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

What are the different species of mammals in Yellowstone Park?

What are the different species of mammals in Yellowstone Park?

On the website Quora.com, someone recently asked about the mammals one sees in Yellowstone Park, so I tried my hand at an answer. I’m not a real animal person, being more enamored with things that stay in one place like geysers, hot springs, flowers, lakes, waterfalls, and mountains, yet I have personally seen all but the rarer animals in my many visits to Yellowstone.

The big mammals—sometimes called “charismatic megafauna” with tongue in cheek—are the bison (around 4000 currently), the elk (8,000 to 10,000), the moose (very scarce, and more often seen in neighboring Grand Teton National Park), and both grizzly and black bear (several hundred of each).

The gray wolf population is hovering around 100. Mule deer are much more common than white-tailed deer. Then there’s the pronghorn (commonly but incorrectly called antelope)—my favorite animal for being so beautiful, graceful, and fast. Their population fluctuates around a couple of hundred seen in northern Yellowstone, as are bighorn sheep.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn

Coyotes are very common, less so the red foxes and mountain goats (the latter considered to be migrants to the park). Mountain lions, bobcats, and especially lynx are there but almost never seen.

Small carnivores you might see include badgers, river otters, and raccoons. Then there are the most common rodents: yellow-bellied marmots, Uinta ground squirrels, muskrats, red squirrels, and the tiny pikas or coneys. Beaver have become more numerous in recent years.

Pika

Pika

And this is just a sampling. There are many smaller mammals like voles, mice, bats, and shrews.

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More beautiful hot pools in Yellowstone Park

Continuing the occasional posts about my favorite hot springs and pools in Yellowstone, today I’ll feature two located in Upper Geyser Basin. One of these is a short walk from Old Faithful Geyser and next to the remarkable formation of Castle Geyser. The other takes more effort to reach but is also worth every bit of it.

Crested Pool, pictured by my friend Suzanne Cane on a beautiful sunny day a couple of summers ago,Crested Pool copy has gone by many names since first seen by writers about the park. It has stayed consistently beautiful since it was first described in the 1870s—not true of all Yellowstone’s hot pools. We’ve used Suzanne’s picture on the cover of our guide to the park’s most accessible thermal areas, Visiting Geyserland.

Lee Whittlesey, Park Historian, lists no fewer than ten names for this pool in his Yellowstone Place Names. First it was called “Fire Basin” by expedition leader Ferdinand V. Hayden (1872). Then the goddess Diana was featured in three names as “Diana’s Spring,” “Diana’s Well,” and “Diana’s Bath.” Sadly, the most appropriate old name was “Devil’s Well”: in 1970 a young boy jumped or fell to his death in this pool.

If you cross the Firehole River beyond Crested Pool and pass other great features like Grand, Oblong, and Riverside Geysers and Morning Glory Pool, you’ll come to the unmaintained trail (and former road) that leads uphill to Artemisia Geyser. It’s a real geyser, but you have to be very patient or very lucky to see an eruption. It goes off extremely irregularly; somewhere between one-third of a day and a day-and-a-half will pass between any two eruptions. However, as you can see from my June 2015 picture, it is worthwhile visiting,
ArtemisiaG_6_15 just for its gorgeous-colored pool and the unusual patterns of its geyserite surroundings. You can continue on the path past other lovely features all the way to Biscuit Basin.

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Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

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Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

It’s August 1, 1915.
“Hooray! Today we can finally drive our new automobile into Yellowstone National Park.” Something like this must have been shouted between the open-topped cars lined up to pass through the North Entrance Arch on the first day it was legal to “motor” through the park. [Turns out we showed you that arch in our July 28th post.]

It’s true that a man named Henry G. Merry from nearby Horr, Montana had decided thirteen years before, in 1902, to “pilot the car [a Winton] to the fort and talk things over with the commandant,” according to Merry’s son’s account many years later. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.57 AM
You see, the Secretary of the Interior and superintendent Colonel John Pitcher had agreed that year that automobiles must be banned from the park due to the terrible condition of the roads and the danger of frightening the horses. But Merry went anyway—and was told he was under arrest and would have to pay a penalty. However, according to son Edward T. Merry: “When my father asked what the penalty would be, the officer very seriously replied, ‘You will have to take me for a ride in this contraption.’” But soon Merry was ushered out with a warning never to try it again.

Officials knew they would eventually have to improve the roads enough for cars to use them, and eventually this was done. Exactly one hundred years ago today the new era began. Fifty Fords, Buicks, Wintons, Haynes, and others entered the park. Within a year it was obvious that horses and autos were incompatible on the bumpy, narrow roads, and of course, the horses lost the contest.

[My source for this story was The Yellowstone Story, Volume II, by Aubrey L. Haines, pages 264 to 269. The late 1890s Winton touring car is courtesy of Wikipedia commons.]

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Follow-up on summer 2015 road construction

North entrance arch

Photo by Leslie Kilduff, page 252 of Yellowstone Treasures.

While the construction near Gardiner around the North Entrance Arch will be ongoing right up to the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016, there is a total road closure at night you need to be aware of if you are making a trip this summer.

The section of the Grand Loop Road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Junction is closed to all travel every night, from 11 p.m.-7 a.m., seven days per week. Also, expect 30-minute delays when traveling between Norris and Golden Gate.

As always, current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

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Updates in the second printing

As promised, here are some of the updates we included in Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition, in the second printing this summer. You should get a sense for the level of detail in the book, as well as learning a bit of news.

Quake Lake

Quake Lake was created by a huge landslide (Yellowstone Treasures, page 36).

If you’re entering or leaving the park via the West Entrance, it’s worthwhile to make time to visit Earthquake Lake, northwest of West Yellowstone on U.S. 287. The picture here, taken by Bruno Giletti, is the same one you will find in the book. We rewrote the description to tell you the Gallatin Forest visitor center was remodeled in 2014. It displays interesting exhibits about the 1959 earthquake and landslide that killed 28 people, and how a potential Madison River flood was avoided.

Janet revised a bunch of the geyser information based on data from the Geyser Observation and Study Association and the folks at geysertimes.org (see our Yellowstone Links page for information about those organizations). Here are the changes in the Upper Geyser Basin descriptions:

  • Oblong Geyser’s eruption interval went from three to seven hours to four to six (see page 92 of the guidebook).
  • Giantess Geyser had no eruptions between October 2011 and January 30, 2014. Their rarity means you will be lucky to see one when you visit. By the way, you might enjoy this five-minute edited video of the October 13, 2004 eruption.
  • Daisy Geyser’s eruption interval went from about two-and-a-half hours in 2012 to about two to three hours in late 2014 (p. 101).

Changes in what you can see when you visit led Janet to revise some wording. At West Thumb Geyser Basin, when you get to the lakeshore near Lakeside Spring you used to be able to see a remnant of concrete that supported a boat dock long ago. Now you can’t really see that, so we changed the sentence to be more informative and say “A boat dock for the Zillah, which ferried passengers to Lake Hotel from 1890 to 1907, was located here” (p. 141).

Also, when you stand at Uncle Tom’s Overlook on the South Rim Drive you can no longer see little Crystal Falls of Cascade Creek as easily across the canyon, because branches obscure the view (p. 180).

It’s interesting to see what a long-time observer of the park notices, isn’t it?
—Editor Beth Chapple

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Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth closed due to thermal activity

Recently some tiny but active terrace-forming springs have made their appearance very close to the Upper Terrace Drive. Now park geologist Hank Heasler has determined that water up to 152 degrees Fahrenheit (67 ºC) is bubbling out near the road. News sources say the feature became visibly active in May and is creating new small terraces too close to the drive for visitor safety. As a result the Park Service has closed the road.

When I visited early one morning in mid June, checking up on one of my favorite features, Canary Spring, I noticed that the area around Grassy Spring seemed very hot, with little terraces appearing since I was last there and a tiny new spring above the first major parking area, where I usually park to visit Canary.

If you’re visiting Mammoth this summer or fall, you can still park just outside the entrance to the Upper Terrace Drive and walk down the Canary Spring boardwalk or beyond the new hot activity to see my other favorite feature, Narrow Gauge Terrace.

For more about Mammoth Hot Springs and a video of Canary’s activity last year, see my September 18, 2014, post. Here’s what the spring and terrace looked like in 2009:

Canary Spring 2009

Canary looked like this when I was there in 2009.

You can locate the features mentioned here in Yellowstone Treasures (print version, map page 265 and text pages 271 to 274) or check it out in the e-book version of that guidebook. You can also find information about this part of Mammoth in our companion/derivative e-book, Visiting Geyserland, pages 11 to 15.

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Guidebook printed on FSC paper for the first time

Yellowstone Treasures cover image For the second printing of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fourth edition, we made a few changes. A big one is the paper itself, which is now FSC-certified. This means the paper has been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable manner. Below is our Facebook post about this milestone. Over the next few weeks we will let you know about other improvements, which are so numerous we decided to add “Newly revised in 2015” to the title page.
—Editor Beth Chapple

On this date we received the new printing of Yellowstone Treasures, 4th ed., in our warehouse. For the first time our printer, C & C Joint Printing, had Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper available for the guidebook. We are pleased that the paper and cover are from post-consumer waste, reclaimed wood, and/or controlled forests.

Posted by Granite Peak Publications on Friday, July 10, 2015

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What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

Entering Yellowstone from the North Entrance may be a little tough going and not aesthetically pleasing for most of this year [2015], since there’s a humongous construction project going on to completely revamp the entrance area at the little town of Gardiner. But five miles and a thousand feet up the road to the south is Mammoth Hot Springs, and, in addition to seeing the springs along the Upper Terrace Road, I recommend spending an hour or so at the redone Albright Visitor Center. It has excellent hands-on dioramas of all of the park’s bigger mammals and kiosks for park orientation on the first floor. In the basement level, completely accessible with a new elevator, are great historical displays and the restrooms. For more about this see the Yellowstone Insider’s recent article.

One of Upper Geyser Basin’s most popular sites is the wonderfully regular Riverside Geyser. It almost always erupts every six to six-and-one-half hours. Here is the eruption I caught on my all-too-short visit to the park in mid June.


You can hear (1) a geyser gazer transmit by FRS radio the time of eruption to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, (2) the excited crowd,(3) the swishing of the main eruption, and (4) the rumbling of the side spouter that always accompanies Riverside’s eruptions. It always erupts quite a bit longer than this little video, which was edited for Granite Peak Publications by Jens Paape.

You can reach Artemisia Geyser’s beautiful pool and formation in one of two ways.Artemisia Geyser One is by walking beyond Riverside Geyser about half a mile up what used to be the main road and is now a rather rough trail past Morning Glory Pool (page 95 in Yellowstone Treasures) or by parking at Biscuit Basin and crossing the road to reach the other end of the trail from Morning Glory Pool. Up the hill in the distance in my picture is Hillside Springs, which old-time stagecoach drivers called Tomato Soup Springs.

I did not see any grizzly bears on this trip, but there are now enough of them in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so that visitors are seeing them quite frequently. The national media covered the recent very unusual event where a grizzly climbed on the hood and sides of an occupied car, leaving some scratches but giving the occupants of the car the thrill of their lifetime and their own video.

One thrill of this visit for me was being assigned for three nights to what has to be the best room in the Old House of Old Faithful Inn (Room 229). It was inside the farthest east of the five dormer windows that span the third floor front of the inn. Two mornings I awoke to a swishing sound, opened the side window, and there was Old Faithful Geyser erupting for my private enjoyment!

For fishermen and others interested in what is happening with the fish in Yellowstone Lake these days, take a look at the Great Falls Tribune’s story about the good news regarding the struggle against illegally introduced lake trout.

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Summer sale on Visiting Geyserland ebook!

Yellowstone Treasures geyser walks ebook We recently improved Visiting Geyserland, adding more direct links to the geyser routes and maps. Visiting Geyserland is our guide to the geysers and hot springs in the ten Yellowstone geyser basins and other hydrothermal areas convenient to the roads. It’s handy to have the geyser walks at your fingertips on your phone or tablet when you are in Yellowstone. You can zoom in close to the maps and use the hyperlinks to jump to the correct section of the trails as you choose to follow them.

All summer we are offering this short ebook at $4.99, discounted from the list price of $8.49. The Buy now button on the Visiting Geyserland page takes you to our distributor IPG, where you can choose the format that works for you: ePub, Kindle, or PDF. Might be a good way to introduce a friend to Yellowstone Treasures!

—Editor Beth

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