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

All posts tagged national parks

park superintendent Norris

Superintendent Norris, as reproduced on page 205 of Yellowstone Treasures

After an August when I deserted not just Yellowstone but left the country for a trip to Germany, France, and Switzerland, I am back picking up my research project where I left off. This project will, with luck, turn into a new biography of Philetus W. Norris, Yellowstone’s second and most dynamic superintendent, who served from 1877 to 1882.

There is much to learn about Norris, including reading his several reports as superintendent. His only other extensive published work, unless you include the letters he sent to the Norris Suburban newspaper, is a book of annotated poems called Calumet of the Coteau. The book’s title refers to a peace pipe and the French word for hill or hillside.

I have quoted two of his poems in my historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: “Rustic Bridge and Crystal Falls” and “The Wonder-Land.” Norris’s unfailing use of iambic tetrameter or pentameter can get monotonous, but the sentiments are nice.

I can relate to “The Cloud-Circled Mountains,” especially to the second of its six stanzas:

My heart’s ’mid the mirage, the lakes, and the plains,
The buttes and the coteaus, where wild nature reigns;
My heart’s ’mid the coulees and cañons so grand,
And bright-spouting geysers of lone Wonder-Land.
Oh, my heart’s ’mid those fountains and streamlets below
Those cloud-circled mountains, white-crested with snow!

Read more about my trip to Europe in the nuggets Savoring France, Part I and Part II.

Photo credit: Record Group 79, National Archives and Records Administration, Yellowstone National Park.

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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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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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Why is Yellowstone National Park important?

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, On the Web
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This question came up on Quora today, and I decided to answer it. Here’s what I submitted:

The superficial answer might be simply: It is important because it was the first place called a national park ever set aside by any country.

In answering this question one would have to ask two others: Important to whom? and Important in what way or ways?

Important to whom? Well, to anyone who cares about preserving remarkable landscapes from commercialism or from being despoiled. In 1872, when Congress passed the act setting aside the park and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it, the Yellowstone area was compared to Niagara Falls, because that phenomenon had not been preserved officially nor were businesses forbidden from setting up to sell whatever they wanted to the tourists who flocked there.

How was it important? Although no one in Congress had seen this remote western area, the men who had gone there were able to show photographs and paintings and tell them stories of what they had seen—phenomenal geysers and hot springs, lakes and waterfalls, mountains and valleys teeming with wildlife.

Not only Americans but people from all over the world are now able to visit and experience a place like no other, where only the necessary concessions are permitted and noone is trying to sell you anything outside of the few souvenir shops you may enter if you wish.

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John Muir’s 180th Birthday

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John Muir Home in Martinez California On April 21, 1838, famous naturalist John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. So this 21st we celebrate the 180th birthday of a hero of the conservation movement, without whom the national parks of the world might never have been created. Muir’s writings about the beauty of U.S. lands, particularly in California and Alaska, convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks. He also included a chapter on Yellowstone in his 1901 book Our National Parks, and Janet quotes his 1898 description of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone Treasures. Here’s a famous quote from a letter he wrote to his sister Sarah in 1873: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

In June 2017 I took the opportunity during a visit to the Bay Area to see the peaceful house where he lived with his wife and two daughters, Helen and Wanda. A highlight of the tour is his study, which he called his “scribble den,” with its bright daylight, fine wooden furniture, and landscape paintings. It is also great fun to walk through the seven acres of orchards and other parts of the grounds, including the oldest structure in the town of Martinez, the Vicente Martinez adobe. (Click for larger images.)

Muir study with typewriter

John Muir’s study

Historical markers

Historical markers for the Vicente Martinez adobe and the John Muir home




Think of Muir as you celebrate Earth Day this weekend! If you are in the Bay Area on Saturday, a John Muir Birthday / Earth Day celebration at the John Muir Home National Historic Site in Martinez, California, this year includes family-friendly activities, music, food for sale, and self-guided tours. Learn more about what you can see on a visit in this “National Park Getaway” article.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

P.S. Here is another lovely John Muir quote: “Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”

Photo credits: The exterior of the John Muir house is an NPS photo. All other photos by Beth Chapple.

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Why we say it is Yellowstone National Park’s birthday today

Categories: History, Through Early Yellowstone
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1872 Yellowstone act excerpt

Excerpt from page 50 of Through Early Yellowstone

On the first of March in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill setting aside “the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river,” creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. We reproduce the text of that act in our historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone, to share with other readers what this foresightful law was meant to do. This land was “set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And the act continues to inspire governments to dedicate land for conservation throughout the world—just look at Chile and Peru for recent examples.

The month of March in Yellowstone also means that park roads start to close to oversnow travel, in preparation for plowing and reopening in April and May. While the road from the North Entrance (Gardiner) to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City) is open year-round, today at 9 pm the road from the East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass) closes to snowcoaches and snowmobiles, and other roads follow throughout the next two weeks. Conditions permitting, there is also a schedule for reopening the roads for motorized traffic. See the Park Roads page at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

This period between closing the park roads to oversnow travel and reopening them is a time when cyclists and hikers can travel the roads but car drivers are not allowed. See the National Park Service’s Spring & Fall Bicycling page to learn about the regulations and reminders, since you must still share the road with bears, administrative vehicles, and snow removal equipment. No services are available within the park during the spring shoulder season.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

Updated August 20, 2018.

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Encourage teens to join the Youth Conservation Corps

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Yellowstone youth conservation corps members

Youth Conservation Corps members at Inspiration Point, Yellowstone National Park (NPS photo, circa 2012)


The National Park Service is announcing that the deadline to apply for one of the two month-long sessions at Yellowstone this summer is rapidly approaching: March 1, 2018. This will be the 29th straight year that the Youth Conservation Corps is offered in Yellowstone National Park. Sixty young people between the ages of 15 and 18 can participate in this program, which has educational, recreational, and work aspects. Teens help NPS staff with trail and campground restoration, resource management, visitor support, maintenance, and more. “Applicants should possess a positive attitude, a willingness and ability to work in a physically active outdoor program, and get along well with others,” according to the press release. What a great opportunity! For more information and to obtain the application, see the YCC page on the official Yellowstone National Park website.

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Unique experiences in the park

Categories: Through Early Yellowstone, Trip Reports
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Mud Volcano winter

Mud Volcano area in winter (2012)

While everyone knows that visitation just keeps increasing in Yellowstone, most of us are seeking ways to make our own trips unique and special to us. New Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney says in the winter 2017 issue of Yellowstone Quarterly from Yellowstone Forever, “I have always enjoyed finding the subtler things that make our park special.” His example is “it is great to spend an evening up on Swan Lake Flats, listening to the snipe and watching the Milky Way appear.”

Author Janet Chapple aims to help with this quest, even including a list of “Less Well-known Yet Beautiful Places” on page 19 of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook to help with your planning. As she writes in the preface, “Yellowstone means many things to many people: bears and bison, geysers and colorful pools, hikes and horseback rides, distant vistas and the stillness of the backcountry. It can also mean clear dry western air, spectacular sunsets, and night skies so full of stars you think you’re seeing to the end of the universe.”

Through Early Yellowstone compiles a variety of stories from long ago, and each travel writer has his or her own encounter with joy or amazement. Make sure to take advantage of our 25% off sale while it lasts, just through January 31, 2018.

May your 2018 include unique experiences in Yellowstone and our other national parks! You are welcome to share some highlights of your trips in the comments.
Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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Proposed fee changes for national parks

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The National Park Service has announced a proposal to charge larger fees for seventeen of its most popular parks, beginning next spring. I learned about this through the excellent KQED California Bay Area radio program, “Forum,” and considered registering a comment with the NPS.

Considering the dire condition that many of our parks are now in due to underfunding by the federal government, it probably makes sense to raise entrance fees for people who are actually using these parks, especially during the busiest seasons (May through September for Yellowstone).

A caller to the program brought up the subject of charging more for people from other countries than for U.S. citizens—a thought that had also crossed my mind while I was listening. After all, when Congress passed the 1872 act setting aside Yellowstone, the very first national park in the world, they stipulated that it was “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” and chances are they were thinking of American people. Whether or not charging more for foreign visitors is a good idea (and I’m not sure it is), that is not a consideration included in the present proposed fee change.

Decide for yourself whether this fee hike would be a wise move by going to: [link] the NPS website.

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2017 national parks photo contest

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Artemisia Geyser near Biscuit Basin

Happy National Public Lands Day! Did you know that admission to all U.S. national parks is free today? National Public Lands Day is always on a Saturday in late September, and some parks hold special events.

To celebrate, we would like to be sure you know about the Official Federal Recreation Lands Photo Contest, “Share the Experience.” This contest is sponsored by the National Park Foundation and FindYourPark.com/EncuentraTuParque.com. Through December 31, 2017, amateur photographers are invited to submit photos that highlight the best of America’s federal lands, national parks, and historical sites in various categories. The grand prize includes getting your image on the Annual Federal Recreational Lands Pass (2019), which is distributed to over 300,000 people annually, plus $10,000 and a bunch of camera gear. Wouldn’t it be cool to see an image from Yellowstone National park on the pass? The 2nd and 3rd prizes also include money and camera gear. You can see the winning photos from 2016 as well as more recent photos in the gallery at the Share the Experience website. That is also the place to learn about the contest rules and guidelines.

—Enjoy! Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

Photo Credit: Janet Chapple, June 2015. You can reach Artemisia Geyser’s beautiful pool and formation in one of two ways. 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.

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