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

This summer in Yellowstone National Park

This summer in Yellowstone National Park

Recently we had an email conversation with a reader who wrote in via our contact form. With his permission, we are reproducing it here, lightly edited. You may find it helpful when planning your own trip.

1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

1937 Yellow bus from Yellowstone Park, on display at Historic Flight Foundation, Everett, Washington

July 23, 2018
Hi Janet,

I am reading your book Yellowstone Treasures. It’s very nicely written and packed with tons of information. Thank you from a first-time visitor like me.

I will be traveling for the first time to the park in the first week of August with my family and friends. The location we chose to stay in that was affordable is outside the west side of the park. I am coming over from Canada.

I will be staying for five days. Is this time enough? I have divided the park in 4 segments, and each day I will be entering the park from the west. Is this approach right? What are some of the things that I must absolutely need to know? Does the park have wheelchair facilities? My friends’ parents are in their 80’s and won’t be able to do long walks. Does the park have rentals for golf-cart-type vehicles?

I will really appreciate your guidance and help. Thank you in advance for your response.

Warm regards,
Sameer


Recommended Walks in Yellowstone July 26, 2018
Dear Sameer,

Thank you for your kind comments about the guidebook. I put your questions to the author, Janet, and she asked me to write back to you.

There is never time enough to see everything, unless you stay all summer! However, the most essential sights are on Yellowstone’s west side. Be sure to allow one or two days for the area between Norris Geyser Basin and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, where there are so many fabulous thermal features to stop for. “My other personal favorites are the Mammoth Hot Springs area and the Lamar Valley,” says Janet. Don’t try to see everything since you need to allow time for travel and meals. Rather than seeing all your four segments, maybe choose two or three? If you do want to see the east or south sides of the park, look for lodging in Cody or Dubois, Wyoming, since those can be cheaper than lodging in the park or Jackson.

You will be in the park at its busiest time, so expect bumper-to-bumper traffic on some of the roads. If you can start very early in the mornings, you will do yourselves a favor. It’s always a good idea to check the official NPS Park Roads page the map showing current road status and for the closing dates of various roads. Another way to beat the crowds is to bring picnic food and drinks in a cooler for your lunches and snacks. Yellowstone Treasures tells you about the picnic areas.

You also asked if the park has wheelchair facilities and if the park has rentals for golf carts. The visitor centers at Old Faithful, Canyon, and Mammoth will loan you wheelchairs, or you can rent them at the medical clinics (Old Faithful, Mammoth, and Lake). See the NPS Wheelchairs & Mobility page for more information. But there are no golf-cart vehicles. One of the most rewarding short walks is around Black Sand Basin, the nearest short side road to Old Faithful Village, and of course Yellowstone Treasures has a list of more short walks on pages 366-68. And be sure to check the guidebook’s maps for the wheelchair symbol on trails and restrooms.

Another option to look at for your friends’ parents is one of the many yellow bus tours (see Xanterra’s Land Adventures page).

Enjoy your trip!
Beth Chapple

Editor and Publisher
Granite Peak Publications

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Updated for 2018, part 3

Steamboat Geyser 4 June 2018

This photo of a major eruption of Steamboat Geyser gives a sense of its power but not its full height!

Every time we update the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook, such as for the second printing of the fifth edition in spring 2018, there are numerous changes to the hot springs and geysers that must be reviewed and considered. Not only that, “the number of hot springs in the park has been estimated to be around 10,000. Geysers known to have erupted or erupting now number more than 1,200” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 61).

Here are a few of the geyser changes since the cutoff date for the first printing, February 2017. During 2017 Atomizer Geyser (p. 96) noticeably slowed its interval down from twice a day to an average of 20 hours. Page 93 of the first printing says Giant Geyser last erupted on September 28, 2015 (and that was after a five-and-a-half year hiatus, so it was pretty important). But nature has been busy proving the guidebook wrong. Giant erupted on July 7, October 9, and November 3, 2017, so we included the November date as the last eruption. Now the most recent eruption was actually July 24, 2018, and that was the third time in the month of July.

We are fortunate to have a website called GeyserTimes.org, where geyser gazers can log their observations or the notes from a ranger or scientist at the US Geological Survey (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Readings from seismometers, thermometers, and water discharge monitors are used to record eruptions even when nobody is there to witness them. That is how we know that Steamboat Geyser started erupting again on March 15, 2018, too late to get into the second printing. On page 233, it unfortunately still says “After eruptions in 2003 and 2005, Steamboat erupted once each in 2013 and 2014.” Yet as of today there have been 11 more since March 15, with the latest occurring on July 20, 2018! The USGS is keeping a running count of Steamboat’s water eruptions at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory page.

You may have a chance to see the Giant or Steamboat Geysers on your trip to Yellowstone. Stay informed with Yellowstone Treasures, both the book and this website.

—Beth Chapple, editor and publisher

Photo credit: James St. John, June 4, 2018. Reproduced courtesy of a partial Creative Commons license. More photos and more about the history of Steamboat Geyser is available at on the geologist’s Flickr page for this photo.

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Is Yellowstone about to blow?

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls is near the edge of the Yellowstone Caldera. A good place to see the caldera rim is between there and Madison Junction.


Frequently I hear the question “Is Yellowstone about to blow?” as I run into acquaintances here at Lake Park Retirement Center. My best answer is usually “Not on my watch” or maybe “I’m going there again soon, and I definitely don’t worry about that.” We have treated the supervolcano issue in several posts on this website in recent years. Here also is a recent reassuring statement I found thanks to the Yellowstone Insider website. The news was about a 100-foot-long fissure found near Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.

Yellowstone’s magma chamber, most geologists agree, currently does not contain the volume of magma needed for such a large-scale eruption, and the process of replenishing that chamber occurs on slow timescales. The USGS considers the risk of a caldera-forming apocalypse at Yellowstone in the next couple of thousand years to be “exceedingly low.”

In short, if a volcanic super-eruption at Yellowstone Park were imminent, the signs would be much clearer than a 100-foot crack in a rock wall. (Source: https://www.snopes.com/news/2018/07/18/fissure-opens-near-yellowstone-causing-park-closures-irresponsible-headlines)

Photo credit: Leslie Kilduff, 1996. The photo has been reproduced in Yellowstone Treasures from the first edition to the current fifth edition, where you can find it on page 290.

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Where to get Yellowstone Treasures this month

Until recently, two of the most popular places for you to buy a copy of Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion to the National Park were inside the park itself and from Amazon.com. But this year Yellowstone Forever has apparently made the decision (temporarily, we hope!) not to carry any guidebook they don’t publish themselves. The admirable nonprofit runs ten stores in the park, including a fairly big one at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and one at the Bozeman Airport. While you might look to snag a copy of our guidebook, with its sights arranged by road, when you first arrive in the park, the Yellowstone Forever stores don’t currently seem to stock any of the big guidebooks, perhaps to avoid appearing to favor one publisher over another.

Also, Amazon is having problems this week with distribution. Alhough they recently placed a large order from our distributor, yesterday the print book listing at Amazon read “Temporarily out of stock,” and today the message was “In stock on July 10, 2018.” (If you’d like the Kindle version, you can still buy that.) This Publishers Weekly article explains that Amazon is having trouble managing the truck deliveries from suppliers to their warehouses. And one reason for that might be their preparations for “Prime Day,” which is when Amazon Prime members see lower prices on many products. Prime Day is supposed to start at midday on July 16 this year.

Our advice to you is to buy a copy before you go. If you want it right away you have plenty of options:

  1. Find an independent bookstore (see Indiebound) and shop locally, buy from them online, or find one on your way to the park. One charming store is Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana.
  2. Try Barnes & Noble, again either in person at a store convenient to you, or online. They often discount the price.
  3. Order right from this website at our bookstore. Our service is quite fast, and of course then you are supporting the publisher directly. We also offer 20% off when you buy two or more.
  4. Contact our distributor Independent Publishers Group, either online or by calling 1-800-888-4741. Best for trade buyers or when you want multiple copies.

I’ll leave you with a thought from reader Robert D. Rice, who wrote in his 5-star Amazon review on May 15, 2018: “Best guidebook I have ever read. No ambiguities, the descriptions and directions are very detailed. So many options available at every location I wish I had time to do it all. I love the focus on geology and I will enter Yellowstone almost like an old hand having studied this amazing book.”

Enjoy the park!
—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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Updated for 2018, part 2

Sylvan Lake Summer 2014

Sylvan Lake with man fishing at left

Here’s another subject we looked closely at when updating the guidebook for 2018: boating. The National Park Service is now strictly enforcing the rules meant to keep aquatic invasive species out of Yellowstone waters. In the second printing of Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fifth Edition, we’ve added discussion of the Watercraft Inspection Stations, where both motorized and nonmotorized boats are checked before they are allowed into Lewis and Yellowstone Lakes. According to the NPS article “Protecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from aquatic invasive species,” here are some of the species of most concern: zebra and quagga mussels, Asian clams, Asian carp species, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, flowering rush, whirling disease, and viral hemorrhagic septicemia. So the invaders can be animals, plants, or microbes. Invasive shellfish are particularly bad, because they can block pipes, eat up the phytoplankton, and cover docks and beaches.

It is really effective for boat owners to just take three steps: drain, clean, and dry your equipment. See “Clean, Drain, and Dry” for an introduction to the rules and the Boating page on the official Yellowstone National Park website to find out where to get your boat inspected and get your permit. Seven-day permits are $10 for motorized, $5 for nonmotorized boats like angler float tubes, canoes, and kayaks.

Stay informed with Yellowstone Treasures, both the book and this website.

Photo credit: Suzanne Cane, Summer 2014

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Separate entrance fees for the two national parks

View of Mount Moran with balsamroot wildflowers in Grand Teton National Park


After the proposal to raise the admission cost for Yellowstone and other US national parks (see the blog post on “Proposed fee changes for national parks”) was met with outrage, the raise was made somewhat more reasonable, but with one big change. You used to be able to get into both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks with one fee for a week, but the combined seven-day entrance pass to the two neighboring national parks ended on May 31.

As of June 1, here are the costs for a seven-day entrance pass for each park.
o Private, non-commercial vehicle, $35
o Motorcycle, $30
o Individual (by foot, bicycle, etc.), $20

Depending on your plans, it may make sense for you to buy the annual pass for Yellowstone at $70 or the annual pass for all federal lands for $80. And if you have a fourth grader in your family or you are a US citizen or permanent resident over the age of 62 you have even better passes available to you. For more information, visit the Fees & Passes page on the NPS website.

–Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

Credit: Photo by Beth Chapple, June 20, 2017.

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Essential sights to see

Here is my answer to the 6/11/18 question on the Quora website: What are some sights to see in two days at Yellowstone National Park? (BTW, Two days is not nearly enough for a place as large as Yellowstone.)

Grand Prismatic Spring, the same one that is featured on the cover of “Through Early Yellowstone”


The century-long-and-then-some favorites are the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with its two great waterfalls and Old Faithful Geyser. But before or after the always-predictable Old Faithful eruption take the Geyser Hill walk with or without an interpretive ranger and enjoy lovely hot springs and the possibility of other geysers going off. The other most remarkable sight near Old Faithful (a few miles north of it) is Midway Geyser Basin, but you *must* get there early or late in the day to find parking.

Be ready to stop as you drive between these major attractions, since there are pleasant surprises (sometimes including wildlife) all along the roads.

Photo credit: Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, taken by Bruno Giletti, can be seen on page 65 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

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P.S. to my tribute to Lee Whittlesey

Sorry to say, I *did* leave out at least one of Lee’s books about Yellowstone in my tribute to him. In 2007 he published Storytelling in Yellowstone: Horse and Buggy Tour Guides, a great contribution to lovers of the park. The book contributes a lot to our knowledge of the men who spread their expertise—usually gained from long experience and exploration—to visitors they led around the geyser basins or escorted around the park.

Reviewing just now the “Bibliographic Essay” of this book, I am proud to come across these sentences: “Yellowstone guidebooks (the first one appeared in 1873) are legion. Janet Chapple’s Yellowstone Treasures (Providence: Granite Peak Publications, 2002) is my recent favorite in this category.

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A Tribute to Yellowstone’s Historian

I’d like to follow up on the delightful biography of Park Historian Lee H. Whittlesey, posted by Liz Kearney on May 30th on the Yellowstone Insider website. Lee retired a month ago from his long-held position and gave up his office in the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center building.

Every time I’ve been in the park since 1995, I’ve asked Lee for a visit, which he has kindly granted. Lee has been essential to every bit of the research and writing I’ve done there. I remember the first time I timidly asked to interview him with one of the endless lists of questions I generate between my yearly (or sometimes more frequent) visits to the park. From our first visit on, he put me at ease and directed me to all the sources I’ve needed.

I find it hard to think of continuing my Yellowstone research without the rock-solid assistance of Yellowstone’s fabulous historian. Here is a list of his books and National Park Service publications that I own. I may be missing some—but I hope not.
Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National
Park
(1st ed., 1995; 2nd ed., 2014)
Gateway to Yellowstone: The Raucous Town of Cinnabar on the Montana Frontier
History of Mammoth Hot Springs (2010 draft)
A History of the Old Faithful Area
Yellowstone Place Names (1st ed., 1988; 2nd ed. 2006); Yellowstone Nomenclature (2012 disc)
Article in “Annals of Wyoming,” Vol. 88, No. 3, Summer, 2016: “G. L. Henderson: From New York Free-Thinker to Yellowstone Gentleman of Science”
—And with Elizabeth A. Watry:
Ho! For Wonderland: Travelers’ Accounts of Yellowstone, 1872–1914 (2009)
Yellowstone National Park, Images of America series: largely, historic photos with detailed captions (2008).

I will remain in contact with Lee for as long as possible. He has planned a “retirement” full of the writing projects he has not yet had time to complete.

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Updated for 2018, part 1

Abiathar Peak


After a review by our consulting geologist, Jo-Ann Sherwin, we changed the sidebar on page 203, “Why do the mountains look striped?” The layers you can see on some mountainsides are not lava flows per se but deposits of material called tephra from volcanic eruptions. And the eruptions happened closer to 45 million years ago rather than the 50 mya it says in the first printing of Yellowstone Treasures‘s fifth edition and used to say in the nugget on this website.

You can read the nugget “How did these mountains get striped?” to see the new explanation. Stay informed with Yellowstone Treasures, both the book and the website.

Photo by Niklas Dellby, 2013

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