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All posts tagged Mammoth

Yellowstone Park is opening up again!

Categories: News, Trip planning
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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

Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs

Categories: Thermal features, Trip Reports
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A thermal area in the park that attracts me strongly and that I think is underrated in general is Mammoth Hot Springs. Nineteenth-century visitors were sure it would sometime soon be turned into a spa or sanatorium, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

Before soaking in the hot pools became strictly forbidden, lots of people did it. Park hotels did not provide hot showers in those days. Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq visited in 1883 and experienced “supreme satisfaction plunging into a basin whose waters were an exquisite 30ºC [86ºF]. My bath was a meter deep. The siliceous efflorescence that lined the interior walls seemed like velvet cushions. . . .” until he noticed water in a neighboring basin suddenly rising. It happened that his clothes and towels were in that basin. “The proximity of the hotel consoled me in my misfortune,” he concluded.

Lacking a volunteer organization such as the Geyser Observation and Study Association that keeps good track of the geysers in and around the Old Faithful area and Norris, Mammoth-lovers mostly have to find out what is happening there for ourselves. Mammoth’s springs and the terraces they create are always changing. The ones I found most active this August were Grassy Spring and its very new (probably as yet unnamed) neighbor; Canary Spring; and Narrow Gauge Terrace.

In the twenty years I’ve been observing it, the hot water activity in Canary has gradually migrated from close to the hillside just below the Grand Loop Road out to the north.

Canary Spring 2009

Canary looked like this when I was there in 2009.


The terraces Canary is building are amazingly high and beautiful. Here’s what I saw on the morning of August 15th 2014:

Near the steps leading down to Canary is a good place to observe how newer springs can begin to form terraces by depositing a thin layer of calcite ice on top of still, level pools of hot water; with time tiny delicate terracettes form around the pools. Eventually these will build up to be impressive terraces, too—and the boardwalk will have to be moved again!

An area not shown on the Yellowstone Association pamphlet map at all but described in Yellowstone Treasures is my other favorite at Mammoth, the extremely active lower terrace formation at Narrow Gauge Terrace. Deeply ensconced in tall trees, the growing terraces are almost impossible to photograph well. It was very dark there in 2009, but my friend Suzanne Cane got a very good shot in June 2013.
Narrow Gauge Terrace 2009

Narrow Gauge Terrace by Suzanne Cane in 2013

This year, the active springs and color from them cover about 300 degrees of a circle. My Narrow Gauge notes: “Building a throne for itself. One large dead tree fully knocked over at south end. No sound here but the musical bubbling at several pitches from various outlets.” Magical!

Traveling to Yellowstone in the winter

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Silex Spring in winter

An island of rime-coated grass in Silex Spring’s runoff


For most of the winter, the West, East and South park entrances are closed to cars and trucks but open to skiers, snowshoers, snowcoaches, and snowmobiles. These winter activities are possible until early to mid March. Then most of the park is closed to everyone until various roads open between April 18 and 23. Call the Yellowstone National Park information office (307-344-2117) for current road information.

The one park road that is kept open all winter takes you from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance via Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt. See the Park Map.

Only two park lodgings are open in winter—the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Go to Xanterra’s Yellowstone site for more information and reservations.

Also, be sure to read Janet’s report about her Tauck tour of the park in 2012. The many photos give you an idea of what it is like this time of year.

Happy New Year!

Have a good journey,
Beth Chapple, Editor

Updated Jan. 2, 2014

Yellowstone’s most popular roads to open this Friday

Categories: News, Transportation
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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.

Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Newly translated Yellowstone Park travelogue

Categories: Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Thermal features, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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Yellowstone Land of Wonders book coverI have not been posting these two weeks [Dec.2012, Jan. 2013], since all I’ve been doing is going through page proofs and helping to create the index for the 1886 book that colleague Suzanne Cane and I have translated from French. It’s called Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North America’s National Park, written by Belgian Jules Leclercq. The author was there at a time when Yellowstone was just opening up to tourists; there were few people around and no limits to where they could go or what they could do. So, while climbing around the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, author Jules Leclercq decided it would be pleasant to bathe in a hot spring. He wrote:

I experienced supreme satisfaction plunging into a basin whose waters were an exquisite 30ºC [86ºF]. My bath was a meter deep. The siliceous efflorescence that lined the interior walls seemed like velvet cushions.
I remained perfectly still for a long time in this delightful bath, allowing my body to be pervaded by the invigorating influence of those waters, gentler to the skin than the softest comforter and as agreeable to the taste as to the touch.

While I was reveling in my bath, I became aware of the augmentation in water level following a sudden rise in level in a higher spring, and, to my great horror, I noticed a neighboring basin that had been completely dry was now flooded by the rise. Now, it was in that basin that I had put my clothes, my boots, my towels. One must have suffered a similar ordeal to understand what deep despair can arise from the smallest accidents. The proximity of the hotel consoled me in my misfortune.

A similar incident a few years earlier (1879) was described in “Through the Yellowstone Park to Fort Custer” by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who, with a physician friend, found “gleaming bathtubs full of water . . . so absolutely delicious that we sank for a few moments into motionless, silent enjoyment. Presently my friend uttered words which I may not repeat, and looking up, I saw that the springs above us had been seized with a fit of prodigality, and had suddenly and liberally overflowed the doctor’s dressing-tables. His visage as he got out of the bath with alacrity was something to remember.”

Our book will be available in May 2013 in hardcover and e-book versions from the University of Nebraska Press.

My ideas for a Yellowstone shuttle system

Categories: Transportation
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Yellowstone Park needs a shuttle system!

Although I know that the National Park Service has in the past considered inaugurating shuttle service in Yellowstone to alleviate road congestion and cut down on carbon emissions, perhaps the following plan has not yet been broached. I suggest that only the west side of this vast park could be well served by such a system. Here is my plan for a way we could accomplish this.

I believe that providing a convenient shuttle service would greatly relieve summer congestion and would be used willingly by many visitors. Shuttle usage would be voluntary, and private vehicles and tour buses would continue to be allowed on the roads along with the shuttles. If the shuttle service were to be modeled after those at Yosemite, Bryce, and particularly Zion National Parks, it would be free. Having recently visited Zion and Bryce, I enquired how the system is paid for and was told that the equipment is owned by the National Park Service but operated by a concessionaire (at Bryce it is McDonald Transit Associates). Park entrance fees cover the expenses of running the shuttles.

Shuttle particulars proposed for Yellowstone

Shuttles could serve visitors along the roads between Mammoth in the north of the park and Old Faithful in the south central part. On this route are the majority of interesting hydrothermal features, as well as many other features of interest and hiking trailheads. All visitors who come in private cars, if they stay more than a day or two, usually want to visit much if not all of this region.

My plan would serve visitors who leave their vehicles overnight or for several nights at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, or Old Faithful, or in the campgrounds at Norris or Madison. New parking areas might be required in some of these areas and could charge a reasonable fee for their use, something on the order of five to ten dollars per day. This parking fee could help to cover the cost of the shuttle system. The shuttle itself would be free and useable by any visitors or staff. Thus, people could go into and out of the park on the same day or, if staying in the park, could take belongings with them on the shuttle for several days’ use while staying in park facilities.

Since no travelers who come from far away would want to carry all their belongings around while touring by shuttle, shuttle travel would have to be coordinated with the concessionaires at Mammoth and Old Faithful and with the management of private lodgings in West Yellowstone. In other words, visitors would leave most of their belongings at one of the three locations, in hotel/motel rooms if staying in the same place for several nights. Or if, for example, they wanted to stay one night in Mammoth or West Yellowstone and then stay a night or more at Old Faithful and return for their cars, baggage storage rooms could be provided at the motels and some space on the shuttles could be used for smaller baggage.

Ideally, simple lunch rooms would be built by the NPS and run by the park concessionaire at Norris and Madison, utilizing part of the already-disturbed land in the present large parking lots.

To make this plan work, I would propose that shuttles run at least every twenty minutes and for twelve hours per day between the end points, maybe from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week. They should operate from mid June through mid September. A fleet of at least thirty electric, hybrid, or propane shuttles would be needed. There should be two round-trip routes: Mammoth campground to and from Madison Junction and West Yellowstone to and from Old Faithful Village, with correspondence at Madison. This system would require several dozen drivers. The shuttles would be large vans holding twelve to fifteen passengers. They would stop at every point along the roads that has something of general interest. Granted, this would mean a lot of stops, but the stops would mostly be very brief. Lesser-known features along the roads, such as the panoramic view at Swan Lake above Mammoth or the Chocolate Pots south of Norris Junction, should be included in the stops made by the shuttles.

Most people would want to spend an hour or two at the major geyser basins but could easily time their visits to have a minimal wait for the next van, if they were spaced twenty minutes apart. Covered shelters with some seating would be needed at shuttle stops.
Here is an example of potential pick-up/drop-off points between Mammoth and Norris:
Mammoth Campground
Mammoth Hotel
Upper Terrace Drive
Bunsen Peak and other trailheads near Rustic Falls
Swan Lake Flat panorama
Sheepeater Cliffs side road
Indian Creek Campground
Apollinaris Spring and picnic area
Obsidian Cliff
Mount Holmes trailhead
Solfatara trailhead
Grizzly Lake trailhead
Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Norris Campground
Norris Geyser Basin

A similar list of stopping points would be set up between other major places of interest or village areas with campgrounds or accommodations, where cars would be left. A total of 30 to 35 stops might be made between Mammoth and Old Faithful. In addition to the regular shuttles that make many stops, express shuttles would ferry staff and visitors to and from their vehicles at the end points three or four times a day.

This system might eliminate more than half of the cars that use the roads between Old Faithful and West Yellowstone and Mammoth, saving fuel and cutting congestion on the roads, and improving the air quality and the overall Yellowstone experience.

2011

This time I want to write about three separate subjects that only relate to my recent [2010] trip to Yellowstone because they center on people in the park.
First, I want to publicly thank Yellowstone’s Park Historian, Lee Whittlesey. He has been encouraging to me about all my projects relating to the park and has helped me immeasurably to find what I’ve needed and to understand a great many things. I’ve gone to him with questions ever since 1995, when I began research relating to Yellowstone. This month he supplied a strong shot in the arm to the project my colleague Suzanne Cane and I have been working on for over two years, a translation of Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq’s beautifully written 1886 French book called La Terre des Merveilles or The Land of Wonders. His help and enthusiasm are propelling us forward. What an amazing guy he is!

Next I’ll mention the delight I felt when, by chance, I got to meet USGS geologists Bob (“Chris”) Christiansen and Jake Lowenstern while waiting for Fountain Geyser to erupt. These two were presenting interesting geological remarks to a small group of people that turned out to be a field trip from the group Geologists of Jackson Hole. When they were about to leave I got up the courage to introduce myself and my husband Bruno Giletti, and they were both most cordial. These are two of the most important contemporary researchers into Yellowstone-related geologic questions, and I have known about them for many years, so it was a pleasure to finally meet them.

Lastly, at Mammoth Hot Springs in previous summers I’ve been able to consult the rangers’ logbook to learn what the various springs and terraces have been doing since the last time I was there. Now, I learned, there is no longer a logbook, and, as far as the rangers at the information desk in Albright Visitor Center could tell me, no one is keeping track for the park of where there are new springs, which ones are most active in building the travertine terraces, or any other current data about Mammoth’s remarkable features. If this is so, it is really a shame. I suppose it is directly related to lack of sufficient funds to have enough park service personnel to do all the things that should be done, and this type of study is a low priority. But the geysers all over the park have their own non-governmental group called the Geyser Observation and Study Association, with some 250-300 members. What about these unique hot spring terraces? I would love to be able to help personally with reviving the data collection on thermal features at Mammoth. Maybe in the next life. . .