Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yellowstone–Day 2–Early Morning Wildlife Drive

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The kids decided that their #1 priority while at Yellowstone was to see wildlife, so we decided to make an early morning drive over to the northeast part of the park to Lamar Valley, to see what we could find.

We were up at 5am, and packed our cooler with our lunch, and plenty of water.  The campground was peaceful and quiet as we left, and the sun was just coming up.

Early Morning

We did disturb a few white pelicans as we drove past the marina . . .

White Pelican at sunrise

but the cattle barely gave us a second glance!

Cattle at Sunrise

There were some low clouds over the mountains,

Low clouds over the mountains

but the sky cleared as we entered the park.


We weren’t far into the park before we came upon a couple of bison walking in the road – the first guy we saw was walking on the edge of the road,

Bison on the road

but this other guy must have thought he owned the road!  I guess technically, they do!

The bison likes the centerline











We weren’t the only crazy people out this early – there were plenty of fishermen, and other people out looking for wildlife!

Fishermen in the mist

We made our way past Madison Junction and Norris Junction, and headed east through the middle of the upper and lower loop roads.  We didn’t see any wildlife in this area, but we did stop for a few beautiful views of the landscape.

Beautiful mountainsides



Pretty wildflowers, too!




We made it to the Tower-Roosevelt Junction, and got through the construction with just a few minutes of delay.  We continued east toward Lamar Valley, and almost immediately started seeing bison herds.


We even found ourselves in one of those famous “bison jams” that Yellowstone is known for!

Bison Jam

These guys just go where they want to go . . . and the cars need to stop!

We followed the Lamar River

Lamar Valley

into Lamar Valley,

Lamar Valley










and were on the lookout for wildlife!

We saw more bison (stopped taking pictures of them, unless they were right on the road!), pronghorn,













Bald Eagle

and a Bald Eagle (although he was too far away for me to get a good picture, even with my zoom lens!).




As we drove a little further into Lamar Valley, we saw a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road, and people out with cameras and telescopes . . . usually a good sign that there’s something out there!


There's supposedly a grizzly bear out there

There was a grizzly bear climbing up the mountainside . . . but we could barely see him with the binoculars . . . I didn’t have a chance with my camera!  That makes us 2 for 2 on undocumented bear sightings!

We drove the rest of the way to the Northeast Entrance Station,

Northeast Entrance

but the only other wildlife we saw were a few marmots (at least I think that’s what they were!) . . . they were cute, though!





We hoped to see more animals on the way back through Lamar Valley, but it was getting pretty late in the morning, so all we saw were more bison.  I just had to take a picture of this guy . . . I guess he hasn’t seen the millions of signs warning people to stay back from wildlife!

This guy is clueless!

We drove down to the Slough Creek campground (supposed to be another good spot for seeing bears), and ran into some more bison on the road,

Bison Herd at Slough Creek

Bison - up close and personal!

including these cute calves!

Two babies

Baby Bison

There were a group of people heading out on horses (looks like a classic Montana picture, doesn’t it!?!),

Getting ready for some backcountry camping

Pack Mule

and from the look of their pack mules, I think they were going to be out in the backcountry for quite a while!









We continued back toward the Tower-Roosevelt Junction, crossing over the Yellowstone River,

Yellowstone River

and instead of returning back the way we came, we decided to drive part of the way across the north side of the top loop. 

Petrified Tree


We stopped at the petrified tree monument, and then continued west.  Just past this stop, we spotted something dark brown down in the meadow below us, so we stopped in a pullout to get a better look.







It turned out to be a black bear (which we’ve been told are more rare to see than the grizzlies), and he was walking toward us along the creek!

Black Bear

Black Bear











Black Bear

We drove Blacktail Plateau Drive, which looked like a prime area for bears to hang out in,


Looks like prime bear country to me, but where are they?











but we didn’t see any more bears!  We backtracked to the Tower-Roosevelt Junction to make our way back to West Yellowstone.


There was more traffic in the afternoon, and the delay in the construction zone was quite a bit longer!





We made one last detour in our quest for bears – up to the top of Mt. Washburn.

From the top of Mt. Washburn

We still didn’t see any bears, but the view was gorgeous!





We had a nice day, and had a few good wildlife sightings, but we all decided that it wasn’t really worth getting up at 5am!  Our next visit is going to be an evening drive!


  1. I'm enjoying seeing that park vicariously through your blog. Your adventures continue to amaze me, and I often ask myself if I knew then what I know now, would we have done the same schooling/adventure with our four children? As an ex college prof I can honestly say your children are getting a better education than most. Enjoy!

    1. Thanks Jill! We are having a blast -- and we're all learning new things!

  2. an early morning drive through Yellowstone sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! as for the 'idiot' taking the picture?..nuff said there!


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