47 - Fishing Bridge RV Park, Yellowstone National Park Wyoming

Arrived in Yellowstone on Friday 9/2. Earlier in the trip it seemed like this stop may be cancelled because of the flooding they had in June. Thankfully most things are open, there are some limitations in the North and Northeast but of the park, but most things are open. Horseback riding throughout the park is closed so we'll do that in the Grand Tetons instead.

The campground we are staying at was recently renovated to handle larger RVs which most campgrounds in the park do not handle. Which is a great thing otherwise we would have had to stay in West Yellowstone, Montana and drive into the park about 1.5 hours each day. Mike and I did that in 2009 and it gets old quickly

Mike, Evan and I came out here in 1996 in a rented pop-up trailer. It was my first visit to this area of the country, and I was overwhelmed by the openness and beauty.

13 years later in 2009 Mike and I drove the 5th wheel out here and was reminded of all my feelings from then.

Now another 13 years later and it still doesn't disappoint. I don't know if this pattern of 13 years between trips will continue, and we'll be here in 2035 😉

While I will tell you what we did, I really want to pass on facts and pictures. If you haven't been here hopefully some of these piques your interest to take the trip. One of my bucket list items is to be here one year for Christmas.

Yellowstone National Park is located largely in the northwest corner of Wyoming and extending into Montana and Idaho. It was established by the act of 42nd U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone was the first national park in the U.S. and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world. 

Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468.4 sq mi comprising lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.

The park is larger in size than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, covering almost 3,500 square miles. The park forms a rectangle with an irregular eastern side that is 63 miles in length from north to south and 54 miles wide from east to west.

Forest Fires

- In 2019, 274 acres burned from 11 known wildfire starts. Three human-caused fires were suppressed. One lightning-caused fire was suppressed due to dangerous conditions. Seven fires were monitored for public safety, while fulfilling their role in the ecosystem.

- Since 1972 when reliable fire records began, the park has averaged 26 fires, and 5,851 acres burned per year. The number of fires has ranged from 5 to 78 each year, and acres burned has ranged from 1 to 793,880 each year.

- The most active fire year since 1988 was 2016, with 70,285 acres in Yellowstone burned.

- In Yellowstone, approximately 78% of fires are caused by lightning, and 22% are human-caused.

- During the last 30 years (1990– 2019), Yellowstone has averaged fewer fires per year, but more acres burned per year, than in previous decades.

- About 75% of fires in Yellowstone never reach more than 0.25 acres in size.

- About 92% of fires in Yellowstone never burn more than 100 acres.

The wildfires during the summer of 1988 were the largest in the history of the park. Approximately 793,880 acres (1,240 sq mi) or 36% of the parkland was impacted by the fires. On "Black Saturday", August 20, 1988, strong winds expanded the fires rapidly, and more than 150,000 acres (230 sq mi) burned.

The cost of 25,000 firefighters and U.S. military forces participating in the suppression efforts was 120 million dollars. By the time winter brought snow that helped extinguish the last flames, the fires had destroyed 67 structures and caused several million dollars in damage. Though no civilian lives were lost, two personnel associated with the firefighting efforts were killed.

Contrary to media reports and speculation at the time, the fires killed very few park animals—surveys indicated that only about 345 elk (of an estimated 40,000–50,000), 36 deer, 12 moose, 6 black bears, and 9 bison had perished.

It has been interesting on our 3 visits to the park for Mike and me to see the various areas impacted by various fires grow back.

Driving into the park on Friday, showed us immediately the traffic jams because of people stopping on the side of the road (and even right in the road) to see the animals. But these weren't bad compared to what we would see on Sunday and Monday.

On Saturday 9/3 we went to one of the most famous sites in Yellowstone, Old Faithful Geyser. We did get to see that erupt, it does approximately every 90 minutes give or take 10 minutes. But we also got to see the Grand Geyser which is even bigger than Old Faithful but not as predictable as it's +/- is 90 minutes and we waited about 30 minutes to see it and that ended up being about 100 minutes from its last eruption.

The most famous geyser in the park, and perhaps the world, is Old Faithful geyser, located in Upper Geyser Basin. Castle Geyser, Lion Geyser, Beehive Geyser, Grand Geyser (the world's tallest predictable geyser), Giant Geyser (the world's most voluminous geyser), Riverside Geyser and numerous other geysers are in the same basin. The park contains the tallest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin.

A study that was completed in 2011 found that at least 1283 geysers have erupted in Yellowstone. Of these, an average of 465 are active in a given year. 

Yellowstone contains more than 10,000 hydrothermal features including geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles, which represent the largest concentration in the world. Half of the world’s known geysers are located in the park, which are fueled by ongoing volcanic activity.

Old Faithful was named by Henry Dana Washburn on September 18, 1870. He was the leader of the Washburn expedition and found it when exploring the Upper Geyser Basin.

The world’s tallest geyser, Grand Geyser, can send mineral-rich water up to 300 feet into the air.

The tallest predictable geyser is called Steamboat and erupts twice a day for between 10 and 20 minutes sending water up to 200 feet into the air.

Yellowstone is subject to between 1000 and 3000 earthquakes annually and is one of the most seismically active areas on the continent. The last significant earthquake occurred there in 2017 with a 4.36 magnitude tremor.

Old Faithful

Grand Geyer

Kepler Cascades

We have seen a lot of wildlife while here, bison, elk, bear. There are many bison in the fields and sometimes they get very close to the road (even on it). While we are extremely safe when viewing them unfortunately a lot of people are not.

Worse than putting themselves at risk they put everyone driving on the roads at risk and at inconvenience. Stopping your car at an appropriate place on the side of the road is fine. BUT stopping in the middle of the road is not ok.

When we were coming back from West Yellowstone on Sunday night everyone was stopped There was a car in front of us that I noticed had no one in it. They just left it there, even locked it. While we probably had a delay of 15 minutes, the people on the other side leaving the park for the day had at least a 4-mile delay.

All that being said, it's great to see the animals in THEIR habitat and that's what we need to remember, it's their habitat, we are just visiting.

Wildlife in Yellowstone

There are almost 60 species of mammals in the park, including the Rocky Mountain wolf, coyote, the Canadian lynx, cougars, and black and grizzly bears. Other large mammals include the bison, elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.

Yellowstone is home to the largest herd of bison in the world that still roam freely and is the largest public bison herd in the US. It is estimated that the herd is about 4,800 strong and originated from a population of 25 that survived the mass killings of bison of the 1800s. They mainly consist of the Plains bison subspecies. Yellowstone is the only place bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were returned to Yellowstone in 1995 after having been extinct in the area for over 70 years. The North American wolf population was estimated at 2 million in 1600 while today about 65,000 remain.

Population figures for elk are in excess of 30,000—the largest population of any large mammal species in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is home to one of the only herds of elk known that do not migrate. The Madison River Valley, located near the park’s west entrance, offers such good grazing the elk don’t need to move in the winter months.

As of 2017, an estimated 700 grizzly bears were living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with about 150 grizzlies living wholly or partially within Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly was initially listed as a threatened species in the contiguous United States on July 28, 1975, by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The grizzly bear was taken off the endangered species list in 2007.

Other less commonly seen mammals include the mountain lion and wolverine. The mountain lion has an estimated population of only 25 individuals parkwide. Accurate population figures for the wolverine are not known.

Differences between Bison and Buffalo

I often hear, and have said myself "buffalo, bison same thing". So, I decided to look it up to determine what the truth is. And obviously they are not the same thing.

Bison and buffalo are both large, horned, oxlike animals of the Bovidae family. There are two kinds of bison, the American bison and the European bison, and two forms of buffalo, water buffalo and Cape buffalo. To distinguish between them, focus on the three H’s: home, hump, and horns.

Buffalo are indigenous to South Asia (water buffalo) and Africa (Cape buffalo), while bison are found in North America and parts of Europe.

Bison have a hump at the shoulders while buffalo don’t. The hump allows the bison’s head to function as a plow, sweeping away drifts of snow in the winter.

Buffalo tend to have large horns—some have reached more than 6 feet - with very pronounced arcs. The horns of bison, however, are much shorter and sharper.

Also, bison have thick beards while buffalo are beardless.

On Sunday, on the way to West Yellowstone, Mike and I stopped to see the canyon and falls. We viewed them from the South Rim as we had previously seen them from the North Rim. After that we went to Artist Point. All the scenery was fantastic.

The Upper Falls are 109 feet and the Lower Falls are 308 feet. The volume of water flowing through the falls varies from 63,500 gallons per second at peak runoff to 5,000 gallons per second in the late fall.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is roughly 20 miles long, more than 1,000 feet deep, and 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide.

The colors in the canyon are caused by oxidation of iron compounds in the rhyolite rock, which has been hydrothermally altered ("cooked"). The colors indicate the presence or absence of water in the individual iron compounds and hydration of minerals in the rock. Most of the yellows in the canyon result from iron and sulfur in the rock.

Canyon Falls

Artist Point

Canyon Falls

Monday 9/5 we went on a 6.2 mile hike to Grebe Lake. The significance of this is that in 1996 Mike, Evan and I backpacked and camped near the lake. That was the first time Evan and I had been in these deep woods/forest and I remember being terrified we were going to run into a bear, we didn't.

Apparently shortly after we visited there was a fire in that area. So, when we hiked it in 2009 much of the hike to the lake had few trees. They were starting to grow back but were very small.

This year, the trees are much bigger but will never, or at least in our lifetime, be like what we saw in 1996. 

There was a bear warning for several of the campsites so while I wasn't as afraid as I was in 1996, I wasn't totally comfortable. We all had bear spray and are very well versed on what to do if you see a bear. As we were hiking, we ran into two rangers, and they said the bear activity was about a week ago and they haven't seen them since. We felt a lot better for the rest of the walk.

We didn't walk all the way to the campsite, mostly because it was at least another mile, and we are not as young as we once were. But you can see me pointing to the campsite in our selfie.

Lakes and Fishing in Yellowstone

The Yellowstone River is the longest river in the continental US, at 692 miles, that has never been dammed. It is considered that the river provides the origin of the park’s name since the Minnetaree Indians called it Yellow Rock River, probably because of the yellowish rock formations that surround it.

Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park. The lake is 7,732 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles with 110 miles of shoreline. While the average depth of the lake is 139 ft, its greatest depth is at least 394 ft.  Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 ft in North America.

Non-native lake trout were discovered in Yellowstone Lake in 1994 and were believed to have been either accidentally or intentionally introduced as early as 1989 with fish taken from Lewis Lake. The introduction of Lake trout has caused a serious decline in the cutthroat trout population and the National Park Service has an aggressive Lake trout eradication program on the lake. All lake trout caught by anglers must be killed. If the cutthroat trout isn’t protected from this invasive fish, then ecologist predict that they could see a decline in surrounding birds and mammals that are natural predators to the cutthroat trout.

Angling for Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake has been a popular pastime for both subsistence and recreation since the first explorers, surveyors and tourists visited the park. Today, Yellowstone Lake is open for angling from June 15 to the first Sunday in November. All Cutthroat trout caught must be released.

During the day on Tuesday 9/6 Mike went fishing. During the day he fished the Gibbon River, no photos from that as he was by himself. After dinner the both of us went to the Yellowstone River. Though he did not get any fish it was a beautiful and peaceful couple of hours.

Yellowstone River

Wednesday 9/7, we went to more geysers and springs. The most magnificent was the Grand Prismatic Spring. The colors were unbelievable. We all mentioned that they should have put the boardwalk higher so that we could see it from a higher point of view. There is a trail up to view from above but decided not to do that.

We also say the Steamboat geyser which is the largest in the world but highly unpredictable, it can be 50 years between eruptions.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Steamboat Geyser

Gibbon Falls

Additional facts about Yellowstone National Park

- Approximately 96 percent of the land area of Yellowstone National Park is located within the state of Wyoming. Another three percent is within Montana, with the remaining one percent in Idaho.

- The Continental Divide of North America runs diagonally through the southwestern part of the park. The divide is a topographic feature that separates Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean water drainages. About one third of the park lies on the west side of the divide.

- The park sits on the Yellowstone Plateau, at an average elevation of 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level. The highest point in the park is atop Eagle Peak (11,358 feet) and the lowest is along Reese Creek (5,282 feet).

- While many explorers and trappers came near the edges of the area where Yellowstone is now located, it was officially discovered by John Colter in 1807. He was part of the Lewis and Clark exhibition and discovered the area when he went looking for local Indians to trade with.

- In an 1870 survey of Yellowstone a member of the party, Truman Everts, became separated from the parts and was given up for dead. After losing his horse and supplies he survived for 37 days by living on thistles after which he was finally found.

- The first hotel in the park, at Mammoth, was opened in 1883.

- The oldest building that still stands in Yellowstone is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. It is painted a bright buttercup yellow color and dates back to 1891.

- Yellowstone is home to the oldest log cabin building in the world. Called the ‘Old Faithful Inn’ it was built during the particularly bitter winter of 1903-1904.

- The first landscape painting featured in the US Senate lobby was a painting of Yellowstone created by Thomas Moran called ‘Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone’ which he sold for $10,000.

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