A presentation about “Yellowstone National Park In the Winter” was hosted in August by the SBR National Park Club. Two club members contributed to making this an entertaining and informative meeting.
Jef Farland started the evening by sharing photos and stories of the February 2020 trip to Yellowstone National Park (NP) that he and his wife, Dale, took. As Jef explained, Yellowstone has 4.1 million visitors during the summer months. But for a less people-crowded experience, the winter is the time to visit when you can expect fewer than 50,000 people during any winter month. Animal sightings in winter can be a special experience. Jef and Dale saw bison, elk, wolves, and more. February provided lots of snow and ice. Temperatures can drop to minus 10 degrees, with January averaging about 9 degrees F. So, appropriate clothing, including boots, hats, and gloves, is necessary. Jef explained that walking the boardwalk around Old Faithful had so much snow they had a difficult time staying on the wooden walkway. Special cleats to put on the soles of their boots were provided by the tour. Their five-day trip was prebooked through Yellowstone Forever, which included hotels and transportation to sites throughout the park, including Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Lamar Valley. Since 2020, their trip has been replaced by other similar trips during the winter. There are special photographic trips and wolf research tours.
Frank Morris followed up with a geology overview of Yellowstone NP. The park is about 2.2 million acres, which is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware, combined. There are more than 900 miles of hiking trails. Ninety-six percent lies in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho. Much of the park (80%) is forest and is beyond most of the visitors. The park straddles the Continental Divide, with the highest point at Eagle Peak, which is 11,358 feet high.
As Frank explained, Yellowstone NP is known for more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, which include over half of the geysers in the whole world. There are also hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles (aka steam vents). What creates these features is that Yellowstone NP sits on top of an enormous caldera from a supervolcano that last erupted more than 630,000 years ago. A caldera is formed when the top of a volcanic cone collapses. Frank explained what would look like “plumbing” beneath the soil where water finds passageways that go deep within the earth where the water warms and builds up pressure that is forced out in different forms of hydrothermal features.
Yellowstone NP is truly a national treasure and wonderland to enjoy and protect. To visit Yellowstone NP in winter or summer either with a tour or on your own, can make for a lifetime of memories. More information about Yellowstone NP can be found at www.nps.gov.
The club thanks Jef and Frank for sharing their time and expertise on this most interesting park.
The club’s next meeting on Sept. 19 hosted retired NPS ranger and author Deb Leggitt, who talked about the Grand Canyon NP and some of her experiences as an NPS park ranger.