Posted on July 6, 2015
Yellowstone National Park
On this WoodenBoat adventure… it was late May and the lakes in Yellowstone National Park were free of ice earlier this year than anyone could remember. Usually on Memorial Day weekend, this park is just waking up from its winter hibernation – the snow is patchy in places, the campgrounds are just starting to open, and the staff and crew coming from around the country to work for the summer are learning the answers to hundreds of questions they will be asked by the visiting tourists from around the world. The park was green, the wildlife was stirring and except for the sparse number of tourists, it seemed like it was midseason.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel was originally built in 1891 and named for the beautiful lake it overlooks. It has undergone a number of additions and renovations over the years, bringing the accommodations up-to-date while leaving a nostalgic feel to the rooms and cabins. The remake of the Sun Room off the Piano Lounge provides a stunning view of the Lake and is a hub of visitor activity at all hours.
What immediately caught my eye at the hotel was a vintage 1936 bus that is still in use and parked under the portico off the lobby. A total of twenty-seven Model 706 buses were used in Yellowstone – the largest number of National Park Buses operating anywhere. Buses of this style were also used in Yosemite and Glacier National Parks. This particular vehicle was used in the park until at least 1958 (the date of the Montana registration and “last service” stickers).
I set up camp on a bluff above the Madison River far away from tourist buses and RV’s.
Lewis Lake is just around the corner from Yellowstone Lake and is in the south park area just a few miles down from Shoshone Lake. I rowed my WoodenBoat around the lake and fished the edges for Lake Trout with a five weight fly rod and a variety of my most productive flies. The water was ice cold and so were the fish… too cold to take a fly evidently. When the afternoon wind picked up, the waves got choppy. White-caps drove me off the lake and to the rivers… (these lakes are not a good place for any boat without a motor when the wind picks up).
Driving the park roads to reach the Fire Hole River, I had a number of buffalo encounters – beside the road, crossing the road, just standing on the roads. There is a Park Rule that requires visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from the Bison – no problem. Evidently not everyone got the message as I spotted a number of tourists with camera phones and IPads as close as 10 feet away. There were two reported attacks on tourists while I was in the park – both were the result of the “proximity rule” being broken. Don’t blame the bison.
The fishing was good on the Fire Hole and I kept a nice Brown Trout for dinner, chopped up a potato & onion, dusted the morel mushrooms I’d found on the Snake River in flour and deep fried them in peanut oil, lightly seasoned the fish with fresh squeezed lemon and sealed it in foil …
After-dinner reading material was about the explorers and mountain men who first saw this Wyoming territory in the early 1800’s – well before it was a park. Men who’s names are remembered by the features in and around the park – John Colter, Jedidiah Smith, Jim Bridger, and Daniel Potts to name a few.
It rained almost every night I was in Yellowstone Park – including the last one. I was just glad it wasn’t snow. It was warm and dry in my canvas tent.
On my way out of Yellowstone National Park, I visited a number of the classic sites including Yellowstone Falls, Old Faithful Geyser, and the steaming hot springs that seem to be around every turn in the road. Memorable woodenboat adventure for sure.
If you go there… “Boating is allowed on most of Yellowstone Lake and on Lewis Lake. Only non-motorized boating is allowed on most other lakes. Only one river is open to non-motorized boating: the Lewis River channel between Lewis and Shoshone lakes. Permits are required for all boats and float tubes. Boaters must have a Coast Guard approved wearable flotation device for each person. All boat permits (motorized & non-motorized) can be purchased at the South Entrance, Grant Village Backcountry Office, and Bridge Bay Ranger Station. Float tube only permits are available at the Mammoth, Canyon and Old Faithful backcountry offices, Northeast Entrance, and Bechler Ranger Station.”
“All boats must be inspected by NPS rangers for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) when obtaining a permit. As a precaution, any type watercraft suspected of harboring AIS will be subject to a non-chemical decontamination treatment. The use of jet skis, personal watercraft, airboats, submersibles, and similar vessels is prohibited in Yellowstone National Park.”
Yellowstone was our first National Park – signed into law by President Ulysses Grant in 1872 and is located in the Northwest corner of Wyoming.