The critters around Yellowstone…
Dana Benner explores the Yellowstone National Park region, and points out the wildlife you’re likely to see along the way.
My home away from home while in Cody, Wyoming was the Red Pole Ranch, located west of town. Patty Jo and Don Schmalz operate this horse and mule ranch along the banks of the Shoshone River, which offers the visitor, besides great views, some very nice, spacious cabins. They both made me feel right at home. I will always be grateful for their hospitality and warm welcome.
Yellowstone National Park
Leaving Cody without visiting Yellowstone National Park would be amiss. I decided that I would devote two entire days to exploring the park and all that it has to offer.
Yellowstone is well known for its vast animal life and its geysers, but it is the ecosystem as a whole that makes it all work. Some of the animals encountered include bison, mule deer, white pelicans and elk. I never saw a bear or a moose, but I know that they are out there somewhere.
At one narrow point of the Yellowstone River a herd of bison were crossing right in front of me. Of course I had to visit Old Faithful and along the way I saw some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. What I saw the most were crowds of tourists getting much too close to the wildlife, despite the numerous warnings put out by the Park Service. I’m surprised that I didn’t see anyone get hurt.
When visiting any State or National Park, a little common sense goes a long way. The animals here are not tame and the park is not a zoo. The memory you want to take home is not the one of your child getting stomped into the ground by an upset bison. Keep that in mind when visiting these areas.
Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
The day after my visit to Yellowstone I headed north to Red Lodge, Montana, home to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a must visit as it gives an up close view of the animals naturally found in the Yellowstone region. This organization has done wonders saving injured animals that otherwise would have died.
Today these animals are used to educate the public about wildlife conservation. The people at the Sanctuary work on shoestring budget and many of the workers are volunteers. They are doing a great job so look them up and consider helping out.
Beartooth Scenic By-Way
Traveling along Route 212 from the Center, I came to the Beartooth Scenic By-Way. This road is one heck of a ride.
On the way to the 10,900-foot mark and the dividing line between Montana and Wyoming, I traveled a winding road of switchbacks and drop-offs, ever climbing higher and higher.
At one point I stopped and watched a Golden eagle soaring below me. Yes, that’s right, I said soaring below me. That was how high I was.
At the top the visitor is treated to the ecological area called the Alpine Zone. Here your eyes are treated to glaciers, alpine flowers and shimmering lakes. Traveling down the other side, the Beartooth Scenic By-Way meets up with the Chief Joseph Scenic By-Way.
Parts of this road encompass the route traveled by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, during their attempt to get to Canada ahead of the U.S. Army in the 1877. This road is also prime bear country, so I kept my eyes peeled as I drove. Eventually, I made my way back to Cody. No bears were spotted but it still was a good day.
You don’t need to be in a National or State park in order to appreciate the environment and the animals that live there. While there is a strong human presence in the Cody area, it seems that everything has been laid out with the surrounding landscape in mind. Deer and other creatures were common visitors to the fields that surrounded my cabin at the ranch. The larger animals are what I saw, but who knows what smaller critters I missed?
I had such a great time hiking and driving in Yellowstone National Park, watching the wildlife and driving the Beartooth Scenic By-Way that I didn’t have time to do some of the whitewater rafting the area is known for. Maybe next time.
Dana Benner has been writing about all aspects of the outdoors for over 30 years with his work appearing in both regional and national publications in the U.S. He holds a M.Ed. in Heritage Studies and teaches Sociology, History and Political Science at the university level. Dana is based in the USA and is a regular guest writer for Our Planet Travel.
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