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Current events in the greater Yellowstone area or relating to Janet Chapple’s travels.

NPS Yellowstone Canyon Closures Map As this lovely map from the National Park Service website shows, the Canyon area is filled with construction projects that are going to improve safety and accessibility for people, and only some of them have been finished. The map is from October 11 and does not include the Uncle Tom’s Point project that was finished on October 20, 2018. (Tap or click the image for a larger version.) For example, the Brink of Upper Falls is closed for construction through the summer of 2019. And the portion of the North Rim Trail between Brink of the Lower Falls and Chittenden Bridge is still closed.

Here’s the good news: the Uncle Tom’s Point reconstruction that was completed on October 20 added new walkways and improved overlooks with views of Upper Falls. Canyon Overlook and Sunset Point are wheelchair-accessible, and you will now be able to walk the South Rim Trail to Chittenden Bridge in 0.87 miles (1.4 km).

There’s more to come for trails through Yellowstone National Park. Mount Washburn trails and trailheads closed for the season on July 12, 2018. They are reconstructing the trail and building a telecommunications structure at the historic Mount Washburn fire lookout. Also, on October 15 Fishing Bridge closed for construction, and more recently a boardwalk on Geyser Hill had to be closed due to activity underneath. On Twitter? Follow us (@GPPublications) and the park itself (@YellowstoneNPS) to keep informed about trail changes and improvements.

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Cycling through early Yellowstone in 1892

Categories: News, Through Early Yellowstone
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Gate of the Mountains Albert Hencke

The Gate of the Mountains by Albert Hencke (1865-1936), originally published in 1893 in Outing magazine. Click for a larger version.

This month Dave Iltis of Cycling Utah decided to reprint Janet Chapple’s annotated version of “Lenz’s World Tour Awheel” in its entirety in the late summer issue of their magazine, Cycling Utah / Cycling West. Cycling Utah has been providing cycling news, information and events in the western United States since 1993. Dave bought the book in the shop at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and decided that the charming adventure story deserves wide readership among bicycle riders. You can even get the whole magazine issue as a free download from that website.

Philadelphia-born Frank Lenz made his pioneering side trip through the then 20-year-old Yellowstone National Park as part of his solo round-the-world cycling journey. It took place in late August 1892, but even so he encountered snow. As he says:

I was congratulating myself upon having passed through the most uncomfortable portion of my trip when I espied it raining on the opposite side of the river, and soon the icy-cold spray reached me. When within half a mile of a government engineer’s camp, what was my surprise to see the rain change into snow. As it blew up quite strong. I made for the cook’s tent for shelter, and here for three hours I thawed out my fingers and feet, which were nearly frozen.

Lenz’s story is one of the highlights of our enjoyable anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis. Other highlights, according to Aaron Parrett’s Montana book roundup in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, include Nathaniel P. Langford’s 1871 “Wonders of the Yellowstone,” Margaret Andrews Allen’s “A Family Camp in Yellowstone Park” (1885) and the journalist Ray Stannard Baker’s “A Place of Marvels: Yellowstone Park As It Now Is” (1903). You can read this and other reviews to learn more.

If you are interested in the shoulder seasons for cycling in the park, see the National Park Service’s Spring & Fall Bicycling page.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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Is Yellowstone about to blow?

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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

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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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Separate entrance fees for the two national parks

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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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P.S. to my tribute to Lee Whittlesey

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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

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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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Springtime changes

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Western Tiger salamanders

A sign of spring: adult Western Tiger salamanders come out from hibernation in late April to June, depending on elevation, and migrate to breeding ponds where they lay their eggs.


To keep abreast of the changes in the park for Yellowstone Treasures, we (author and editor) must consult a variety of sources. One of the best is the official national park site itself, which issues alerts and press releases, plus reports on the road conditions.

For example, an alert issued yesterday tells us that although Norris Campground was scheduled to open Friday, May 18, the opening will be postponed. In preparing for the spring opening, they discovered leaks in the water lines, and there’s no potable water. The savvy traveler needs to check that kind of information too!

Since changes to the park’s roads, trails, geysers, fees, and even scientific knowledge are so frequent, we have a lot to check for every edition of Yellowstone Treasures. For this spring’s second printing of the guidebook, we made enough changes that we changed the title page to read “Newly revised for 2018.” Soon we will start an occasional series outlining some of the revisions to give you a flavor for what has changed, called “Updated for 2018.”

—Beth Chapple, editor and publisher

Photo credit: The picture of Yellowstone’s only salamander is an NPS photo by Jeff Arnold.

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Getting ready for the summer season

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Kudos to Sean Reichard for keeping us up-to-date on various Yellowstone issues!

First, I was glad to learn from yellowstoneinsider.com that Superintendent Dan Wenk will not be leaving Yellowstone soon, as reported recently. He has been doing an excellent job. I was privileged to meet him during a January 2012 Tauck Tour of the Park.

Today, I learned from Sean that as of June first, 2018, not only will the fee to enter either Yellowstone or Grand Teton go up from $30 to $35 (good for one week), but one can no longer buy a joint annual pass to both parks.

At least, we can be thankful that after strong negative reaction from the public, the fees did not rise to the originally proposed $70.

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Is It Spring Yet? and What To Expect on Yellowstone’s Roads This Summer

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Once upon a time, a friend of mine who lives in Switzerland offered to meet me in a Yellowstone springtime to take pictures for my guidebook. He wrote that April would be a good time for him. But no, I wrote back, in April many roads are still closed, and the chances of more snow are still quite great. The park is totally closed for road plowing and other maintenance until mid April, and most facilities don’t open until some time in May.

Today we are four days past the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but this Old Faithful Geyser webcam still is what I found this morning on the Old Faithful webcam.

You will understand why spring is so late in Yellowstone, if you factor in that most auto-accessible areas in Yellowstone are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet (about 2,100 to 2,400 meters) in altitude. This spring the park roads will begin reopening on Friday, April 20th, when the West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful village, and Norris to Canyon Junction roads will open. Higher stretches of road open throughout May, with the last being the Northeast Entrance / Beartooth Highway opening on Friday, May 25th, for Memorial Day Weekend.

This summer season you can expect construction delays of up to thirty minutes on the five-mile stretch between Apollinaris Spring and Roaring Mountain (Mammoth to Norris road); on some parts of the rim roads and trails at the Canyon of the Yellowstone; and along the East Entrance Road between Indian Pond and Fishing Bridge.

Year-round, for Yellowstone road conditions, take a look at this NPS park roads website. Or you may receive Yellowstone road alerts from the National Park Service on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777; an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions.

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