Oh my what a day! So much for chipmunks and bison…today was wildlife at its best! Leaving West Yellowstone, we headed back into the park. A line of other park visitors greeted us, but once we got through the gates we were on our way to Canyon Village.
This is the place to view the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River comes into the park from Montana. Flowing south it slices through the ancient hydrothermal basin. The basin was formed from rhyolitic lava and ash. Carving a canyon through this lava and ash, the hot areas and steam vents still remain in the canyon walls to allow the heat, gases and hot water to escape from the underground Yellowstone volcano. As the river starts into the canyon at the upper falls, it falls some 1000 feet, roaring as it makes a spectacular entrance. Powerful even from a distance, the Upper Falls spray the canyon walls with sparkling green water. As the water continues it encounters another (less spectacular) drop – the Lower Falls. The canyon is 20 miles long, created entirely from water erosion (as opposed to glacial erosion) and it drops at places to 1200 feet deep. Exploring the north and south rims of this incredible Canyon took up most of our morning. At times I felt like I was in a foreign country. I heard German, French, Spanish, and Japanese being spoken. So many people from all over the world standing shoulder to shoulder to enjoy this beauty! Here’s a video of the sound of the falls:
After this we began our journey to the East Gate of Yellowstone and on to the Cody, WY area. We got as far as the Hayden Valley and there we encountered a herd of bison. They were spread out on both sides of the river. Lying in the sun or munching on grass they seemed oblivious to the clicks of cameras. Beautiful, massive animals they roamed the valley floor completely unrestrained and unafraid.
We had only gone a few miles when we saw traffic stopped again. A herd of elk was grazing across the river. Using binoculars we could see 30+ elk with white around their tails and black heads. One of two of them had racks of antlers. The trees in the woods above where they grazed showed the effects of their scraping their antlers. Lying in the grass only a short distance away, a bison lay peacefully sunning. It was a small vignette of the peaceful kingdom.
As we traveled out of the park on the east side into the Absaroka Mountains, we were once again surrounded by magnificent cliffs. Powerful and majestic, they exuded an ageless strength. A beautiful stream followed along the road and at one of the pull overs cars were stopped. This time we were treated to a grazing grizzly bear across the river. Again, appearing to be unaware of the gaggle of humans watching, he/she munched its way down the river while our cameras clicked away!
Finally, eyesore from all the amazing things we had seen, we arrived in the sleepy little western town of Powell for the night. Finding the streets pretty much rolled up we dined on Subway and then barely made it to the frozen yogurt place before they closed. It was a perfect day.
Cliffs of the Absaroka Mountains