Kaye’s Corner: Yellowstone National Park | Rio Blanco Herald Hours
MEEKER I For a week in September, we had the joy of visiting our country’s oldest national park, Yellowstone, established in 1872. Previous tours have always been fun, but this one included a reunion with my siblings whom I rarely see.
Some visitors think the famous “Old Faithful” geyser is the park’s best feature. Indeed, it is still as beautiful and reliable as ever, gushing out every 90 minutes or so. Nowadays it is also overrun with tourists, traffic and tourist buses.
Other geyser areas also have unique and interesting water eruptions, although you have to be more patient to watch the water flow. Most other geysers have a less predictable eruption schedule. And there are pools of multicolored water.
My favorite is “Morning Glory Pool” which I remember from a childhood visit. It took a three mile hike to see it, but Morning Glory is no longer predominantly blue. Instead, it’s an interesting combination of green, yellow, and blue colors. Still remarkable, but not the color it was.
The park offers much more than geysers. Wildlife roams everywhere, including a large herd of bison, elk, deer, bears and wolves. The reintroduction of wolves into the park is considered quite successful and has helped balance the natural ecosystem.
Yellowstone Falls is spectacular in a deep canyon and still has plenty of water. You who fish will enjoy Yellowstone Lake and the many rivers teeming with brown, brook, rainbow and lake trout.
Hiking is also popular with over 1,000 trails in the park which encompasses over two million acres. For the more athletic among you, there are also off-piste trails. For us slow pokes, paths around all the geysers and popular visitor sites are available.
You may recall that Yellowstone had a huge wildfire in 1988 that burned down 36% of the park. This was around the time when forest fires were considered natural and left to burn. These policies have been questioned, but as we all know, it is seldom easy to contain and contain forest fires.
You will be happy to know that the burnt area in the park is much better and that twenty year new growth is evident everywhere. Ultimately, this massive fire rejuvenated the ecosystem and the health of the wildlife, although many burnt tree trunks still tell the tale.
Last year, even with Covid, 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone and visits in 2021 are expected to be the highest on record. As you may know, many of our national parks are loved to death by more tourists than the accommodations, roads, and restaurants can handle. Various strategies have been used in recent years, including shuttles to alleviate parking issues and limit daily visitor access.
It is not an easy challenge to solve. Most national parks have tiny two-lane roads and a limited number of accommodations. If you look at the motels, campgrounds, and trails in many parks, they are the same today as they were many years ago. National parks are about preservation, not growing infrastructure.
Reading about his establishment, I was intrigued to learn that declaring this place protected was highly contested. Locals believed they would lose business opportunities and control over local lands. All the thought of public lands was new at the time. Likewise, Tetons and Yosemite, for example, faced similar fights to protect themselves.
While residents of the United States may have great reverence for our national parks, this does not always include their creation or continued funding. Many of our parks are desperate to repair and maintain existing buildings, roads and hiking trails.
I love our national parks and have visited several. The people who manage our parks face many challenges today that are not easy to solve. I salute you for standing firm and protecting our public lands.
I hope my grandchildren can enjoy our national parks in healthy conditions like me.
Through KAYE SULLIVAN – Special at Herald Times