

[American dippers are] curious little drab-colored birds, progressing with an odd bobbing motion along the water’s edge, or taking short flights from one almost submerged rock to the next.

[The bird ranges from] Alaska to Mexico, and it only insists on clear streams among the mountains. On such brooks and rivers as fulfill these conditions the dipper is found in abundance—though it is not a particularly sociable bird, and seems rather to prefer to be alone—and its cheerful song and remarkable habits render it a pleasing feature alike of the dark cañons and of the open sunlit glens.

One feels a ludicrous sensation of astonishment when first observing this species. It is not very surprising to see a bird sitting upon the water or flying above it, dive beneath its surface, but it is really startling to see one calmly walk down a shelving rock or a smooth beach into the water, and keep on without any apparent attempt at swimming or diving, until it has disappeared. It wholly upsets one’s ideas of specific gravity, for we are accustomed to think that birds and mammals will naturally float, and that to dive or disappear beneath the water requires some apparent effort. It is not so with the dipper, however. He marches deliberately into the turbulent water, which engulfs him and usually sweeps him several feet down the stream before he bobs up serenely to the surface, and either takes wing or sculls himself ashore. It must not be supposed that he always enters the water in this way. Quite as often he dives from the wing or from the surface of the stream, but perhaps the method which he likes best is to plunge from the top of a high rock or a log a foot or two above the current, and then, after his battle with the torrent, return to the same perch, from which at intervals he trills his simple though very sweet song.

His method of progression under water is like that of most, if not all, diving birds, by means of the wings. His feet are not better adapted fro swimming than those of a robin, and although he gets along capitally when sculling about the edges of the mountain holes, they would be of little service to him under water except sometimes as anchors. He flies under the water therefore with nearly open wings, and gets about very actively.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

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Super-creative battery use at Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Over the past couple of decades I’ve spent some delightful weeks at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch participating in over twenty Yellowstone Institute classes. Now I’ve learned—from The Guardian’s Sustainable Business section—that solar power collected at the field campus is being stored in used hybrid batteries recovered from Toyota dealers.

Kevin Butt, chief environmental officer for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, had a vision for how old Prius batteries could be repurposed rather than recycled. In a pilot program at the Buffalo Ranch, the previously installed solar panels are now connected to a raft of batteries to supply all the power needed at the ranch.

I’m excited about this program and just wanted to share it with my blog readers!

This is the picture Toyota supplied of the project.

Go here to read the entire article.

Editor’s Note: To find out even more about the project and the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s projects to install an emission-free micro-hydro turbine and replace aging solar panels, see: “Off the Grid in the Lamar Valley.”

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Granite Peak Publications attends a trade show

On the morning of October 3, 2015, I set up and opened the Book Publishers Northwest table at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show at the Holiday Inn Portland Airport. This show, closed to the public, is a chance for publishers and others to hawk their wares to the bookstores and libraries of this region, explaining why readers would like their books. One day earlier I got to hear a dozen authors describe and read from their new books. Great to see all those book lovers in one place!

The fourth edition of Yellowstone Treasures and the advance flyer for Through Early Yellowstone were prominently displayed at the BPNW table, along with about a dozen other books by independent publishers. I enjoyed discussing our books with the booksellers, librarians and fellow publishers who came to the show.

—Beth, editor and publisher

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