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National Park Shutdown

20th October 2013

Just Slightly Disappointed

My plan was to photograph scenery and wildlife in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I aimed the car towards the west, drove the 1900 miles to Jackson Hole and arrived on Sunday. I would spend a day in the Tetons and the evening in West Yellowstone, MT., explore the Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs on Monday, get some rest in Gardiner, MT. and then drive a short distance to Norris Geyser Basin to marvel at its thermal features on Tuesday. Of course neither I nor the hundreds of other visitors had an inkling that the parks would be closed.

On Tuesday (October 1, 2013) morning at 7:30am, I left Gardiner and passed through the grand arch on my way to the north entrance of Yellowstone. The ranger at the gate informed me that all entrances would be closing at 8:00am due to the government shutdown.

I thought, how lucky I am: “Since I’ve made it into the park, I’m going to be able to hike through the geyser basin at Norris.” I’d soon find out otherwise.


As a drove past the all of the turnoffs – Mammoth Terraces, Midway Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin, West Thumb – I found orange cones barricading the entrance ways. Apparently, the park service anticipated the shutdown before the 8 o’clock gate closing and were already set to abide by the orders from Washington, DC.

While I was disappointed that I would not be able to visit Norris, I realized that all was not lost. There were plenty of places along the Grand Loop Road at which to stop to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.


There’s plenty of wildlife in Yellowstone and as far as I can tell none are aware that the park is closed so they’re out doing their own thing.

As I was driving in the northern part of the park just north of Obsidian Cliff, I saw this bison grazing in the field against the snow-covered mountains.

This was a lone bison, but during my short stay, I saw more bison in the park than any other species.


Continuing down the road a few miles, I pulled over at Roaring Mountain. It’s adjacent to the highway so anyone passing by can stop to admire the view.

The huge hillside is packed with dozens of fumaroles spewing steam and water into the air. It’s an amazing site.


My next stop was at Nymph Lake which is also adjacent to the highway.

Here I spotted another bison that was warming himself by the thermals and offered a picturesque view.

Although the bison was about 150 yards distant, one of my cameras had a long telephoto lens and was able to produce this capture.


Then I turned around to see another nice view.

This is Nymph Lake which also has thermals surrounding it. You can see how the trees towards the middle have been stripped of their needles and the trunk and branches absorbed the minerals from the hot springs.


Driving to just past the Midway Geyser Basin I pulled aside the highway again.

This is the Firehole River. Do you know how the river gets its name?

Here you can see the hot waters from the uphill geysers flowing over the rocks and feeding the river. The rocks gain their color from the various bacteria that inhabit these hot waters.


My next stop was at Old Faithful. I’ve been here many times but never have I seen as empty a parking area as today – fewer than 50 cars. Inside the Inn only the gift and coffee shops remained opened serving just a few visitors. Back outside I found a sign announcing the closing of the Old Faithful viewing boardwalk. The visitors ignored the sign and Old Faithful erupted as usual.

I walked around the boardwalk and snapped a few photos including this one of the Blue Star Spring.


Having lost hope that most of my favorite stop off areas were closed, I thought it was time to depart.

I continued on the highway towards the south entrance. When I reached the Lewis Falls area, I again stopped to admire the calm yet colorful foliage along the Lewis River.


As I exited Yellowstone at the south entrance, I stopped to take a souvenir photo of my shortened trip to my two favorite national parks.

I actually have a second photo that shows a closed Grand Teton National Park.


Before heading home, I made one final stop at another of my favorite places. Oxbow Bend is just outside the Grand Teton park boundary.

Here the Snake River makes an abrupt turn in a large flat that exposes the gorgeous Teton Range.

I’m thankful that this location was not barricaded.

Unfortunately, I saw buses of visitors that were unable to enter the park. I’m sure they are very disappointed by the shutdown. Although my visit was cut short, I still had a few days to enjoy my two favorite national parks and take back a few memorable photographs.

On the other hand, there were hundreds of thousands of government workers who were furloughed. And then there were the employees of the private enterprises that rely on park visitors – hotels, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations, more. Compared to these others, I suffered only minor inconvenience. I hope this doesn’t happen again to any of us.

Please feel free to leave your comments or observations.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee