GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

An active Norris Geyser Basin geyser

An active Norris Geyser Basin geyser

Norris Geyser Basin’s most famous geyser is Steamboat, which can amazingly spout to three times the height of Old Faithful Geyser, making it the world’s largest. On June 28, during a research trip for the forthcoming sixth edition of Yellowstone Treasures, I lingered in the basin for three hours, catching some of Steamboat’s minor eruptions and watching the runoff channel. Steamboat has been very active all summer, as you can see on the Geyser Times website, so maybe you will get a chance to see it erupt during your visit! But on that particular day it did not erupt until nearly midnight, when I was long back to my home near Seattle.

While waiting, I strolled over to Veteran Geyser, “which probably derived its name from the very old sinter deposits all around,” as author Janet Chapple says in the fifth edition of the guidebook on page 238.

Veteran Geyser

Veteran Geyser, morning of June 28, 2019

Veteran Geyser back vent But behind the main pool of Veteran Geyser is a vent that has become more active in recent years. So we will be adding the phrase “recently getting a beautiful light coating of geyserite” to the description. Below you can see a more detailed view.
—Editor Beth

Veteran Geyser back vent detail

Fresh geyserite deposited by Veteran Geyser, June 2019

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Yellowstone’s Fire Lookouts

Today I spontaneously decided to check into the status of the fire lookout towers inside Yellowstone National Park, since the guidebook points out the ones on top of Mount Sheridan and Mount Washburn. Well, I was saddened to learn that the Mount Holmes fire lookout burned to the ground on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. The tower was built in 1931 and had historic value. A fire observer working in the Mount Washburn lookout tower spotted the lightning-caused fire. This first Yellowstone fire of 2019 means that the Mount Holmes Trail is closed until public safety can be assured. The Billings Gazette had one good story about the event, and National Parks Traveler had another.

If you’d like to learn more about the job of being a fire lookout in the park, I recommend this short Inside Yellowstone video on the National Park Service website.

—Editor and Publisher Beth Chapple

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Crystal Falls on Cascade Creek

Crystal Falls Yellowstone

Crystal Falls from Uncle Toms Overlook on the Canyon’s South Rim


While visiting Uncle Tom’s Overlook to see Upper Falls, I was also looking at how far the reconstruction projects have gotten. I noticed the improvements to the walls, the ongoing construction of the viewpoint at the Brink of Upper Falls, and the new paved trail to Sunset Point, which had a colony of marmots to watch when I visited. (See the Yellowstone trail reconstruction in 2018 post for more about the plans and a nice map.)

But the most exciting aspect for me on my late June 2019 visit was seeing this waterfall. The description from the 2018 edition of Yellowstone Treasures goes like this: “little Crystal Falls across the canyon, obscured by branches” (p. 180). Well, granted, I did have to use binoculars and my camera’s zoom function to appreciate it. See below for how the description can still be called accurate. There is a trail to see this waterfall on Cascade Creek that pours down into the Yellowstone River, but the easiest way to reach it is temporarily off limits as construction crews use the parking lot to work on the Brink of Upper Falls viewpoint.

Enjoy! —Editor Beth Chapple

Crystal Falls in the trees

Look to the right when you are at Uncle Tom’s Point to see this waterfall.

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June 25 Book Event in Cody, Wyoming

Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center

Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, MT, is one of the institutions participating in the Collecting Yellowstone conference, June 24-29, 2019. Photo courtesy NPS.

Later this month Granite Peak Publications editor Beth Chapple will be traveling to Yellowstone National Park to do research for the next edition of Yellowstone Treasures. Here’s some of what she has planned.

The best part is I will be sharing our books at a fair that’s part of the Conversations on Collecting Yellowstone Conference, in Cody, WY, outside the East Entrance to the park. The Vendor Fair is both for the conference attendees and open to the public, so please let others know, and try to join us! The exhibitors will be art dealers, artists, booksellers, book publishers, and more. Here’s your chance to look at all things Yellowstone! Beforehand and after the conference I will be driving from Bozeman through the park. Looking forward to the drive on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway into Cody.

Collecting Yellowstone Fair

WHERE

Taggart’s Ballroom
Holiday Inn of Cody, next to Buffalo Bill Village
1701 Sheridan Ave, Cody, WY 82414

WHEN

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
1:30-5:20 pm

Here’s more about the conference, though registration is closed. With the upcoming sesquicentennial of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 2022 in mind, special collections librarians at Brigham Young University and the University of Wyoming have organized librarians, archivists, curators, collectors, vendors, and researchers who work with Yellowstone National Park materials to converse about areas of common interest, discuss concerns, look for opportunities and generally get to know their colleagues. As a result, the first conference on Collecting Yellowstone materials is underway!

The goal objectives of this conference is to bring together individuals/institutions with significant Yellowstone National Park materials to:

  • Learn about the various YNP collections across the United States
  • Become acquainted with their colleagues
  • Discuss collections, discovery, acquisition and related topics
  • Identify trends and issues that impact collections now and in the future
  • Connect with scholars actively involved in YNP research
  • Meet with collectors and vendors of Yellowstone’s vast history

Check back for a trip report and a conference report in July.

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Excerpt from A Place of Marvels

We’ll soon be celebrating National Parks Week, April 20-28. But let’s get a head start. On this day in 1870, park writer Ray Stannard Baker was born in Lansing, Michigan. This Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist is best known for his biography of President Woodrow Wilson, for whom he had been the press secretary. Baker worked for McClure’s Magazine at the time he published his Yellowstone report, excerpted here.

On Hymen Terrace by Blumenschein

Engraving of Ernest L. Blumenschein’s 1903 drawing. Tourists on top of Hymen Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs.

Beyond the Upper Basin one cannot escape a veritable succession of marvels. At the Fountain there are many strange forms of geysers and hot springs, often gorgeous in coloring, surrounded by water-formed rocks in many curious and beautiful designs, and veritable caldrons of bubbling mud, and bears in the garbage-piles, and I know not how many other wonders. At Norris there are growling, jagged holes in the earth, belching forth huge volumes of hot steam, which, having killed and bleached all the verdure of the near mountain-side, has given the whole valley an indescribable air of desolation, as if the forces of nature had gone wrong—the very work of the devil, after whom so many of the marvels are named. Farther along one shudders under the brow of Roaring Mountain, makes a wry face while sipping water from the Apollinaris spring, wonders at the Hoodoo rocks [at Silver Gate], or admires the gorgeous colored pulpits and terraces of the Mammoth Hot Springs.

And yet after all these things, amazing as they are, one turns again to the road and the mountains and the trees. Undue emphasis may have been laid upon the odd, spectacular, bizarre—those things, dear to the heart of the American, which are the “biggest,” the “grandest,” the “most wonderful,” the “most beautiful” of their kind in the world. But the Park is far more than a natural hippodrome. The geysers appeal to one’s sense of the mysterious: one treads on the hollow earth not without an agreeable sense of danger, thrills with the volcanic rumblings underneath, waits with tense interest for the geyser, now boiling and bubbling, to hurl its fountain of hot water into the air; one is awed by these strange evidences of a living earth, guesses and conjectures, as the scientists have been doing for centuries, and then, somehow, unaccountably weary of these exhibitions, turns to the solemn, majestic hills, to waterfall and marshy meadow, to the wonderful trail through the forest. For, after all, the charm of the Park is the charm of the deep, untouched wilderness, the joy of the open road.

Indeed, the very name Park, associated as it is with smooth lawns and formal, man-guarded tree-groups and stream-courses, seems out of place when applied to these splendid mountain-tops. Here is a space nearly sixty miles square—a third larger than the State of Delaware, and, with its adjoining forest reserves, which are really a part of the public wilderness, nearly as large as Massachusetts or New Jersey. Visitors see only a narrow road-strip of its wonders, though the best; upon vast reaches of mountain and forest, lakes, rivers, geysers, cañons, no man looks once a year; probably many areas have never been seen by human eyes. The United States regular soldiers who guard it keep mostly to the roads, the boundaries of the Park being for the most part so wild and rugged that even poaching hunters could not cross them if they would.

It was a carping German traveler who complained that this Park was no park. “Look at your dead trees and burned stumps in the woods,” he said, thinking perhaps of the well-groomed, man-made forests of his native land, “and your streams, full of driftwood. It is not cared for.”

And Heaven help that it may never be cared for in that way! Not a park, but a wilderness, full of wild beauty and natural disorder, may we keep the place as nature left it, disturbing no land-slide where it lies, no natural dam of logs and stones heaped here by mountain freshet, no havoc of wind-storm or avalanche. The windfall, with its shaggy spreading roots full of matted earth and stone, rapidly being covered with grass and moss, and the river-bed full of bleached driftwood, each has its own rare quality of picturesqueness, its own fitting place in this wild harmony. There is beauty even in the work of the forest fire, which has left whole mountain-sides of freshly scorched pine foliage, a deep golden red smoldering in the sunshine; and many a blackened bit of forest, longer burned, leaves an impression of somber shadows, of silence and death, which cannot be forgotten. One even comes to begrudge this wilderness its telephone poles, its roads, and the excellent stone embankments which keep them from slipping down the mountainsides into the swift streams below; for they detract from its wild perfection. We may behold nature in its softer and more comely aspects almost anywhere; but every year, with the spread of population in our country, it becomes more difficult to preserve genuine wilderness places where hill and forest and stream have been left exactly as nature made them. Already our indomitable pioneers have driven the wilderness into the very fastnesses of the mountains, so that only remnants now remain. And this great Yellowstone Park remnant has been fortunately set aside by the government for the enjoyment and inspiration of the people forever.

CREDIT: “A Place of Marvels: Yellowstone Park as It Now Is,” The Great Northwest Series, The Century Magazine 66, no. 4 (August 1903): 481–91. Reproduced in Chapple, Janet, ed. Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis, pp. 215–17. Lake Forest Park, WA: Granite Peak Publications, 2016.

Believe us, the engravings of Blumenschein’s illustrations for Baker’s article come out far better in the print version of the book.

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First grizzly bear sighting of 2019

grizzly bear photo

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone

On Friday, March 8, visitors observed a large grizzly bear between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge. Three days later, grizzly tracks were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction. The boars (male grizzlies) come out of hibernation every year during mid to late March, while the sows and cubs take until April or early May to emerge.

Rangers remind us that the whole park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Here are some tips to make sure you are prepared:

  • Stay alert.
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
  • Hike in groups, stay on maintained trails, and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Keep 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or a telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food and garbage in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.

Credits: Thanks to Pam (@D0bby), destination expert for Yellowstone National Park for Trip Advisor, for the heads-up about this news. Photo, courtesy of NPS, can be seen on page 344 of Yellowstone Treasures.

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Spring is in the air

overview map of Yellowstone

Click for larger map.

As the snow starts to melt, the roads in Yellowstone National Park will be plowed and cleared in readiness for letting cars and trucks back in. (Of course, the road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through the park to Cooke City, Montana is open all year. But notice that travel east of Cooke City via the Beartooth Highway is not possible from late fall to late spring.) Here are dates to use in your planning this spring.

2019 Winter Closing Dates

Roads will close to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach at 9 pm on the following dates:

  • March 1: East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass)
  • March 3: Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris
  • March 5: Norris to Madison, Norris to Canyon Village
  • March 10: Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge
  • March 15: All remaining groomed roads close.

2019 Spring Opening Dates

Conditions permitting, roads will open to regular (public) vehicles at 8 am on the following dates:

  • April 19: West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon Village.
  • May 3: East Entrance to Lake Village (Sylvan Pass), Canyon Village to Lake Village.
  • May 10: South Entrance to West Thumb, Lake Village to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass), Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
  • May 24: Tower Fall to Canyon Village (Dunraven Pass)
  • May 24: Beartooth Highway

Credits: The image is the overview map on pages 1-2 of Yellowstone Treasures. The helpful National Park Service Park Roads page provides the dates listed here and a live road map you can use to find out which roads you can drive on today.

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Supervolcano answers

Cliff Geyser

Cliff Geyser on Iron Spring Creek

One topic that frequently comes up in the articles and blog posts on YellowstoneTreasures.com is the fact that Yellowstone is on a hot spot, which is the reason for all the wonderful hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. You can find lots of our interesting posts and pages about the supervolcano here: Search Results for “supervolcano.”

Recently we happened upon this 2015 Q&A on Quora.com that busts several myths at once, in a friendly and concise way.

Q. Does it look like Yellowstone is going to erupt soon?

A. There are no signs that we know of that point to an eruption any time soon. However, since we have never seen a volcano like Yellowstone erupt, we can’t be sure what the warning signs of an eruption would be. Some sensationalist sources take every little twitch from the volcano, and even events unrelated to geologic activity, as signs of an impending eruption. Don’t take them seriously.

In better news, at least one study has suggested that the magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is partially solidified to the point that it currently cannot erupt unless it gets a fresh batch of hot magma from the mantle.

One little misconception that should be covered here: Yellowstone is not “overdue” for an eruption. The little factoid that Yellowstone erupts regularly every 600,000 years is untrue. So-called super eruptions occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, which gives intervals between eruptions of 800,000 and 660,000 years, though three eruptions are not enough to establish a reliable recurrence interval.

Credit: This answer on Quora was written by Nicholas Schiff, B.S. Geology, Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA.

In the guidebook: There’s much more in Yellowstone Treasures about the Yellowstone hot spot and supervolcano, especially in the Geological History chapter, pages 303 to 318.

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Winter 2019 trip report

Having returned from my 2019 winter trip to Yellowstone about a week ago, I’m still visualizing the beautiful snow-covered landscapes I was recently privileged to pass through. And for a present-day Californian (but raised in Montana), it was a particular delight to watch it snow.

I realize that now, in my mid eighties, it is unlikely that I’ll go again in winter. As it happened, we were in the middle of the government shut-down, but, thanks to the concessionaire Xanterra, which covered the cost of grooming the roads as well as furnishing their usual pleasant rooms and good meals, we had no trouble getting around.

For potential visitors a little or a lot younger, I would still highly recommend that you go! The friends who joined me were able to handle the snowy trails around Upper Geyser Basin and Fountain Paint Pots.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel with snowcoaches in winter

This was my fifth trip there in winter. Incidentally, I’ve been asked how many times I’ve been to Yellowstone altogether, and it must be in the dozens of times by now.

You need to leave your car in Mammoth. That’s where you cease to encounter plowed roads, since the park has a policy of simply grooming the other snowy roads, making them suitable only for snowcoaches, snowmobiles, and a few cross-country skiers. If you don’t know what a snowcoach is, take a look at this picture from 2012. Rather than the triangular tracks we used to ride on, the coaches now have very large, low pressure tires. The ride is quite smooth.

Phone numbers for Xanterra are (866) 439-7375 and (307) 344-7311. You would have to be extra lucky to find available rooms between now and winter closure, this year on March 3rd, but think about planning way ahead for next winter.
Keep in mind that you can’t see all the park in winter—except maybe on skis. The groomed roads are limited to Mammoth to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon, and West Yellowstone to Norris. They do try to keep the road from Mammoth out the Northeast Entrance to Cooke City plowed. Here is the link to the map showing what roads are plowed, groomed, and closed: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

I can’t resist crowing a bit: the snowcoach drivers and other Xanterra personnel were quick to let me know that they use and treasure my guidebook, Yellowstone Treasures, now in its fifth edition. In fact, when I sat behind the driver in one coach, he admitted to being a little nervous that he might get something wrong in his commentary. (He was superbly capable.) At the end of our trip, but before I left the snowcoach, he asked a colleague to pass the bound copy of the book (the one that Xanterra drivers share and use regularly), through the driver’s window for me to sign. I had never before seen a copy with a library-type binding!

—Author Janet Chapple

Photo credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, December 12, 2012.

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Late-season thoughts on long-lasting thermal features

Another in the occasional series “My Favorite Hot Springs”

Black Sand Basin, showing Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake. Click to enlarge!


In any piece I write about Yellowstone, it may be hazardous to say this or that is my favorite. Here is what I committed myself to when I wrote about Black Sand Basin—maybe because in my summer visits I always spend a few days at Old Faithful Village, very nearby. “Black Sand Basin has got to be my favorite easy walk,” I wrote. “In less than a mile of walking you can enjoy a welcoming geyser (Cliff Geyser), which may be erupting as you get out of your car, then Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake to the north.” (See “Yellowstone gems we all own” for more.)

The above is still valid, but this week, daydreaming about being back in the park, I am mentally picturing the half-mile or so of mostly level walking needed to see all the features at West Thumb Geyser Basin. (There is a short stairway at the far end of the loop.) This walk is surely another favorite of mine but requires a drive of about 19 miles from Old Faithful. It is also a place where I lost track of my husband for about an hour during the last summer he was well enough to travel, but that’s another story.

West Thumb has a lot of the quintessential “bang for the buck.” It is a delightful place to spend an hour or so, not only for its thermal features but also for its beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. In winter it is just as great a place for a stroll. Unfortunately, it lacks geysers—although Hillside Geyser was active here for a few years earlier this century. There is generous parking, restrooms, and a picnic area for summer lunches.

Starting out past the small information building, when you turn right at the walkway’s intersection, you’ll come to a pair of beautiful hot pools, which used to differ in color and apparent temperature, but in summer 2016 and perhaps before, they overflowed into each other. Other pools that are especially notable include Black Pool, which did used to appear black but became blue when it turned hotter (and even briefly erupted in 1991) and Abyss Pool, one of the park’s deepest, which performed as a geyser as recently as 1992.

All these pools are described and some are pictured in Yellowstone Treasures, fifth edition, pages 140 to 143. Scroll down on the Guidebook page to see what pages 138-39 look like, with a map of Yellowstone Lake’s West Thumb and a photo of Bluebell and Seismograph Pools.

Photo credit: Aerial view of Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake in Black Sand Basin on Iron Spring Creek by Jim Peaco,
June 22, 2006. Available on the official Yellowstone National Park Flickr page.

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