Experience how a species once considered by Yellowstone National Park as a predatory nuisance now enhances the very first National Park’s whole ecosystem.
by Carlene Cobb
Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park, established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. With 3,468 square miles of mountainous wilderness recreation area sitting on top of volcanic hot spots, the park may be best known for Old Faithful and other geysers and hot springs.
Stretching across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone Park is also home to hundreds of animals, including wolves, bears, bison, elk and antelope. And if you venture out at dusk or dawn, you’ve got a great chance to see the abundant wildlife in action. Park maps show the areas that are most heavily populated by wildlife. For example, the North Entrance to the park near Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley and Mt. Washburn are areas where elk, wolves, bears and bison are often observed.
Wolves are an especially precious part of Yellowstone, as their reintroduction to the park restored a more balanced ecosystem, and the wolves are even credited with changing the behaviors of animals and even the flow of the rivers. All the wolves now living in Yellowstone today were born in the park. Scientists have marveled at their recovery and how much their presence has improved the aesthetics of the park. Watch the YouTube video titled How Wolves Change Rivers to better understand the full impact of this hard-fought plan for reintroducing wolves, a species once considered by Yellowstone to be nuisance predators.
Of course, it is important to maintain a safe distance from all wild animals, and use a telephoto camera lens to capture your favorite memories as photographs, videos and Snapchats. Yellowstone goers agree – it’s thrilling to watch wildlife, from a mother bison and her calf grazing in a prairie to catching a glimpse of pronghorn antelope sprinting across a lakeside meadow.
Fear not the weather or the terrain, as much of the amazing scenery can be enjoyed by car, driving through the park in a figure-eight roadway that loops through many Yellowstone wonders. Entering the park from the West and taking the lower southern loop, travelers will find lovely vistas leading to the Upper Midway and Lower Geyser Basin on the way to Old Faithful, which is not to be missed. Park rangers are very helpful regarding the next expected eruption. Definitely allow time to explore this scenic area’s caldrons, like Yellowstone Lake, the Yellowstone River, Mad Volcano, Sulphur Caldron and the Virginia Cascades on the Gibbon River, a must-see en route to Canyon Villages and Tower Roosevelt, offering spectacular vistas of the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone.
Most visitors only see a small percentage of this vast natural wonderland on the first trip, so give yourself time to fully experience the wonders of this national treasure.
To learn more, visit nps.gov/yell/ or call (307) 344-7381.
Lifestyles Celebrates the Centennial
100 years ago, the United States created the National Park Service, a Federal agency designed to preserve the breathtaking beauty of the American landscape. Visit LifestylesAfter50.com to follow our Celebrate the Centennial series as we highlight our favorite parks all year long.