This is actually the North Entrance by Mammoth Hot Springs (we took it at the end of the day) It's my favorite entrance to Yellowstone. We were staying outside the west entrance.
We started the day coming in from the West Entrance and headed south towards Old Faithful. On the road down we passed by many geyser basin and other thermal activity. I was so excited while driving when the plumes of steam appeared and the ground became barren. There's something so interested about seeing the thermal pools take over the natural tree covered land. Of course I think the place looks so different then last time I was there, which is so neat to see something so quickly changing. The hot springs are so gorgeous and the colors are magnificent. You can see so far down into the pools it's enchanting. I love that on one side you'll have a mud pot, then look to the other side and theres a blue hot spring. Its odd how such differences are formed by the same thing.
Yellowstone is one of the most volcanic active places on the earth and the largest volcanic system in North America, the yellowstone caldera is actually a super volcano. The Yellowstone Caldera has also exploded twice in it's current location, you can see lines of columns in the grand canyon of yellowstone from where the lava flow was (it looks like devils tower's columns). Yellowstone was created by a mantle hotspot that the continental plates move over. Actually the hotspot also formed Craters of the Moon, NP, multiple calderas in the area, and the snake river plain which traces the north american plate over the yellowstone hotspot. Yellowstone is one of the most pristine places to view geo-thermal activity. It has over 300 geysers, and over 10,000 geothermal features making it hold 2/3 of the worlds geysers and half of the worlds geothermal features. It's wonderful that these are protected, while Lee and I waited for Old Faithful the ranger told us on how most of the worlds geysers have been used for geothermal energy and that the act of this kills the geyser. Which is sad to destroy something so awe inspiring.
Most of the geysers are in the Upper Geyser Basin, which is where Old Faithful, Beehive, Castle Geyser, etc are. It's also the home of Old Faithful Village and Old Faithful Inn. Old Faithful Geyser is not the largest geyser in the park, but it is true to it's name. It erupts ever 90 minutes with a margin of error of 10min. It erupts a height of 100ft - 180ft. I enjoyed waiting for the eruption, everyone was on their toes. For me having seen this geyser many times in my life, it was fun to watch the people around me, ask questions if they would be able to capture it with the camera, how quick is the eruption, will I know when it erupts? And watching everyone jump to their feet every time the geyser bubbled. There were some snotty teens behind me making remarks whenever the geyser spit a bit on how this was a waste, or was that it? Then Old Faithful finally erupts and everyone oohs and aahs. Even the snotty teens were amazed.
After, Lee went walking on the Upper Basin while I stayed back around the village walking Tripp around. I got to walk around Old Faithful Inn a few times and marvel at it. Old Faithful Inn almost burnt down when over 1/3 of the park burnt during a forest fire in 1988. The fire was so bad that the park concentrated on saving the Inn. Which was worth it. The beauty of this place is amazing, you walk in and expect to run into Teddy Roosevelt or some adventurer of the 1900's. Before we left we watched Old Faithful again from a distance before heading east towards Yellowsone Lake.
Lee and I were definitely dressing the part of hip-hikers. haha We were donned in plaid most of the time, and my hiking boots and Coors belt buckle were a must, and Lee's coon-skin cap was probably the best purchase.
The drive to Yellowstone Lake and Hayden valley was very much a scenic drive with mountains, waterfalls, and lots of wildlife.
The above photos were Dragon's Mouth hot spring.... or something like that. It was bubbling in the cave area so was making a rumble dragon like sound... For fun I had to take a picture in front of it. Last time I was here was 7 years ago with my dad, step-mom, and then boyfriend Guilherme. So here you are, an embarrassing picture of me right after graduating highschool... hahaha
Same location... but hopefully I look a bit different. haha! I definitely have a better camera! Maybe I'll share some other old time yellowston pics :)
Soon we came upon Hayden Valley, which is known for it's American Bison herds. Yellowstone has the largest wild bison herd in the world, and is on the forefront of trying to saved this endangered species. In 1902 the bison were over hunted (pictured a man standing on a mountain of bison skulls) resulting in a population of less then 50 in the park. One reason that they aren't more protected because they carry Brucellosis which came from Europe and is a bacterial disease in cattle. It doesn't affect the bison but the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service states that they may likely spread the disease to cattle. This causes the bison to not be protected outside the park boundaries and during their winter migration many are taken to slaughter houses. The population has peaked to over 4000 bison, but more recently dropped down to 3000 because of harsh winters and Brucellosis management sending hundreds to slaughter. This happens even though there has never been a reported case filed on bison transmitting the disease to livestock. It saddens me to know that once there were between 30-60 million bison in the US, and because of our fear they teeter on extinction with no protection because of a perceived threat. I am happy that Yellowstone is there to protect them and other species, and are a major player in restoring species like the reintroduction of the wolves to Yellowstone and surrounding states in 1995-96, which has been so well done that the Rocky Mountain Wolf was taken off the endangered species list in 2008.
This last picture of the field of bison was actually amazing in real life. Lee and I got to watch the bison running around and chasing each other, which I've only seen in videos. It was incredible to watch them run... but also somewhat scary because of the sheer mass of them.
Anyway, sorry for the soap box statements on geysers and wildlife, being a part of the study and protection of the natural world has always been very close to my heart. I've traveled and supported the National Parks and what they stand for my entire life, I've also become a Junior Ranger in most all the parks I've visited. My parents really taught me to love and want to protect the beauty around me and I am so happy for those lessons. I hope that if you read all my typing you will be inclined to learn more and want to preserve ours and your national treasures... ok time to step down :)
part 2: Yellowstone River, Upper and Lower Falls, and Mammoth Hot Springs coming next!
Till next day!
photos by me and lee