When my Grandma visited Yellowstone back in the 1960s, spotting bears – especially in the campground – was a pretty common occurrence.
I like this one of the bear getting into somebody’s laundry!
In fact, bears were so active in the park that it was becoming dangerous for campers. In the early 70’s, the National Park Service instituted new Bear Management Policies and they have been successful at almost eliminating human/bear interaction. There are warning signs and bearproof food containers and garbage cans everywhere . . . and it’s getting more and more rare to see a bear!
We had spotted a few from long distances, but were still hoping to get a closer look . . . so we decided that we’d try an evening drive this time. We hung out at the campground during the day and headed into West Yellowstone for an early dinner . . . pizza at the Wild West Saloon. We thought about using our leftover pizza as “bear bait”, but decided against it! LOL
Our planned route would take us around the southern loop road, with a stop at Old Faithful, and would get us to Hayden Valley (a common wildlife hang-out) at dusk.
It was 5pm as we drove into the west entrance of the park, and we passed a long line of cars LEAVING the park!
There were still some fishermen left,
sharing the river with the elk.
When we entered the gate, we got the phone number for the “Old Faithful Prediction”, and called to check the expected time of the next eruption. It was 6:18pm +/- 10 minutes. We figured we should get there by 6pm to be safe, and that gave us a little less than an hour to drive the 16 miles to the Old Faithful Visitor Center.
We skipped the scenic stops along the way, and arrived at Old Faithful by 6pm, only to see everybody walking away from the seating area! The eruption had been early, and we missed it!
This was the only picture we got at Old Faithful!
Good thing we’ve got a couple more days here . . . we’ll get another chance to see Old Faithful!
We continued our drive around the southern side of the loop, crossing the Continental Divide twice, and following the western edge of Yellowstone Lake.
At one point, we can across a bunch of cars parked along both sides of the road. Hoping for a bear sighting, we stopped too, but it was just another elk . . . and he was pretty deep in the woods!
We only stopped for a quick picture, and then continued on our way around the lake. We wanted to make sure we got to Hayden Valley before dusk!
We reached the north end of the lake, where the Yellowstone River feeds it, and stopped at Fishing Bridge.
This is another spot that has undergone changes since my Grandma was here in the 60s. Fishing Bridge used to be a place where people could actually fish,
but when the Park Service discovered that this area was an ideal place for Cutthroat Trout spawning, they closed it to fishing. The bridge is still the same, but it’s empty now!
After a quick stop, we got back on the loop road and soon reached Hayden Valley.
The first thing we saw was a huge herd of bison,
and this guy keeping a close eye on the cars going by!
We followed the Yellowstone River through the valley, as the sun began to set in the west.
Other than the bison, we only saw these white pelicans,
and we thought the evening drive was going to be a bust! We were just about to turn around and take another drive through the Valley, when Nicolas spotted a group of cars stopped on the side of the road a little ahead of us. We stopped, and thought that everybody was just looking at a flock of Canadian Geese, until a boy walking by said that they were watching a black bear across the river!
We found a place to park, and followed along as the bear walked along the riverbank,
and went in and out of the water!
We continued to watch him for awhile, until he eventually went back into the woods and we lost sight of him. It was our best bear sighting, and was pretty exciting!
By then the sun was setting, and we moved on because we had quite a ways to go still.
We had just enough daylight left for a quick stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
We missed the turnoff for the Upper Falls, but we did stop to see the Lower Falls, and I think my Grandma’s picture (below) was of the Lower Falls also, but from a different overlook.
We didn’t see this sign anywhere, but it may have been in the same parking area where we stopped because we did see the path to the Brink of the Lower Falls. We didn’t have enough daylight left to go down there!
I think this is probably the Upper Falls (another of my Grandma’s pictures), but since we didn’t see them ourselves, I’m not sure.
We enjoyed the sunset view from the top of the canyon a little while longer.
By the time we left the falls, it was quickly getting dark. Nicolas was driving, and he had to be careful – constantly on the alert for wildlife! Sure enough, we were about halfway back to the west entrance when an oncoming car flashed its lights at us, indicating something in the road up ahead. A mile or so up, we found it -- a bison walking right down the centerline of the road! He was not in a hurry, and he had no intention of getting out of our way!
We got to a wider area of the road and were able to get around him, and made it the rest of the way out of the park without seeing anymore wildlife.
It was another great day in the park, and even though we missed Old Faithful, we were happy that we got a fairly close look at a bear!