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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

The bison did not get the memo!

Michael and I took a ride to Yellowstone today. I wanted to see a few bison. Well, I got my wish.

Visitors are to stay at least 25 yards (23 m) from bison and elk. I guess the bison didn’t get the memo to stay that distance from the visitors in their cars!!!!

After leaving Teton Village, we had to go across Teton Pass to get on the other side of the mountains before we could turn north toward Yellowstone. There were too many curves, which had to be taken at a reduced speed, to count.

In Driggs, Idaho, we could see the back side of the Tetons.

Driggs is part of the Jackson, WY-ID Micropolitan Statistical Area, and is located in Teton Valley, the headwaters of the Teton River. It has a population of 1,660.

The Teton Valley was discovered by John Colter in 1808, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–06). It later became known as Pierre's Hole, in honor of "le grand Pierre" Tivanitagon, and hosted the well-attended 1832 Rendezvous, which was followed by Battle of Pierre's Hole.

Driggs was founded in 1888 by Benjamin Woodbury Driggs, Jr. and Don Carlos Driggs, whose descendants later moved to Arizona (where most live still), and there founded Western Savings and Loan. John Driggs, a descendant of Don Carlos Driggs, later became the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona in the 1970's.

Tetonia, Idaho was established as an agricultural town in the late 19th century, taking its name from the nearby Teton Range. Many of the businesses previously operating in Haden relocated to Tetonia following the arrival of the Union Pacific railroad.

Felt, Idaho is an unincorporated community. Felt no longer has a post office, but its Zip code is 83424.

Ashton, Idaho

Nestled at the southern edge of the Yellowstone Caldera, is Ashton, Idaho. Known as the "World's Largest Seed Producing Area".

Seed potatoes are disease–free potatoes that have been selected, tested, and kept in a cool dark place until needed for planting for the next years crop. Though its name may be deceptive, seed potatoes aren't actually seeds; they're tubers that you can use to grow new potatoes that will be genetically identical to the parent potato. Similar to any other seed, seed potatoes are potatoes whose purpose is to be replanted and eventually produce more potatoes.

They were loading trucks with potatoes.

In 1900, the Union Pacific Railroad, under the careful watch of the OSL (Oregon Short Line) and St. Anthony Railroad Company, brought the railroad into the Upper Snake River Valley from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony, Idaho, 14 miles (23 km) southwest of what became Ashton, Idaho. The venture had considerable local support and official support from the LDS Church. Following successful construction and operation of the St. Anthony Railroad, Union Pacific, under the careful watch of the OSL and the Yellowstone Park Railroad Company, began plans for another railroad from St. Anthony to the Madison River entrance of Yellowstone National Park or to what is now known as West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is a place like no other. Preserved within its boundaries are Old Faithful and the majority of the world’s geysers and hot springs. An outstanding mountain wildland with clean water and air, Yellowstone is home of the grizzly bear and wolf and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. Centuries-old sites and historic buildings that reflect the unique heritage of America’s first national park are also protected.

Yellowstone is an incredible place to view wildlife. All the large mammals present when Yellowstone became a park in 1872 are here today: grizzly and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, and big horn sheep.

Once you enter the west entrance of the park, it is 30 miles to Old Faithful.

Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Bison here are special; they’re America’s largest bison population on public land that can still migrate and adapt to diseases and predators.

Bison mainly eat grasses and sedges and are well-suited to both prairies and forests. With adult males weighing up to 2,000 pounds (900 kg), the bison is the largest land mammal in North America.

Male bison (called bulls) weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall, while females (called cows) weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet. Bison calves weigh 30-70 pounds at birth.

The herd is made up of cows, calves, and some younger bulls. During the rut in July and August, mature bulls display their dominance by bellowing, wallowing, and fighting with other bulls to earn the right to mate with respective females. After 9 to 9.5 months, calves are born in late April and May. Their orange fur makes them easy to see and has earned them the nickname “red dogs.”

Traffic came to a stop as the bison walked along the roadway. It was exciting to see them close up. Dangerous but exciting!

You can judge a bison's mood by watching its tail. When it hangs down and is switching naturally, the animal is usually calm. But if the tail is sticking straight up, watch out! It may be ready to charge. No matter what a bison's tail is doing, remember that they are unpredictable and can charge at any moment. Every year, there are regrettable accidents caused by people getting too close to these massive animals. It's great to love the bison, but love them from a distance.

Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times. What makes Yellowstone's bison so special is that they're the pure descendants (free of cattle genes) of early bison that roamed our country's grasslands. As of July 2015, Yellowstone's bison population was estimated at 4,900—making it the largest bison population on public lands.

Bison or Buffalo?

In North America, both “bison” and “buffalo” refer to the American bison. Generally, “buffalo” is used informally, while “bison” is preferred for formal or scientific purposes.

Early European explorers called this animal by many names. Historians believe that the term “buffalo” grew from the French word for beef, boeuf.

Yellowstone was established in 1872 as the world’s first national park primarily because of its unparalleled collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and steam vents.

Mudpots are acidic features with a limited water supply. Their consistency and activity vary with the seasons and precipitation.

Fumaroles, or steam vents, are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park. They are easier to see in cool weather.

Hot springs are the most common hydrothermal features in the park. They vary from frothing mocha-like boiling water to clear and calm pools off tremendous depth.

Geysers erupt with steaming hot water. Variations in each geyser’s underground reservoir determine whether it is regular and predictable or irregular.

We drove on until we came to the lower geyser basin.

The Lower Geyser Basin sits on unstable glacial gravel on top of solid rock. The jarring energy of an earthquake can make the gravel vibrate and shift position, and compact or fracture.

All these changes affect water supplies to hot springs. They might force muddy water to the surface, clouding existing pools or creating new ones. They might divert water from a pool, causing it to dry up. Water temperatures might also increase or decrease due to these subsurface changes.

In the days after the Hebgen Lake earthquake of 1959, all of these changes were observed in various springs of the Firehole River geyser basins. The epicenter (point of origin) of the quake was determined to be about 31 air miles (50 km) northwest of the Fountain Paint Pots area.

Spotted a lone bison walking through the area.

Since the late 19th century, the Department of the Interior has been the primary national conservation steward of the bison. Public lands managed by Interior support 17 bison herds—or approximately 10,000 bison—in 12 states, including Alaska.

From hunter to conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt helped save bison from extinction. In 1883, Teddy Roosevelt traveled to the Dakota Territory to hunt bison. After spending a few years in the west, Roosevelt returned to New York with a new outlook on life. He paved the way for the conservation movement, and in 1905, formed the American Bison Society with William Hornaday to save the disappearing bison. Today bison live in all 50 states, including Native American lands, wildlife refuges, national parks and private lands.

Bison may be big, but they're also fast. They can run up to 35 miles per hour. Plus, they're extremely agile. Bison can spin around quickly, jump high fences and are strong swimmers.

Bison are nearsighted. While bison have poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of smell and hearing. Cows and calves communicate using pig-like grunts, and during mating season, bulls can be heard bellowing across long distances.

Celestine Pool

No documentation exists of how this spring was named, but its blue color does seem to match the deep blue of the sky.

Celestine Pool is a hot spring with an average temperature of 183.4°F (84.1°C), an average pH of 8.3, and an average conductivity of 2000 uS/cm. It has been known to has small eruptions of superheated water. When Silex Spring exhibited geyser eruptions, Celestine Pool was also active.

Bacteria Mat

Fountain Paint Pots

Hydrothermal features can be grouped into two general categories: those with a great deal of water (hot springs and geysers) and those with limited water (mudpots and fumaroles). Despite their structural similarities, no two features are exactly alike. All of these features occur in the Fountain Paint Pot area.

Thermus aquaticus, the thermophile that revolutionized DNA replication processes, was discovered in this area.

Red Spouter

Red Spouter, which originated with the Hebgen Lake earthquake, exhibits the behavior of fumaroles, hot springs and mudpots. In the spring and early summer its pools splash muddy water that sometimes has a red tone. Later in the summer and fall, when the water table is lower, Red Spouter becomes a hissing fumarole.

Leather pool

Spasm geyser

Spasm geyser is part of the Fountain Group.

Bobby sock trees

Bobby socks trees! Dead lodgepole pines near some hydrothermal areas look as if they are wearing bobby socks. The dead trees soak up the mineral-laden water. When the water evaporates, the minerals are left behind, turning the lower portion of the trees white.

You can never tell what sights you may see.

All lodging in the park is still closed.

The Visitor Center

Old Faithful Inn

Waiting for Old Faithful to erupt.

How faithful is Old Faithful?

Since its first documentation in 1870, Old Faithful has been one of the more predictable geysers.

Over time, the average interval between Old Faithful’s eruptions has increased or decreased due to changes in its plumbing from ongoing processes and earthquakes. The Hebgen Lake Earthquake (1959) caused an increase in the times between eruptions.

The average interval between interruption at Old Faithful Geyser is 94 minutes plus or minus 10 minutes, with intervals ranging from 54 to 114 minutes.

Old Faithful. Erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers, although it is not the largest or the most regular geyser in the park.

It started to snow about 15 minutes before Old Faithful erupted.

The bison that had passed us earlier had walked quite far to this meadow.

Bison primarily eat grasses, weeds and leafy plants—typically foraging for 9-11 hours a day. That's where the bison's large protruding shoulder hump comes in handy during the winter. It allows them to swing their heads from side-to-side to clear snow—especially for creating foraging patches.

Bison can live up to 20 years old. The average lifespan for a bison is 10-20 years, but some live to be older. Cows begin breeding at the age of 2 and only have one baby at a time. For males, the prime breeding age is 6–10 years.

The snow was coming down faster as we left the park.

Lucky for us the snow had stopped as we reached Teton Pass. The sun had set 5 minutes before we reached this location. I would have hated to drive this road in the dark.

We had a terrific day exploring a very, very, very, small section of Yellowstone National Park!

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