Yellowstone, Winter & Wildlife   4 comments

Yellowstone, Winter & Wildlife

Feb. 14 – 21, 2013


We decided we wanted to see Yellowstone in the Winter, and it turned out to be a great decision!   In the winter the Yellowstone National Park interior is only accessible through guided tours on snowcoaches and snowmobiles.  So we booked a round trip coach tour from Wichita to Yellowstone with Village Tours & Travel, Wichita KS,  and let them make all the arrangements.  We have lasting memories of streaming geyser basins, snowy landscapes, and fantastic wildlife viewing.   


This was our general route and amounted to approximately 2,700 miles RT.   In addition to the coach provided by Village Tours, we rode the Amtrak train from Denver to Glenwood Springs, and snowcoaches within Yellowstone National Park. 


In Denver we boarded the California Zephyr, Amtrak train to Glenwood Springs CO.  Amtrak takes a scenic route through the mountains between Denver and Glenwood Springs.  Much of the route follows the Colorado River and is away from roads and major developments.  It was a very enjoyable seven hour trip with lots of lovely scenery and the opportunity to get up and move around at will. 


This is the Amtrak route as provided by Google Maps. 


Passing through the Coal Creek Canyon area. 


Very pretty scenery from the train window.


Winter Park Ski Area


And the wheels on the train so round and round, round and round……


The railroad followed the Colorado for most of our journey. 


The elevated road (below, right) is Interstate 70.  On the latter part of our journey to Glenwood Springs, it ran close to the railroad for many miles. 


Glenwood Springs, CO:  Is known for it’s historic underground steam baths. They are over 100 years old and were used by the Ute Indians as a source of rejuvenation and healing.  The city has seen famous visitors including President Teddy Roosevelt, who spent an entire summer vacation living out of the historic Hotel Colorado.  (photo below, left). 



Meeker Colorado:  Population approximately 2,500, located along the White River in NW, CO.  We stayed the night in Meeker and Jim & I enjoyed a tour of the 1891 Meeker Hotel.  Think it would have been fun to have stayed here. 



Jackson Hole, Wyoming:  It is a major gateway to millions of tourists visiting  Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the National Elk Refuge.  It has a population of under 10,000 and the elevation is 6,237 feet.  A ski slope is shown in the first photo.  The large arches of shed Elk antlers are located on all four corners of the town square. 



National Elk Refuge:  It is located between Jackson Hole WY, and the Grand Teton National Park.  The refuge was created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for the largest Elk herd on earth, and it is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  It is home to an average of 7,500 elk each winter.  The refuge also provides horse drawn sleigh rides to the public during the winter months so that visitors have the opportunity to see portions of the herd up close.  (And we did just that.)  During the spring the herds follow the retreating snows back into the Yellowstone National Park region.



Grand Teton National Park:  At approximately 310,000 acres, the park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole.   Some of the rocks in the park are the oldest found in any U.S. National Park and have been dated at nearly 2.7 billion years.  It is only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park , and it is connected by the National Park service-managed John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Highway. 

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Yellowstone National Park:   It’s located primarily in Wyoming, however it extends into Montana and Idaho.  It was established in 1872 and is thought to be the first national park in the world.  It is known for its wildlife and is home to Old Faithful and two-thirds of the world’s geysers.   

This maps copied from the National Park website shows the route we took through the park. (The 1st being the whole park and the 2nd a close-up of the area we visited.) We spent a day and a half in the park and traveled over 100 miles on our snowcoaches. We had the privilege of staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge that night.


In winter, the only way one can visit the park is with a commercial guide, either in a snowmobile or a snowcoach.  There is a daily limit on snowmobile and snowcoach travel within the park. We traveled around in style in this classic, historical bombardier snowcat, which is made for over-snow travel. To stick your head out for an unobstructed view, one could open the hatch in the back, or use the opening in the center top of the ceiling.


It was fun riding around in the snowcats!   Probably wasn’t as much fun for the yellow snowcoach company (below left) since one of their snowcats had run off the road and was buried up pretty deep. 


Lewis Falls:  The 30 foot falls is on the Lewis River, just south of Lake Lewis and located halfway in between the South Entrance and Grant Village. 


Between Grant Village and Craig’s Pass we ran in and out of gorgeous, peaceful, beautiful snow.  


After white-out snow, then the sun would shine brightly.  We crossed the Continental Divide many times.   (Below, right) is Shoshone Lake barely visible through the trees. 


Kepler Cascades:  The cascades drop approximately 150 feet over multiple drops.  The cascades are located about 2.5 miles south of Old Faithful. 


Old Faithful Historic District:  Late on the afternoon we arrived at the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone.  We stayed at the Old Faithful Lodge, which is very close to the Old Faithful Geyser.  It was projected to go off at 5:17 and we waiting impatiently in the cold until after 5:35 when it finally did the grand performance for us.  These are photos of the area near Old Faithful. 


Old Faithful:  It is a cone geyser and was named in 1870, the first geyser in the park to receive a name.  Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400  gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet lasting from 1.5 to 5 minutes.  The average height of an eruption is 145 feet.  Intervals between eruptions can range from 45 to 125 minutes with the average today being 90 minutes.  It is called the most predictable…..thus Old Faithful.  More than 137,000 eruptions have been recorded. 


We stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which is located very close to Old Faithful


Looking out the Lodge window the next morning at Old Faithful erupting.



Off we go for a full day of adventure with the sun shining brightly.  First we drove through the Geyser Basin area north of Old Faithful. 


Bison:  The Yellowstone bison herd is probably the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States.  The National Park info indicates that the bison population fluctuates from 2,300 and 4,500 animals.  There are two sub-populations  defined by their gathering for breeding.  The Northern Range (northern herd) and the Hayden Valley (central herd).  We saw the central herd, and we saw lots and lots of the bison!


The hot geyser waters flowing into the stream. 


Lower Geyser Basin:  This is the walk up to Fountain Paint Pot, passing by Bacteria and Silex Spring.  In referring to the National Park Service info again I will post this:   “Heat from the molten rock of the earth’s interior is transmitted up through the solid rock of the earth’s crust. Ground water circulating through these rocks becomes heated and follows cracks and fissures upward. Where the hot water can escape at the ground surface, a hot spring is formed” 


Fountain Paint Pot:  The Fountain Paint Pot is named for the reds, yellows and browns of the mud in this area. The differing colors are derived from oxidation states of the iron in the mud.


Red Spouter:  It originated with the Hebgen Lake earthquake, and exhibits the behavior of fumaroles, hot springs and mudpots.  The earthquake which is referred to was in an area west of Yellowstone National Park in 1959.  It lasted 30-40 seconds, and was registered as a magnitude of 7.3 – 7.5 on the Richter scale. 


Leather Pool:  The pool “underwent dramatic changes after the Hebgen Lake Earthquake of 1959,” reads a National Park Service brochure. ”  Prior to the earthquake, it was a warm (143 degrees ) pool that supported leather-like thermophilic brown bacteria. After the earthquake, water temperatures rose to boiling and killed the microorganisms. Since that time, Leather Pool has cooled and again supports the brown bacteria.”


 Fountain Geyser:  The Fountain erupts 10-50 feet for 20 minutes or more. We were fortunate that Fountain was erupting while we were there. 


The Lower Geyser Basin/Fountain Paint Pot was really a beautiful area!


Really enjoyed watching the thieving Raven.  He unzipped the backpack, picked out several things that weren’t too his liking and dropped them on the ground, and was just settling on a tupperware with food in it when someone chased him away. 


Heading east towards Canyon Village and seeing some of the parks wildlife.


Loved seeing all the Bison!


Following the old roadway between Norris & Canyon provides a great view of Virginia Cascade and some more steaming beauty.


Crossing the Yellowstone River.


Yellowstone Falls consist of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River.   As the Yellowstone river flows north from Yellowstone lake, it leaves the Hayden Valley and plunges first over Upper Yellowstone Falls (photo, below left) and then a quarter mile downstream over Lower Yellowstone Falls, (photo, below right) at which point it then enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the first large canyon of the Yellowstone River downstream from Yellowstone Falls.  The canyon is approximately 24 miles long, between 800 feet and 1,200 feet deep and between one quarter of a mile and three quarters of a mile wide.


And in parting, it only seems appropriate to have the last two views of Yellowstone out the front window of our Snowcoach.


But, then suddenly what should appear before our very eyes………this BALD EAGLE…….the national symbol of this great nation of ours……..The United States of America!



Posted March 14, 2013 by marilynfarmer in Travel

4 responses to “Yellowstone, Winter & Wildlife

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  1. Thanks for sharing Marilyn. Great pics. I still can’t get mine to upload on f.b. so guess we’ll just enjoy them ourselves. LOL. I would love to do an Amtrak trip someday. Looks like you saw some beautiful scenery on the way up to Jackson Hole.

    • Thanks Sherryl. I thought since you’d just been in Yellowstone in the winter also, that you might like looking at my travel blog. We always enjoy looking at pictures and deciding that we also saw this or that or the other.

  2. I come to your blog often to look at your wonderful pictures and read your captions! I have this saved to my favorites menu! I will be traveling to many of these places in the near furture, I hope. Thank you for sharing!!!

  3. You are welcome Tamra. Glad you enjoy my blog, and happy travels to you.

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