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Brad Bulin wolf pelt 2006 In this Tuesday’s “Science Times” section of the New York Times, freelance science writer Jim Robbins explains the push-pull between the lives of Yellowstone’s wolf packs (and the scientists who study them) and the needs and requirements of hunters and ranchers in the three surrounding states.

Since 2011 Montana and Idaho have been conducting managed wolf hunts, but in Wyoming a U.S. Court of Appeals has only this March approved a wolf-hunting plan that is deemed not to endanger the survival of the species in that state.

All the controversy about wolves stems from the 1995 and ’96 introduction of gray wolves (Canis lupus irremotus) into the park (and also into Idaho) from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Their population soared within a few years to around 150 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and scientists like Dr. Douglas Smith found, as quoted by Robbins, that “Yellowstone is the best place in the world to view wolves”—and to study them. This is especially true because the Yellowstone wolves do not fear the thousands of eager visitors who flock there—and incidentally add money to the regional economy. The wolves are thus quite readily visible.

In the years after the introduction of wolves, neighboring ranchers were understandably distressed. Some of their cattle, sheep, and even dogs were killed; before wolf hunting was authorized some ranchers were reimbursed by nonprofit organizations for their losses. It is hoped that protection within the park, combined with limited hunting outside its borders, will provide the needed balance and keep the population of Yellowstone’s wolves to approximately one hundred, as has happened in the last few years.

Robbins tells us much more about the results of research done by Smith and his colleagues. Longevity and social hierarchy within the packs are now better understood, and observation has revealed that wise older wolves serve an important role. Dr. Smith believes that packs are matrilineal. “Males come and go . . . but Gramma, Mom, and the daughter are the ones that stick around.” Here is a link to the whole article, “The New Threat to Wolves in and around Yellowstone.”

For some earlier blog posts about wolves here at YellowstoneTreasures.com, just enter “wolves” in the search bar.

Photo is of Yellowstone Forever Institute instructor Brad Bulin showing a wolf pelt, winter 2006. Photo by Janet Chapple.

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An author tour for Through Early Yellowstone

Categories: Bio, News, Through Early Yellowstone
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Janet Chapple lecture BBCW

The author/editor at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

This fall Janet has been taking the new historical anthology on the road, explaining her research and discovery of the stories and artwork in Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis. On September 9, 2016, she was invited to present a slideshow at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Her title, “A Love Affair with Yellowstone National Park,” allowed her to tell the story of her early childhood in the park, her repeated visits, and her research and writing about Yellowstone over the years.

Tidbits of her biography are told elsewhere, such as on the About Us page and in an article called “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput (see “Janet Celebrates Her 75th Anniversary in the Park” for some fun stories). But in this lecture she also explained a lot about her research that led to the anthology and the beautiful centerpiece of watercolors.

In her own words:

I spent about a decade reading everything I could get my hands on in libraries on both coasts and at the University of Wyoming library and the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center Library on the northern border of the park. I found that tens of thousands of documents have been preserved. Writers about the Yellowstone area and then the new national park included explorers and adventurers, government expedition members, geologists, artists, park employees, army and administrative personnel, tourists, journalists, and lecturers, all of them thrilled with the wonders they had found.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West poster

The Center of the West lobby with lecture poster

After reading about 250 of these, she, with my help, finally settled on eleven major accounts, many of them illustrated with engravings. These were mostly magazine articles published during 1871-1916, with a few chapters from books. You’ll find the table of contents here, if you are curious and don’t own the book yet.

Back to the story. Here she describes her big find, the watercolors from 1884.

While researching in the Yellowstone Heritage Library, I came across correspondence between Park Historian Lee Whittlesey and a geologist named Alan Channing from Cardiff University, Wales. Channing had done some research in Yellowstone and had become fascinated with the park. Knowing that Thomas H. Thomas, one of my favorite early Yellowstone authors, came from Cardiff, and wondering about the source of the engravings of his Yellowstone scenes, I got in touch with Dr. Channing. He told me that Thomas’s original sketchbook and notebooks were held in the archives of the National Museum of Wales. Then, in 2008 I got to travel to Wales and see the Thomas watercolor sketches in the archives of their museum.

Janet gave substantially the same talk this week at the Bill Lane Center for the West at Stanford University in California. There she regaled the audience with tales while they munched on a lunch that Stanford provided. She has not booked her next event yet, but you are welcome to contact her to suggest one!

–Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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What is meant by “Greater Yellowstone”?

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Park environs, Wildlife
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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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Historic Yellowstone buses you can ride

Categories: History, Transportation
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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.

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Art for February birthdays

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Moran painting of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Snapshot of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming, 1906, painted by Thomas Moran.

I just took this photo in the De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. (Apologies for the fuzzy quality of photos taken with my iPad.)

It’s appropriate to post this, because painter Thomas Moran’s birthday is coming up. He was born in England on February 12, 1837. Many people think that Artist Point on the canyon rim was the place Moran sat to create his famous paintings, but that was at another spot, now called Moran Point. See this page in the Yellowstone Online Tour to straighten out that fact.

And why do I find myself in San Francisco today? I traveled to the Bay Area to celebrate a few family birthdays, guidebook author Janet Chapple’s among them. Happy February Birthdays!

–editor Beth Chapple

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A quick heads-up on Yellowstone’s wolves

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Exactly twenty years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park, Kathie Lynch has given us a wonderful summary of their present very healthy state in the park. This is spite of the unfortunate killing of several collared wolves, at least three of them alphas, in the three hunting seasons since they were removed from the Endangered Species list in Montana, Idaho, and (until September 2014) in Wyoming.

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Pilot Peak, Wyoming

Categories: History, Park environs
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View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

Just outside the Park’s Northeast Entrance are a prominent pair of peaks in the northern Absaroka Range known as Pilot and Index. You can get a great view of them from a short side road off the Beartooth Scenic Byway, which covers the 70 miles (113 km) from Red Lodge, Montana to the entrance. “Pilot, the pointed one, is a glacial horn; four glaciers carved its pyramidal shape” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 195). Read more about the beautiful Beartooth Highway in the guidebook, pages 190-195.

The first ascent of Pilot Peak was on August 12, 1932, by Hollis Mees and Robert McKenzie. They amazingly did the climb without climbing gear. It’s now known as a difficult climb because of the loose rock. You can see footage of Mees and McKenzie’s ascent in this video:

By the way, we have been collecting some interesting Yellowstone videos, mostly of geysers, on our YouTube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF0XW_RT5rtr4vJ3MVoaDoQ/feed

–Beth Chapple, Editor

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Western art in Cody

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Just found out via Twitter that the Whitney Western Art Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyoming, has recently acquired a new painting by John Mix Stanley. What’s special is that more than 200 of that artist’s works were destroyed in a fire in 1865, so not many survive. Another bit of news is that the museum will gather about 60 works by Stanley for an exhibition called Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley, which will open June 6, 2015. If you are interested in American art of the West, make plans to enter or leave Yellowstone Park by the East Entrance this summer!

–posted by Beth Chapple, editor

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Wolves are “just like us”!

Categories: On the Web, Science, Wildlife
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YT174 copy

Yellowstone’s wolves are always in the news. Back in late 2012 the Obama administration lifted federal protection for wolves in Wyoming. In the year following, trophy hunters killed 62 wolves. An unknown number were shot or trapped. Then, on September 13 of this year, federal judge Amy Berman Jackson returned Wyoming wolves to Endangered Species Act protection. Wyoming’s congressional delegation has now pledged to go to Congress in an effort to get wolves again delisted in the state.

As the legislative ping-pong game continues, Doug Smith, Yellowstone wildlife biologist and leader of the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project, has fascinating things to say in a 23-minute Iowa Public Radio interview about the history of wolf re-introduction in the park and the present state of wolves.

Tempting you to listen to this excellent interview, I’ll mention a couple of highlights of Doug’s remarks.

Although the next official count will take place in mid winter, current Yellowstone wolf numbers are at approximately 130 wolves in 11 packs.

In discussing the ongoing argument about Canadian wolves being introduced, thus bringing in a different subspecies from those that historically lived in and around Wyoming, Doug explains that over the decades when no wolves lived there, no exchange of genes could take place due to geographic isolation. He states that there are now 5 subspecies in North America, not the many more claimed by some people.

Doug points out that Yellowstone is now returning to “ecological functionality”—big words for the balance achieved in the environment by returning wolves to the park.

He completely empathizes with the ranchers in the ring of land that circles the Greater Yellowstone public land, where wolves now live. Unavoidably, preying on their livestock is a big problem, but ideas to cope with this are multiplying.

Replying to a listener’s question about attacks on humans, he stresses that wolves are afraid of humans and/or “can’t figure us out because we walk on two legs.” He suggests that the big, bad wolf stories may be based on some historical attacks but could well have been referring to rabid wolves.

Doug will be giving a talk at Iowa State University’s Memorial Union, 8:00 pm on Monday, November 3. In his interview he lists an impressive list of human traits found in wolves: they are monogamous, good parents, territorial, and communicate by body postures and many quiet vocalizations—as well as howling. And he concludes, “They’re just like us!”

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Rebecca and Ryan Means from Florida are gradually fulfilling an unusual goal. They’re hiking “on a quest to identify and visit the most remote locations in each of the 50 states.”

Not just enjoying the out-of-doors far from civilization, they have a mission. The essence of their philosophy is shown in Ryan Means’ answer to a comment last year on his website, remotefootprints.org: “The conservation problem arises when loud, fuel consumptive, destructive, motorized vehicles enter wildlands. The landscape gets scarred. Habitat and wilderness character get lost. Another roadless wildland gets fragmented. Then development usually follows. We are basically calling for an end to the era of road building (and sprawling development) in our great country, especially in public lands.”

They hike carrying heavy packs—Rebecca’s includes a carrier for five-year-old Skyla. So far they have written up their visits to remote spots in 23 states. They don’t always find solitude, but they do get far away from roads and navigable rivers. They especially loved Wyoming’s most remote spot, the Thorofare corner of Yellowstone, 21.6 miles by their reckoning from the nearest road, even farther by trail. The Means’s experiences on this trip have not yet appeared on their website, but their trip was mentioned on October 4, 2014 in the Rapid City (SD) Journal.

Reading this, I thought of one of the selections in my upcoming book (with the working title, Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors). I was reminded of Barton Evermann’s 1891 commission to find how trout got into Yellowstone Lake. He visited and carefully described a phenomenal place called Two-Ocean Pass, just south of the Thorofare and the park’s border.

My own related delight is in finding places—even in the hills just above my noisy downtown Oakland—where stopping on a trail you hear no sound, unless it’s a distant bird or a trickling stream. It clears the head. And there are so many such places to be found in Yellowstone. . . .

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