This post concludes the description of a trip my wife and I took to northwestern Wyoming in the first week of July. Today, I’ll discuss our visits to two National Parks.
On July 2, we drove north from Jackson to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. This national park, encompassing an area of over 3,400 square miles, was signed into law by President U.S. Grant in 1872. Yellowstone is regarded as the first wildlife park ever created.
Bets and I had never visited Yellowstone before so we were anxious to broadly sample the amazing biological and geological wonders in the park. We drove north for about 20 miles to the Visitor Center at Grant Village. The rangers monitor the eruptions of Old Faithful and post information on the timing of the next eruption.. The next one was predicted around 11 AM. We had 45 minutes to drive the 17 miles to this famous geyser. We arrived about 10 minutes before Old Faithful erupted and it was a particularly large eruption.
Old Faithful is just one of 300 geysers in Yellowstone. Hot springs, pools and ponds abound on the western side of park. We drove north from Old Faithful with steam rising all along the road between Old Faithful and Madison.
The density of geysers was dwarfed by the density of automobiles. This stretch of Yellowstone attracts many tourists. We quickly realized birding was going to be next to impossible along the busy road.
We did take a short loop, Firehole Lake Drive, that provided some opportunities for birding. We stopped at a hot spring with water actually boiling. We learned that trappers used to cook their meat or fish by simply immersing it into one of those boiling springs.
While we were admiring the spring, we heard a Red Crossbill giving its jip-jip flight call overhead. A little further down the road, we found Killdeer, Mountain Bluebirds and White-crowned Sparrows. We saw a raptor through the trees and ultimately got a nice look at an adult Golden Eagle.
We decided to head south in search of better birding opportunities. Along the way, a male bison was fairly close to the road, affording us great looks at this magnificent species.
Exiting Yellowstone and entering Grand Teton National Park, we stopped at the Oxbow Bend Turnout. The highlight for us was a great look at four White Pelicans. We also found 120 Canada Geese, a Mallard, three Common Mergansers and four Double-crested Cormorants. Many Violet-green Swallows were hawking insects above us.
Just a few miles south on Highway 89, we stopped at the Elk Ranch Flats Turnout. Several hundred bison were there with quite a few new-born calves. We also saw a dozen Pronghorns. Savannah Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks were singing. A nice way to end a great day with nature.
On July 3, we explored the southern portion of Grant Teton National Park. From Teton Village, we entered the park at the Granite Canyon entrance and drove northward toward the Visitors Center in Moose. This road is not heavily traveled and pull-outs are present so stopping for birds is possible.
New additions to our trip list included White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Wilson’s Warbler and Common Yellowthroat.
We stopped at the new Visitors Center in Moose. This center is fantastic. We really enjoyed the informative 25-minute film on the biology, geology and history of the Teton range.
We continued our expedition to Jenny Lake. We took a shuttle boat across the lake to the trailhead for Hidden Falls. The half-mile trail involves a bit of effort and elevational gain but the beauty of the falls is worth the effort. The mist from the falls provided welcome cooling.
Our bird list included Osprey, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Cassin’s Finch.
[Originally published on July 26, 2015]