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

Muskrat in a kettle pond

Muskrat in a kettle pond

Can’t resist sharing this cute picture of a muskrat in a Yellowstone kettle pond with you. What’s a kettle pond, you may ask? Here’s what the Yellowstone Treasures glossary has to say: “A pond formed in a depression caused by the ground collapsing when a buried block of glacial ice melted. Also called kettle hole.” The melting snow of the caption to this National Park Service photo is just this past winter’s. The hole is much older.

You can find out more about how glaciers reshape the landscape on the illustrated pages 311-312 of the “Geological History” chapter in the guidebook.

—Editor Beth


Yellowstone in social media and more

From the Spring 2014 issue of Yellowstone Spring (published by the National Park Service and formerly called Yellowstone Today), you can learn a lot that’s useful for an upcoming trip to the park.

Yellowstone has stayed at the forefront in social media. Here are some addresses currently offered that you might like to follow:

twitter.com/YellowstoneNPS
twitter.com/GeyserNPS
www.facebook.com/YellowstoneNPS
www.youtube.com/YellowstoneNPS
www.flickr.com/photos/YellowstoneNPS
For predictions of Old Faithful Geyser’s eruptions whenever the park is open, follow @GeyserNPS on Twitter.
[And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter as well: @GPPublications –Ed.]

There are webcams you can watch at Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout.

The paper also has the following useful information that may affect your travel plans within the park. You can expect these construction delays:

1. From Gibbon River to Grizzly Lake: nightly closures from 11 pm to 7 am all summer; this section of road will be a fully closed from September 14 at 11:00 pm through September 30 at 7:00 am.

2. To replace the Isa Lake bridge, the road between West Thumb and Old Faithful will close for the season on September 2, 2014.

You can also download a PDF of the entire Yellowstone Spring 2014.

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Just a quick update

Mushroom Pool

Mushroom Pool with Thomas Brock


I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog for the past two weeks, but I’ve been thinking about Yellowstone as much as ever. Right now I have a big writing project about microbes in Yellowstone like those found here by microbiologist Thomas Brock at Mushroom Pool. This is where he located an amazing thermophilic microorganism (heat-loving bacteria in plain English). The article I’m writing will first go on another blog, but I’ll be putting it up here soon after. It’s title may be something like: “A Great Vacation Destination is a Treasure Trove for Scientists.”

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National Park Week

In my last post I left out the fact that this week is National Park Week. It runs from April 19th through the 27th. This year’s theme, National Park Week: Go Wild! gives parks an opportunity to showcase what makes them significant, special, or unique.

In addition, many of the parks are designating one day this week to the Junior Ranger Program, which encourages America’s youth to explore, protect, and learn about our National Parks. As far as I can ascertain, Yellowstone has not planned a Junior Ranger Day this year, probably because the park has just opened after the spring break of about six weeks and because schools in the area are in session.

However, you can learn how to take part in the Junior Ranger Program in Yellowstone when everything will be open later this spring—see my February 28th post for details about road closures and openings.Junior Ranger program badge

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Ten Great Tips for Enjoying Your Yellowstone Vacation

My Wonderfully Helpful Ten Tips for an Outstanding Vacation in Yellowstone Park are available to you free if you send us your e-mail address. Besides the tips you will receive our *very* occasional newsletters. We will not disclose your address to any third parties.

Just enter your e-mail address at the right for this Yellowstone Treasures bonus!

Janet

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What it’s like when plowing Yellowstone’s roads

I’m a big fan of Brett French’s writings in the Billings Gazette. Today I want to share his simile of what the snow-plowing crew experiences each spring while clearing the roads.

“About 7 miles north of West Thumb along the shore [lies] still-frozen Yellowstone Lake. That’s about an hour’s drive south from the plow crew’s headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. Although the sun is shining intensely, the entire landscape at this elevation of about 7,700 feet is still buried under several feet of sound-stifling snow, like a huge cotton ball stuffed inside Yellowstone’s volcanic caldera ear [italics mine]. And even though today is warm and sunny, the crew has frequently suffered through days with temperatures bottoming out at 20-below zero or colder, or had storms or wind blow snow back on top of just-cleared pavement.”

The whole article is at “Yellowstone plow crews labor to open park for spring visitors.”

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Linx Yellowstone bus service canceled for summer 2014

According to a recent article in the Bozeman (MT) Chronicle: “The wheels on a bus service that shuttled Yellowstone National Park visitors into the park from gateway communities won’t be going around this year.” I’m sorry to hear this, since it was the only public transportation system that has been tried in many years, if not ever in Yellowstone.

For three summers LINX was supported with help from local agencies. Even so—as we learned when my daughter needed the service between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful—it was not inexpensive. But total revenues did not cover operating costs, proving that only with government (National Park Service) support could such a system survive.

I came up with a suggested plan for free or very inexpensive shuttle service for the west side of the park three years ago and even sent it to Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. Later I had a chance to speak with him about it, but, not surprisingly, he cannot consider such a thing in today’s economy. Here’s my plan.

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Fresh snow at Old Faithful

snowfall Old Faithful

Finally! A real snow cover at Old Faithful Village.

Yesterday was the last day of March, and at last we have a lot of snow on the ground at Old Faithful Village. From a screen shot I took yesterday morning, you can see that the snow now comes to the top of the post holding the Old Faithful Geyser sign. With no wind at all the trees were gorgeous, and seeing this takes me back to magical winter visits to the park.

You can see this for yourself at: www.nps.gov/yell/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

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Lake trout in Yellowstone Lake now less menacing to native wildlife

lake trout cutthroat trout

Trout comparison (NPS Photo)

Back in 1994 someone must have purposely and illegally stocked Yellowstone Lake with lake trout. Before it could be proven that these non-native fish had spread throughout the lake, they began adversely affecting the much smaller native cutthroat trout.

Many Yellowstone animals depend on the native fish as an important part of their diet but cannot catch the big lake trout. For example, grizzly bears and pelicans eat cutthroat from the lake, particularly in early summer.

Now, with major help from sources such as the Yellowstone Foundation and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Board, more and more lake trout are being removed every year— up to 300,000 in 2013 alone. At the same time many more juvenile cutthroat trout are surviving than in the early years of this century.

Three commercial boats and one National Park Service boat regularly net the lake trout with gill and trap nets and also use electroshocking. In addition they use telemetry by tagging some fish to locate lake trout spawning sites, and the movement of those fish toward spawning beds in the fall can now be tracked. A volunteer from Trout Unlimited said recently, “These patterns indicated at least three areas of suspected spawning activity: just off West Thumb Geyser Basin; off Solution Creek; and in the Plover Point, Frank Island triangle. Because these were suspected spawning grounds, arrays of receivers along with reference signals were placed in these three areas in early September in an effort to pinpoint any spawning beds in these areas.”

Meanwhile, anglers again this summer must kill all lake trout and either eat them or puncture the air bladder and dispose of the carcass in deep water. And cutthroat trout must be returned to the water immediately.

See the book excerpt about fish and fishing if you’d like to know more about the subject.

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Yellowstone Park Historian Honored Anew!

Montana State University has recently announced that two honorary doctorate degrees will be awarded on May 3rd in Bozeman. Recipients of honorary doctorate degrees at this year’s commencement will be Donna Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton in nursing, and Lee Whittlesey in history.

Among Lee’s many books about Yellowstone perhaps the most popular are Death in Yellowstone and Yellowstone Place Names (both in their second editions). His complete compendium of research on names, Wonderland Nomenclature, is enormously useful to researchers like me in learning the origins of former and present park names.

Lee, 63, has served YNP for over forty years in many capacities, including tour bus driver, ranger, and park archivist, becoming Yellowstone Park Historian a decade ago. He holds a master’s degree in history from MSU and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. He has already landed one honorary doctorate from Idaho State University.

I am proud to call Lee a personal friend, and his help toward my several Yellowstone projects has been invaluable.

Hats off to Lee!

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