Monday, June 21, 2021
We drove through Grand Teton National Park again to reach Yellowstone National Park, but this time on a different route. It was great to see the Tetons with the morning sun shining on them.
After entering Yellowstone, we drove along the Lewis River, which empties into Lewis Lake, the second largest lake in the park. It’s a very popular place for fishing, with several species of fish.
Yellowstone was named our country’s first national park, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy the 3,500 square miles of geysers, hot springs, wildlife and more. Millions of people visit each year. The biggest draw, of course, is Old Faithful, so named because of the regularity of its eruptions, between 60 and 110 minutes. It spouts between 100-180 feet, sending up between 3,700 – 8,400 gallons during each eruption.
We arrived at Old Faithful just after an eruption, and the next one was estimated to be about 90 minutes later. This gave us plenty of time to get my National Parks Passport Book stamped, take care of personal issues, and walk the boardwalk around the geyser. The boardwalk was already filling up with people close to the Visitor Center, but we found a less crowded spot on the other side.
The eruption started slowly, with a few minutes of teasers. At one point, we did see some water spray, but the full eruption didn’t occur for about five more minutes. It was well worth waiting for. The water from the geyser flows into the Firehole River at different spots.
The park is teaming with wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, grizzly bears, cougars, gray wolves, red fox, river otters, moose, bighorn sheep and bison. In 2020, 4,680 bison were counted in two primary breeding herds. There are at least 300 species of birds, several native fish species, frogs, salamanders and toads, and six species of snakes. We did manage to see a small herd of bison with a few young ones.
We encountered some clean up work on our way to the west entrance, caused by a landslide. Apparently, this area has not yet found its “angle of repose.” We learned this term while cruising through the Panama Canal, in a section that continues to have landslides 100 years after its opening.
We were glad we made it to Yellowstone and Old Faithful before noon. Although it was crowded, the traffic going to the park was not too heavy yet. When we were leaving, the lines of cars stretched as far as the eye could see.
After enjoying the park, we drove north to Helena. This evening, we took some time to explore Last Chance Gulch, where gold had been discovered in 1864, and the town of Helena was founded by four gold miners who struck it rich here. They had spotted signs of gold in the Helena area while on their way to the Kootenai country. They soon decided to take“one last chance” on finding gold and returned to Helena. Good decision!
Last Chance Gulch had the second biggest placer gold deposit in Montana, producing $19 million worth of gold in just four years. In 1875, the city became the capital of Montana Territory, and in 1894, the capital of the new state of Montana. William Andrews Clark, of Butte fame, had a hand in making that happen.
The historic Main Street was built here, meandering around numerous mining claims. Some say it was designed that way to reduce fatalities from stray bullets. Maybe so? The street was renamed Last Chance Gulch in 1953, but continues to function as a main street for the area. Several old structures still remain, including some cabins and commercial buildings. Many other buildings were destroyed by fire in 1928.
The area is very walkable, and the gulch is now home to shopping, entertainment and dining establishments. It was busy here tonight, and it was challenging to find a place to eat that didn’t have a long wait. We managed,though, and returned to our hotel fully sated.