on July 23, 2012
Yellowstone National Park was created as our first US National Park by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Today it receives more than two million visitors annually, with July being the busiest month. Like many other National Park Service (NPS) designated parks, Yellowstone offers a plethora of tourist convenience services including hotels, campgrounds, restaurants and lots tour activities. With five entrances into the park and nine visitor center throughout, there are a lot of opportunities to meet with rangers and learn about the park's diverse features and attractions.Perhaps most famous are the geothermal areas that include geysers, boiling pots and hot springs. Old Faithful is the most well known of these, particularly because of the predictive nature of its eruptions. There are several other lesser known predicted geysers, to include the largest and most spectacular Great Fountain Geyser.Some of the geysers go off very frequently (I saw the White Cone erupt several times over the course of a couple of hours) while others are rare and haven't been seen in years. Although Steamboat Geyser hasn't had a true eruption skyward in years, a brief visit to it will provide an opportunity to watch it spurt and gurgle continuously.Several of the hot springs and boiling pots have a high sulfur content, so if you are susceptible to the fumes as I am, you are best advised to avoid them or make sure you visit is very limited in areas where your breathing may be adversely affected.Many people travel to Yellowstone due to the diversity in fauna and flora. The wildlife and beautiful flowers are worth the time to observe and photograph. It has been said that Yellowstone is the Serengeti of the United States. If we were to have a designated "big five" I would guess it would be 1) bison, 2) elk, 3) bears (black and/or brown/grizzly, 4) pronghorn and 5) wolves. I was fortunate to see all but the wolves. I heard about sightings during my time in the park; I just wasn't in the right place at the right time in spite of my best efforts.Perhaps the moose and coyote are in the big five? I did read that the bighorn sheep are in the "winter big five" so I guess I really don't know if there is an official list or not. I was fortunate to see many of the species known to reside in the park, I was very happy with the photos I was able to capture.As for the flora, the wildflowers were in bloom throughout the park providing a beautiful splash of color throughout. One area where I saw the most diversity was up along the Blacktail Plateau loop road between Roosevelt & Mammoth. I've included several photos from that drive with this review.One cannot visit the park and not notice the affects of wildfires in the park. Being a particularly hot and dry summer already, the park and surrounding areas were on high danger alert for fire. Restrictions were in place as they pertained to the use of campfires. Some fires, are however started by nature in the form of lightning strikes. When that occurs, the fires are permitted to burn their own natural course, as long as people and property (like the villages and lodges) are not at risk.The cycle of fire is a natural occurrence and through it new forest and trees are seeded. The worst fire in park history was in 1988 when several fires burned for nearly a month, destroying nearly 800,000 acres (approximately 1,300 square miles) within the park. While there is always concern for the loss of wildlife during fire, it was reported that in 1988 very few animals died. Today's fire management practices are largely based on what was learned during the fires of 1988.Visitors to Yellowstone National Park have a wealth of recreational opportunities. Fishing and horseback riding are very popular, as are rafting, kayaking and boating. Hiking is probably the number one activity, with trails and back country options found throughout the park.There are tours available through the park's official concessionaire Xanterra as well as other outside operators. I passed by the large yellow buses several times during my visit. I also saw the horse drawn wagons taking guests out for a real western cookout near Roosevelt Lodge.I had a great time during my five days inside the park and got to see and experience a lot of what is available to visitors. That said, it is impossible to see everything, so I am already looking forward to my next trip to Yellowstone National Park!
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