Mud Volcano, Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Canyon
Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
6Trip End Oct 01, 2010
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We continued our journey northward in Yellowstone National Park. We passed along Yellowstone Lake and many areas of forest that were burnt by the fires of 1988. We passed our next hotel in Lake Village and continued northward to see as many sights as we possibly could.
Our first stop brought us to LeHardy's Rapids on the Yellowstone River. I'm an avid whitewater kayaker and there was no way I was going to pass up seeing the river
We continued northward and made our next stop in the Mud Volcano area. The sulphur smell was much stronger here than in the West Thumb Geyser basin, it was obvious that we had entered the active caldera system. While the mud volcanoes are not particularly pretty and down right smelly they are worth a visit. There is a boardwalk that goes around the Mud Volcano area it is 2/3 mile long. The hike is relatively easy with only a few steep parts. The Mud Volcano area features 1 spring, 1 volcano, 1 geyser, 3 caldrons, 1 fumerole and a small lake. As we came to the end of the boardwalk a large bison walked right in-front of us. It was the first wildlife sighting we had in the park thus-far and he was really close to us. We took a ton of pictures before he crested the hill and was out of view.
After the Mud Volcanos we made a quick stop up the road at the Sulphur Caldron. The Sulphur Caldron is one of the most acidic springs in the entire park. The smell of rotten eggs is almost unbearable. A sign says that the spring is as acidic as car battery acid. You can see many of the different colored bacteria that thrive in extreme high temperatures inside the spring itself.
Driving northward we entered the Hayden Valley. The scenery really opened up and allowed for views across meadows and valleys into forested areas beyond. The Yellowstone River runs right along the main road and there are several really pretty scenic turnouts to take pictures at
One rule that is for sure in Yellowstone National Park is where you see lots of traffic there is wildlife! As we entered the Hayden Valley we saw cars and trailers parked all over the road. We pulled in to see what was going on. The sign said Elk Antler Creek and there was a herd of buffalo in the creek and laying in the valley. We were about 25 yards from them. Fall seems to be a popular time with photographers in the park as well. We watched the buffalo for a while and took some pictures before continuing on our way.
As we drove further up the road we saw tons of vehicles haphazardly parked all over the place, so we pulled in to find out what was here. As it turns our there was a female grizzly with two cubs! She was across the Yellowstone River in the valley and was leading her cubs down to the river. We were quite a distance from the bears but it is amazing how you can not mistake the silhouette of a grizzly bear! She was easy to see with binoculars and harder to catch on camera. I had to push the limits of my digital zoom just to get a picture. We later heard from a Ranger that the mother bear had killed an elk in the area by the river and was staying nearby to protect the food
The Hayden Valley is a fantastic and beautiful area of the park, really keep your eyes peeled because you never know what type of wildlife you are going to encounter. The speed limit in the park is relatively low for this reason. Fall is a great season to visit because you get the beauty of the fall colors plus many animals are actively gathering food in preparation for winter, the elk herds are in the rut and there are far less visitors in the park.
Our journey took us further north into the park toward the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. As we drove we were detoured by a herd of bison who wandered into the road. It took awhile for the group to cross the road so we got out and took pictures until we were able to drive again. You have to keep an eye out for the turn for the South Rim Road as it lead to the Grand Canyon area. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is very pretty and has several scenic areas to go to
First we went to Artist Point. Artist Point is a spectacular viewpoint that looks into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with breathtaking views of the Lower Falls. In my mind it is way more beautiful than Old Faithful but not nearly as well known. The Lower Falls plunge 308 feet into the Yellowstone River which winds below. The Canyon is very beautiful and very colorful with interesting rock formations. There is a trail in this area, Uncle Tom's Trail, that can be hiked as well. Some of the more famous images of Yellowstone are taken from Artist Point. We took alot of pictures here before heading out.
Next we stopped and took pictures at an overlook for the Upper Falls just up the road. We then drove across the bridge and went to the North Rim Drive to be able to view the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls had a short hike down some steps to a viewing platform which lets you look right over the brink of the falls. The Upper Falls are 109 ft high, we saw a double rainbow at the bottom of the Upper Falls while we were there. I think the view is much better at the Lower Falls but the Upper Falls are worth a visit. You can actually see the Upper Falls better from the overlook on the South Rim Drive. There is also a trail along the North Rim that offer other views of the canyon but we did not hike these
We drove into the Canyon Village because we very stupidly forgot to bring anything to drink or eat with us. We ate at the Canyon Village Soda Fountain. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. While the food wasn't fantastic it wasn't bad either. The best part is that it came with free refills of soda. We were terribly thirsty by this time so this was great. We walked around a bit in their store and I got my passport stamped in the Visitor Center before continuing on our way.
Driving northward through the park we passed through Dunraven Pass and as we rounded the corner we could see a large fire raging in the distance in the valley. The smoke cloud was huge, it almost looked like a small mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion. We wandered what was going on. As we drove father northward nearer to the Mt. Washburn area there were signs posted that the fire was set intentionally by the Rangers and it asked you to please not call and report the fire. We saw several fire trucks and Rangers posted nearby keeping an eye on the fire. We stopped to take a few pictures. The Rangers sometimes set fires in the park in areas that are exceptionally dry by setting the fire and determining its boundaries they can control what burns and what does not.
Our next stop was in the Tower-Roosevelt area. We went to the Tower Falls. Tower Falls is a beautiful waterfall that drops 132 feet into Tower Creek below. It is named because of the shape of the rock formations in the area. The hike down to Tower Falls is somewhat steep. We could not go all the way down to the creek because the road was closed for some reason. The hike back up is not too fun but it is a beautiful waterfalls that's worth a visit. I wish I could have gotten down to see the creek.
We decided to call it a day and started our journey southward toward our hotel in Lake Village. Along the way several elk ran out in front of the rental car. We also had more bison walk out into the road as well as one that almost tried to get into the car with us.
Along the way back into the Hayden Valley we made stops to see if the grizzly bear was still out, she wasn't. We came across another traffic jam and stopped to see what was here. It was one small coyote on the side of the road. I got out and managed to get some fantastic pictures of her before she took off into the woods.
We checked in at the Lake Lodge Cabins
Things Learned on Day 3:
1. Mud Volcano area : http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com/geothermal_features/mud_volcano.php
2. Sulphur Caldron area : http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com/geothermal_features/sulphur_caldron.php
3. Hayden Valley: http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com/lake_village_area/hayden_valley_pelican_valley.php
4. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone : http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/ncanyon.htm
6. Canyon Village : http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/interactivemap/canyon.htm
7. Tower Falls : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Fall
8. Lake Lodge Cabins : http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lake-lodge-cabins-87.html
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