As we entered the park through the north entrance in Gardiner, Montana, we passed under the Roosevelt Arch which was built in 1903. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone.
Today we visited, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. WHAT?!?!
Who even knew that Yellowstone had its own Grand Canyon?! It is here that you can see the rocks from which Yellowstone derives its name. The canyon walls are lined with igneous, volcanic rock called rhyolite. In addition to the predominant yellow, there are also a variety of other colors ranging from pinks to reds. The colors, even the yellows, are the result of heat and chemical actions affecting the varying levels of iron in the rock. Basically ... rust. The heat also makes the rock very soft and brittle and more easily erodible ... accelerating erosion in the canyon. The canyon is approximately 24 miles long, 1200 feet deep, and up to 4000 feet wide in places.
In 1872, Congress paid Thomas Moran $10,000 for an oil painting of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone but allocated $0 (zero dollars) for the new park’s budget that year. Seems that Congress has always had peculiar priorities.
We stopped first at the Brink of the Lower Falls overlook which is on the north rim of the canyon. From various overlooks, we could see the Lower Falls, which are wide with brilliant green water. We also got some glimpses of the Upper Falls which are taller and all white. We then drove around other side (the south rim) and walked to Artist Point where you can get dramatic views of the Upper Falls. This is the point of view that Thomas Moran reported used for his commissioned painting of the falls.
This place is breathtaking. Doesn't look real. DOES NOT LOOK REAL!!!
After taking in the canyon and waterfall views, we headed south through the park. We stopped in the Hayden Valley which is noted as a place to view wildlife and saw a HUGE herd of bison. The males were rolling around in the dust ... apparently this is something they do to impress the females. Go figure.
We continued south and drove around part of Yellowstone Lake. This thing is BIG!! Lots of driftwood. We looked for the WHOI trailer but didn't see it. (WHOI is helping the Park Service to do research on the hot vents in Yellowstone Lake.)
Further south, we stopped at the Fishing Bridge. Fishing Bridge is on the northeast corner of Yellowstone Lake. The original bridge was built in 1902. It was a rough hewn log bridge with a slightly different alignment than the current bridge. The existing bridge was built in 1937. The Fishing Bridge was historically a tremendously popular place to fish. Angling from the bridge was quite good, due to the fact that it was a major spawning area for cutthroat trout. Fishing from the bridge is not longer allowed.
As we drove east out of the park, we saw lots of dead trees. They appeared to have been the victim of recent fires. Unlike in other areas of the park, the regrowth in this area was minimal thus far.
Then we experienced our own personal bison jam. A bison jam in the park is when the bison stop traffic as they slowly meander down and/or across the road. We encountered a bison right on the edge of the road munching on a bush. And then he proceeded to meander onto and then down the middle of the road. Check out the video below.
Even though we spent almost three full days in Yellowstone, we did not see anywhere close to everything in the park. It's so big and there are sooooooo many interesting features. You probably could spend a couple of weeks just in this park. Amazing. Thankfully, Congress had the good sense 100 years ago to preserve and protect it. Let's hope that continues.
We exited the park and drove for 3 hours through Wyoming. Such a variety of interesting landscapes. There were flat plains with literally nothing in them and also rocky, mountainous terrain.
We drove through a series of short tunnels in the mountain at Buffalo Bill State Park just outside Cody, Wyoming. Then we drove through the town of Cody (Population: 9,836) which is basically one main street. You could definitely see the old west history along the street.
We are staying the night in Thermopolis, Wyoming. (Elevation: 4,331′ Population: 2,937) This is the first and only time we are below 5,000 feet. We are heading to Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming tomorrow.