Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg
Yellowstone is not only America’s first national park, but the very first such preserve in all the world. Brought into existence with the 1872 signature of President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone set the example for the worldwide park and preservation movement. It is the quintessential essence of our park system. Even after almost a century and a half, Yellowstone remains one of the crown jewels of the world.
We discussed a winter trip to Yellowstone in the October 2015 issue of eNews. In this issue, we’ll explore this vast park in warmer weather.
Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming and spreads a bit into both Montana and Idaho. It is easy to get around within the park. The road system is designed in the shape of a figure eight with two large loops and spoke roads protruding to the four primary entrances.
For me, the big attraction of Yellowstone is the unbeatable variety. With most of the world’s active geysers and thermal features, North America’s greatest display of wildlife, exotic limestone terraces, several spectacular waterfalls and mountain backdrops, this treasure is truly one of the world’s great places.
Not to be missed
OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER BASIN
Check at the Visitor Center for geyser predictions to help you see as many eruptions as possible.
Walk the length of the paved trail to Morning Glory Pool at the far end. Be sure to see eruptions of Old Faithful and Riverside Geysers at a minimum. Stroll through the famed Old Faithful Lodge, the ultimate example of “parkitecture,” and schedule time to enjoy a great meal there.
GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING
One of the most spectacular sights in the park is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Park at Midway Geyser Basin, a few miles north of Old Faithful, and stroll the boardwalk. The lead photo to this article was made from a four-seater airplane while looking straight down from about a thousand feet above the pool.
GREAT FOUNTAIN GEYSER
About ten miles north of Old Faithful, along a one-way loop road, is the Great Fountain Geyser. You’ll need some luck to see one of the infrequent eruptions of this splendid geyser. Avoid the bleachers. The best compositions are from the eastern edge of the small parking area.
A favorite of early artists and photographers such as Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson, Tower Falls is a great place to begin your tour of Yellowstone’s east side. If the trail to the base of the falls is officially open, enjoy the walk. Go toward the base of the falls and shoot upward with a very wide angle lens. Don’t get too close; those rocks are very slippery.
As the photo demonstrates, calling the canyon of the Yellowstone River the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is appropriate. The best of the many fine viewpoints here are Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail and the brink of the Lower Falls. The last two involve a little hiking but are well worth the effort. At the brink of the Lower Falls, you are likely to see a rainbow around mid-day.
Boating the vast Lake Yellowstone can be a rewarding experience. Even the lake floor boasts several thermal vents. Check the views at Fishing Bridge.
For many folks, the megafauna will be the highlight of their Yellowstone visit. This is indeed America’s Serengeti. Both the diversity and sheer numbers of mammals and birds here will astound you. Herds of majestic elk and lumbering bison often hang out right along the roads. Grizzly bears can be sighted near Mt. Washburn and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Elegant, fleet-footed but skittish pronghorn are often spotted in the Lamar Valley and near Mt. Norris. While gray wolves and some cougars do live here, you will need a lot of luck to catch a glimpse of one of these people-shy creatures. Watch for graceful trumpeter swans in the Firehole and other rivers.
As you might expect, some of the best light will be on the land very early and late in the day. However, erupting geysers will often photograph well during the rest of the day. These eruptions can actually photograph well even under midday light. As for timing, these geysers erupt on their schedules, not ours.
With more than 2,000,000 acres of nature, Yellowstone features many more highlights for you to discover.
Today’s Yellowstone is a big draw for visitors from all over the world, so be prepared for crowds and heavy traffic during busy times. As the saying goes, if the answer is Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, the question must be, “What are three places to avoid in July?”
I recommend visiting Yellowstone just before or after the height of the summer tourism season when the crowds can be overwhelming. The weather in June is usually hospitable, and the biggest crowds have not yet arrived. However, my very favorite time of year to be in Yellowstone is September. The crowds of summer are gone; the air is crisp and clean; the slight morning chill adds to the excitement; the meadows are turning gold, and the magnificent wildlife is sporting full, lush coats in preparation for the rut and oncoming winter. It’s just perfect.
Cold weather fans will really enjoy the popular winter season, even with its restricted access. If you choose to visit then, you will be getting around limited areas of this vast park by snow coach and snowmobile.
Lodging choices are plentiful. At least five separate areas throughout Yellowstone offer a wide assortment of accommodations. These are in addition to the many motels outside the park in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, Montana.
Yellowstone is served by the popular and scenic Jackson, Wyoming, airport, the only commercial facility located within a national park. Another choice is the small airport in nearby West Yellowstone, Montana.
Jerry Ginsberg is a freelance photographer whose landscape and travel images have graced the pages of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He has photographed all of North America’s national parks with medium-format cameras and has been a National Park artist-in-residence. His photographic archive spans virtually all of North and South America. More of Jerry’s images can be seen at www.JerryGinsberg.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Trent Sizemore (a West Yellowstone resident) and Walt Anderson for a NANPA Regional Event in Yellowstone, May 18-21, 2017. There are a few spots left and the last day to register is May 5. Register Now!