Yellowstone, the granddaddy of the national parks¦ As you enter from the south entrance, on the right hand side of the road amid tall canyons is the Lewis River. It is amazing how the scenery changes when inside the park. Everyone thinks of geysers and Old Faithful but there is so much more to this park. As you follow the Lewis River it keeps getting closer and closer to the road until finally when you reach Lewis Falls, the Lewis River is now right next to you and the road. Lewis Falls is actually where they took the pictures for the beer cans for Hamm’s beer”from the land of sky blue waters.
Yellowstone has over 10,000 geothermal features. There are four seperate types of geothermal features and they are geysers, fumaroles, hot springs & mud pots. Why are there so many geothermal features there? When you enter the park, you are given a black brochure with information about Yellowstone. If you look at the map of the park, you will see a big purple ring that goes around the center. The center of the park is an ancient caldera. What exactly does that mean? It once was a huge volcano and the cone collapsed. Normally we are about 15 miles from the molten core of the earth. But at Yellowstone we are only anywhere from 2-4 miles from the molten core. Therefore when it rains or snows the water doesn’t have far to go to reach the hot molten core and it comes back up in various steam features like geysers or the others mentioned above.
John Coulter asked permission of the Lewis & Clark party to explore on the way home from the Pacific Ocean. Imagine what it must have been like to come into Yellowstone that first time and see the geysers and other geothermal features erupting. When he got back to New York and tried to describe what he saw, no one believed him. They laughed and called it Coulter’s Hell!
A must stop is, of course, Old Faithful. But don’t forget the Mud Pot area where all four geothermal features can be seen in one place as you walk along the walkway. If you go all the way to Mammoth Hot Springs, you will be in the farthest northern area of the park. And don’t forget the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone River; one of the most photographed sites in the park.
To the west, the exit will take you to West Yellowstone, MT (a neat cowboy town). And at the east entrance, the road will take you to Cody, WY. If you get to Cody, be sure and visit the Buffalo Bill Historic Museum there. I could write a page about that place, but the collection of Western art alone is worth the visit.
Finally, don’t forget Yellowstone in the winter. You can come in (but very limited) on snowmobiles. Mammoth Hot Springs, the park’s headquarters, can be accessed by snowmobiles. And, the other two entrances that are opened all winter are the south entrance from Jackson, WY and the west road from West Yellowstone, MT. However, I use the term opened very lightly. The park is not opened to vehicles”too much snow and no way to clear the roads. Instead you stop at the entrances (you must have reservations) and big snow coaches take you to the Old Faithful area. There is one hotel opened year round there, called Snow Lodge. I have never had a chance to visit Yellowstone in the winter but have talked to several people who have and they say it is a journey that should not be missed.
Next up: From a National Park to Cruising
Editor’s note: To read more in depth about the Seattle area, check out Kileen’s book, "Journey Beckons." You can order it through her website (as well as preview the first few chapters) at www.kileenprather.com or you can order it through Amazon either in book form or the kindle edition.
Have questions? Kileen would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.