After a few days of searching out wildlife and driving ourselves dizzy on mountain roads, it was time to see the sights and features of the northern part of Yellowstone. The area around Mammoth Hot Springs is known for its terraced hot springs and old Army post. There is also the Tower area more on the Northeast side of the park, famous for its giant waterfall. Since we have seen most of the “main” sights on previous trips, we wanted to see and do some different things.
Mammoth Hot Springs is actually the old Fort Yellowstone. Back when Yellowstone was first designated a national park, there were problems with poachers, vandals and general criminal activities. The Army was sent in to gain some kind of order and fulfill the promise of protecting the natural wonders of the park. They established an Army fort in the Mammoth area. It remained an Army post until the Park Service was created years later. Many of the soldiers mustered out and went straight into the park service as rangers. The old buildings not only still stand, but are still used as residences, offices, and visitor centers. It was interesting walking around the old fort. It reminded us of some of the old buildings we had seen, lived and worked in on some of the Air Force bases. It is a completely open area and the elk roam freely through the complex.
One new-to-us sight was a 1930’s large wooden wall map of the United States located in the hotel. Measuring 17’x10’ it shows major roads and railways of the time. It has 2545 pieces of wood! We were lucky to see it as it had just been returned from being restored in August.
Mammoth is also known for its hot spring terraces. We had been to these before and decided to spend time walking around closer to some of them. It is pretty amazing to think these terraces were formed over thousands of years of water flowing and depositing its sediments. Canary Spring was bright white and the water was brilliant blues and greens and Orange Spring Mound was a favorite too!
One of the activities we have read about that we really wanted to try this time was soaking in the “Boiling River”. It is a little-known area, but becoming more well-known all the time, along the Gardner River where hot spring water flows into the cold running river and forms the perfect area for a natural hot tub. We got up early to go take our soak, who wants to soak in a hot tub when it is 80 degrees? Plus, we figured there would be a lot less people. We got there just after sunrise and were right on both accounts. There were only a handful of people there, and the outside temperature was perfect for soaking. The river current was much stronger than we anticipated, but manageable. What really was amazing was the sharp, distinct separation between the hot spring water and the river current. People had built small “tubs” out of rock to channel water and get the temperature mixed just right. We even saw a young bull elk cross the river right near us.
We also managed to get to the Tower-Roosevelt area. The Roosevelt area is so named because President Theodore Roosevelt camped near here on his expedition to Yellowstone when he was president. There is a large lodge there with a great porch to sit in a rocking chair, have a drink, and take in the beauty of Yellowstone, and for those of you who know Craig, he is interested in anything Theodore Roosevelt . All excited for a return visit from a previous trip and a break and a drink, we were disappointed to get there and find it was closed early for the season to facilitate some renovations. The Tower area is named for Tower Falls, a 132 foot waterfall flowing into the Yellowstone River. The first time we were there, in 1985, there was a large rock on the edge of the waterfall. Back in 1986 gravity brought it down to the bottom of the falls. There are also some very interesting rock formations in the area called Basalt Columns that look like fence posts. They stand guard on cliffs up above the Yellowstone River.
Of the 6 days we were in the area we had clear blue skies every day. Just a week or so previously, there was smoke from the Canadian and Oregon fires. There was one evening when some smoke blew in, it did not last long, but it did provide for a unique sunset.
We did a lot of things we had wanted to do on previous visits, but just did not have the time to drive that far. It was a great stay in Gardiner and we had a wonderful time in the north part of the park.
Next up; Canyons and Geysers