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

All posts in Transportation

Trains to Yellowstone? Oh, for the days . . .

Categories: History, Transportation
Comments Off on Trains to Yellowstone? Oh, for the days . . .

I just answered an amazing question on quora.com: “What are the dangers of taking a train to Yellowstone?”

To my mind this is a strange question, but perhaps the person asking it does not know where trains do and do not run in the U.S.

It would be great if there were still trains to one or more of the entrances to the park. However, the last passenger train, the Northern Pacific, to terminate at Gardiner, Montana (the North Entrance) arrived with a passel of Girls Scouts in 1955, and one could only get as far as Livingston on a train up to 1979. The other railroads that took passengers near the park had stopped running trains to the vicinity of Yellowstone even before that.

Your present options are taking a tour bus, flying to one of the gateway towns that has an airport and renting a car, or driving in your own car, which people do from every state in the Union.

Personally, I would think it high time that railroads reconsider the possibility of building tracks back to Gardiner, Cody, and/or West Yellowstone. The National Park Service should then set up shuttle buses to all the major points of interest—if only there were money for such a dream to come true any time soon. . . .

Share Button

Good news, bad news about visitors to Yellowstone

Categories: News, Transportation
Comments Off on Good news, bad news about visitors to Yellowstone

fox north entrance Yellowstone

This fox was spotted tracking a snowshoe hare from atop the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance earlier this month.

Let’s take a breather from the national news scene to look at the amazing popularity of Yellowstone Park in 2016. The National Park Service office has recently announced record visitation for last year: 4,257,177 visitors came through the gates, up nearly 4 percent over last year’s record. Their January 17th press release attributes much of this huge influx to the number of commercial tour buses—12,778 last year. It’s wonderful to know that people from all over the world are able to travel and enjoy Yellowstone’s wonders, but limits on numbers or timing of visits probably need to be set up to conserve natural resources and keep the park beautiful.

Since the NPS is obliged by law to preserve the parks “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”—as well as to conserve their natural resources—officials are pondering ways to carry out these sometimes opposing obligations. Way back in May of 2011, I developed a plan for a shuttle system on the west side of the park. Unlike a park such as Zion, which essentially has one central road, the figure-eight system of park roads in Yellowstone does not lend itself well to shuttles, but having only the most-traveled west side accessible by shuttle and creating incentives to encourage able-bodied visitors to use them would help the congestion.

As someone who has enjoyed the park for over three-quarters of a century, I don’t want us to love it to death!

—Janet

Photo credit: Yellowstone Forever, @ynpforever Twitter feed, January 6, 2017

Share Button

Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

Categories: History, Transportation
Comments Off on 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.]

Share Button

Historic Yellowstone buses you can ride

Categories: History, Transportation
Comments Off on Historic Yellowstone buses you can ride

1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

A 1937 White Model 706 bus on display at Historic Flight Foundation

For me, guidebook editor Beth Chapple, last month was the month of the Yellowstone bus. Not only did I discover that one of my nearby aviation museums has a beautifully restored bus, but Wyoming Office of Tourism sent one over on a week tour of Seattle, to convince people to visit their state!

Historic Flight Foundation keeps famous, well-restored airplanes from 1927 to 1957 in a large hangar at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. But among the planes, including a Grumman F8F Bearcat and a Beechcraft Staggerwing, is a little known secret: they own one of the tour buses built in the 1930s to convey tourists around Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. The museum’s website doesn’t even mention it, but it’s a beauty they’ve had since 2012. The bus was created by the White Motor Company of Cleveland in 1935. Yellowstone Park ordered 27 of the White Model 706s for the 1936 season and there were 98 in use in 1940. In the mid 1960s the remaining buses were sold.

The buses were brought back to Yellowstone in 2007, and now anyone can take a half- or full-day tour of the park in one. It’s a great way to learn from your tour guide and see wildlife.

back of Yellowstone bus

HFF’s 1937 bus has THREE license plates on the back, including Montana’s (not shown).

When the bus visited Seattle, it posed at the city’s most photogenic places, including the Fremont Troll and the Space Needle. Driving the Wyoming Tourism bus was guide Leslie Quinn, according to Beth Shepherd’s post, called “Yellowstone National Park: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” We at Granite Peak Publications know Quinn as the Xanterra interpretive specialist who wrote the latest wonderful review on our Reviews page, which we also feature on the back of the guidebook. There’s something very cheerful about glimpsing one of the historic yellow buses with the retractable canvas top.

Share Button

What it’s like when plowing Yellowstone’s roads

Categories: On the Web, Transportation, Winter
Comments Off on 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.”

Share Button

Linx Yellowstone bus service canceled for summer 2014

Categories: News, Transportation
Comments Off on 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.

Share Button

Yellowstone’s most popular roads to open this Friday

Categories: News, Transportation
Comments Off on Yellowstone’s most popular roads to open this Friday

The National Park Service has announced that, with the help of snowplows from West Yellowstone and from Wyoming, the roads between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction and from West Yellowstone through Norris to Old Faithful Village will open on schedule Friday, April 19, 2013. It looks like other Yellowstone roads will also open as had been planned before the sequestration funding cuts forced Dan Wenk, Yellowstone’s superintendent, to announce delays of two weeks for most Yellowstone roads.

An added bonus for people who can visit any park early this season is that admission will be free to all from April 22 through 26 in celebration of National Parks Week.

Share Button

Only in America: Business comes to the rescue in Yellowstone

Categories: Transportation, Winter
Comments Off on Only in America: Business comes to the rescue in Yellowstone

Every spring Yellowstone is faced with a big job: plowing the hundreds of miles of roads that have been closed since November while many feet of snow piles up. The goal is to open the entrance roads gradually, starting in mid April, so the park spends more than a month and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the roads ready.

However, this year’s sequestration budget cuts [2013] threaten to disrupt this pattern, and Superintendent Dan Wenk of Yellowstone decided that opening two weeks later than usual would be one of his needed cutbacks. But business owners and their organizations in the Wyoming gateway towns of Jackson and Cody are not going to sit back and let this happen. By yesterday, Jackson groups had raised the funds to pay for plowing near the south gate, while those in Cody, Wyoming, have met almost half their goal to open the east gate. The state of Wyoming is providing equipment and personnel to help plow park roads, and business groups will pay back the transportation department for whatever it costs the agency to use its own workers on the federal roads.

There is no word yet as to just when the roads will be ready for auto traffic, but we’ll no doubt be learning about that soon.

Hooray for private business looking out for not just their own interests but those of the many folks who have planned early spring vacations in America’s first and greatest national park!

Share Button

National Parks moving to the forefront in energy saving

Categories: News, On the Web, Transportation
Comments Off on National Parks moving to the forefront in energy saving

If only I did not have a cello to carry around occasionally to chamber music sessions, I would certainly have a small hybrid or electric vehicle instead of a standard car. But I’m a firm believer in using as little energy as possible and am happy to know that the National Park Service is doing their part.

I’ve noticed the solar panels at Yellowstone’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch, where I’ve spent some delightful times staying while taking classes at the Yellowstone Institute. The panels have been sitting there in a nearby field for several years, but I just learned how they are used: NPS staffers based at the ranch use a low-speed battery electric utility vehicle and get power from that EV charging station, running entirely on the sun’s energy.

The Huffington Post article where I read about this [in 2012] also mentions that Great Smoky Mountains N. P. (North Carolina and Tennessee), which gets some three times as many visitors annually as does Yellowstone, has at least 24 recharge stations. Even better located for catching the sun’s energy are the solar panels at Zion N. P. in southern Utah. Way to go, NPS!

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/charging-stations-national-parks_n_2117545.html

Share Button

Winter plans when it’s still early summer

Categories: News, On the Web, Transportation, Trip planning, Winter
Comments Off on Winter plans when it’s still early summer

My deadline with the copyeditor of Yellowstone, Land of Wonders having been met, I am free to catch up on all the current Yellowstone news.

Unlike other western areas this month [June 2012], no fires threaten the park yet, but it is still early, and if drought and heat continue there will certainly be danger.

While we watch the summer scene, some people are thinking about the winter one, and a long and excellent article appeared this week about the still-unsettled plan for snowmobile and snowcoach access next winter. You can find all the details at: http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2012/06/yellowstone-draft-winteruse-plan-allows-110-transportation-events-daily-keeps-sylvan-pass-open.

Scroll down on that site for a list of all the documents on winter use since discussion began in 2000.
In brief: a plan preferred by the park service has been put forth that states that there may be “a maximum of 480 snowmobiles in the park” but “the average maximum use would be 342 snowmobiles per day.” It gets more complicated from there on and now calls what were “sound events,” “transportation events.” An improvement in language?

Some groups of snowmobiles led by unpaid guides would be allowed in each day, in addition to professionally guided tours. The East Entrance over Sylvan Pass (always a controversial subject) would remain open in winter.

Public meetings on the subject will be held in mid July, and comments from the public will be received for 45 days.

Share Button