With all of the amazing adventures to be had in discovering the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, it is easy to overlook the wildlife to be experienced there, but opportunities are endless to get a close-up look at a multitude of creatures you would hare pressed to find anywhere else. Larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined at 2,219,789 acres, the park contains over 7 species of ungulates (bison, moose, elk and pronghorn), 2 species of bear, 67 other mammals, 322 species of birds, 16 types of fish and the gray wolf.
Upon our first drive through the park the day the west entrance opened for the year, we stopped numerous times to see wildlife grazing in the meadows along the road. We easily spotted herds of antelope, elk and bison on our journey. On one occasion while we were stopped, we noticed what first appeared to be a flash of activity out in one of the meadows, and upon closer examination, it appeared to be a gray wolf chasing an antelope—looking for a bit of dinner we guessed.
Of course, it happened so fast, then both disappeared out of sight, that the camera was still in its case when it was over. Upon speaking with a park ranger when we arrived at one of the nine visitor’s centers in the park, we learned it is highly unusual to actually see a gray wolf despite the fact that they populate the park. We were excited about our unique experience and I was kicking myself for not having the camera at the ready. Oh well, there’s always next time…
Later on this same day in the park, we were getting hungry and looking for a place to have a picnic lunch. We learned about an observation trail from which you could view many of the most prominent features of the park, including Old Faithful and several other geysers. We headed up to picnic at the top and sent the kids on ahead to burn off some energy. They quickly came running back, their eyes wide as saucers. “We can’t go any further!” they both shouted. “Why not?” their father and I asked, puzzled. “Because there’s a buffalo on the trail!” came the stereophonic response. Indeed, once we had hiked up a bit further, we, also, could see two large bison, one on the trail and the other just off a bit, neither moving. As we rounded the corner, the large animal directly on the trail turned to look at us in a rather unfriendly manner as if to say, “This is my home not yours.” We quickly found another picnic spot, but it gave the kids an exciting story to tell their friends.
Of all the places we have traveled, Yellowstone Park is one place I am sure the kids would cite as their favorite trip and the one which they would most want to revisit. We’ll have to see if we can arrange that before they get too busy with their own lives. For more information on camping in National parks, check out this glossary of campground terms, including an explanation of national park camping.