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

Follow-up on summer 2015 road construction

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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

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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

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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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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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Heads-up on summer road construction

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For anyone who’s planning a trip to Yellowstone in the next couple of months, the good news is that the Isa Lake bridge between Old Faithful Village and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake is opening this Thursday, June 11, after total reconstruction. Landscaping projects will be ongoing until about September 10 causing some delays, but at least you will no longer have to take a big detour to go between those two popular points.

All summer, however, there will be delays up to 30 minutes between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Campground. I’m going to try to avoid that stretch except for once during my time in the park (June 11 to 16).

The total revamp of the Gardiner area around the North Entrance Arch will also be going on for the indefinite future—that is, they are hoping to complete the first phase of it in time for the celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016. Here’s where to find more information about this project.

Current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

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Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

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Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

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Wonderfully clear and sensible statement about the Yellowstone volcano

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Thanks to the USGS and probably attributable to Jacob Lowenstern, this month we have a new statement from some of the world’s best authorities on the so-called Yellowstone supervolcano. They call it Five Things Most People Get Wrong About the Yellowstone Volcano, going at the problem of media sensationalism from the back side.

Lowenstern is Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and studies magma and volcanic phenomena in Yellowstone and all over the world for the United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA.

The misconceptions this article lists are:

  • When Yellowstone erupts it will be Armageddon
  • The Yellowstone magma chamber is growing
  • Yellowstone is overdue for a supereruption
  • Yellowstone is rapidly rising
  • Earthquake data indicates moving magma.

All this is well worth absorbing and passing on to any worrywarts you know! And if you want to read more of the “true facts” (what are false facts?) about supervolcanoes, the Volcano Observatory has recently updated another great page by the world’s best authorities on the subject.

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Yellowstone Wallet Alert!

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Like most everything worthwhile in our world, visiting Yellowstone—and the Tetons—will take more out of your wallet this summer. Entrance fees have remained the same for the past nine years. Fees are charged per vehicle.

About vehicle passes

Beginning June 1, 2015, visiting Yellowstone for one to seven days goes from $25 to $30 per passenger vehicle. Grand Teton National Park will have a separate pass for $30. This is a major change, since previously one fee provided visitors with a seven-day entrance permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But people visiting both parks will now be able to save $10 by purchasing a $50 two-park vehicle pass, also valid for one to seven days.

Motorcycles can enter Yellowstone for $25 for one to seven days or both parks for $40, and
individuals (by bicycle or on foot, for example) will pay $15 for Yellowstone or $20 for both parks.

An annual pass for Yellowstone will be $60. This pass offers visitors in the local area an option that is less expensive than the $80 Interagency Pass. Interagency Pass rates remain the same: Annual ($80) and Senior ($10). Military passes and Access passes (for people with permanent disabilities) will remain free.

Free park admission

There’s still one way for people living near Yellowstone to save money. Fee-free days in the second half of 2015 will be:
August 25: National Park Service’s 99th birthday
September 26: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day

About backcountry passes

Backcountry pass fees are going up this year from Memorial Day to Sept. 10. These fees apply per night for all individuals 9 years of age or older. Backpackers and boaters will pay $3 per person, per night, up to a total of $15 per night for groups of 5 or more. Stock users will be charged $5 per person, per night.

You can purchase an annual backcountry pass for $25, and the fee for advance reservations remains $25.

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Yellowstone Park is opening up again!

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Roosevelt Cabins

Roosevelt Cabins to open June 5, 2015

Yellowstone’s roads and facilities are about to open to cars for the season. First will be the roads to Old Faithful from Mammoth and West Yellowstone and the Norris to Canyon road, all on April 17, 2015. Gradually the other roads will be ready: on May first you can drive from the East Entrance to Lake and Canyon and last (this year) will be Craig Pass between Old Faithful and West Thumb, where a new bridge is being built at Isa Lake.

The facilities open gradually, too, beginning with Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hotel on May first. The last to open will be Roosevelt Cabins on June 5. Campgrounds also open gradually, although the Mammoth Campground is open all year. You can find all the details on this page: “Opening & Closing Dates of Facilities.”

Credit: NPS Photo by David Restivo

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Science for Parks conference, final part

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6. Where has science in the national parks come from and where will it be going?

The Science for Parks, Parks for Science conference in Berkeley, March 25-27, 2015, took stock of the accomplishments of the past hundred years and pointed the way that national parks should take in the future. Scientists and budding scientists presented sessions, discussions, and posters about the work they have done and what is soon to come for the parks.

Taking in any of the more than one hundred poster sessions on Thursday afternoon turned out to be impossible for me, but the conference program listed posters on such topics as invasive species, pollution, environmental planning, and engaging the public.

Nearly a hundred short presentations took place concurrently on Friday morning in eight different rooms, meaning I could only attend a dozen of them in the three-and-one-half hours allotted. I chose to learn about light pollution—NPS scientists study this in some of today’s 407 discrete park units. Then I learned about what they’ve been doing since 1953 at the University of Wyoming / National Park Service Research Center in Grand Teton National Park. And I listened to the talks about analyzing visitors’ winter use of Yellowstone.

Themes that resonate in my mind as I sum up the conference are (1) the importance of children’s gaining experience in the out-of-doors and (2) the efforts being made by many to engage the public, to encourage “citizen science.” Two of the many mentions of the first theme were when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told us that the best classrooms are the ones without walls, and E. O. Wilson reminisced about his days of collecting insects and then snakes in southern Alabama.

In connection with citizen science, speaker John Francis, the vice president for science of the National Geographic Society, titled his talk, “The World is a Park.” He told us how, since 2007, in eight different parks, students and community members have joined scientists for a 24-hour species count. These events have taken place from Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. This year’s event will take place in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on May 15 and 16. Participants age eight and over explore and inventory plants, animals, birds, fungi, fish, and any other organisms they find that make up a park. Downloading the iNaturalist.org app will aid in documenting species.

The task of closing out this summit conference fell to steering committee chairman, Steve Beissinger, UC–Berkeley Professor of Conservation Biology, speaking on “1915, 2015, 2115, The Fall and Rise of Science in the Parks.” Epitomizing how science works in three short equations, he showed us:

Data + Theory = Model (or Hypothesis)
Model + [more] Data = Predictions]
Predictions + New Data = Test

Then he drew arrows leading back from the third line to the others, showing how the model feeds back on itself. And he added the importance of peer reviewers to the scientific mix.

Professor Beissinger also traced scientific development or the rise of science in the parks from 1916, when first NPS Director Stephen Mather invested in infrastructure (but not science) through George Wright’s assistance in establishing a wildlife division in 1928, to the 1941 decimation of all science in the parks due to World War II. But in 1963 a National Academy of Science report again stimulated research, and finally in 1999 Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units were established in several universities, with the beginning of inventory and monitoring programs soon after.

Beissinger reminded us of suggestions made by other speakers as to how to steward the parks through the inevitable changes they face. Pointing out that we cannot wait for today’s fourth graders to grow up and vote wisely, he joked that perhaps we could engage with some of today’s voters by having a “Tea Party Day”: give such voters free park passes and perhaps a crumpet for each!

The speech ended with a few practical ideas Beissinger thinks are needed, such as increasing the number of NPS biologists and removing barriers that make research difficult for scientists. Berkeley may aid by developing a “Center for Parks, People, and Biodiversity.”

And the conference was over.

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