During our trip to Montana last week to deliver the Wetlands Screening Tool Training with USDA-FSA, we also had the opportunity to take a day trip to Yellowstone National Park. America’s first national park, Yellowstone is truly a gem – a real national treasure!
We started the morning by watching the sun rise over the Absaroka Mountains on the ~2 hour journey from Bozeman, MT.
We followed the winding path of the Yellowstone River as we approached the park entrance, stopping to get our binoculars and scopes out for a close-up view of a large bald eagle along the banks. Did you know? The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the country, at 691 miles long.
Once inside the park, there are a multitude of vastly different ecosystems present, from grasslands to wetlands to the subalpine forest.
In terms of other wildlife, here’s how we did…
Jackie had her eyes to the sky and was definitely our A-Team in terms of spotting cool birds. The best finds of the day were the golden eagle and Swainson’s hawk – some spectacular raptors!
Liz deserves a gold star for spotting large creatures. As Will, our guide, instructed us, keep your eyes out for the dark blobs and watch their movement. Many of the dark blobs are bison, but occasionally you spot something else… Liz successfully found both a wolf and a black bear!
Our guide, Will, did a great job explaining to us the balance of different creatures in Yellowstone’s ecosystem, and the population dynamics of how creatures both large and small are reliant upon one another. It’s all so interconnected! And then factor in the plant life, the microorganisms, migration patterns, corridors of habitat, invasive species, wildfires, as well as the interactions with people (both local landowners/ranchers adjacent to the park, let alone the tourists)… and you have a highly complex, interconnected system.
I know that each of us will be integrating many of the things we learned at Yellowstone when we go into classrooms this fall teaching young people about biodiversity and ecosystem balance!
While we did not visit Old Faithful, we did make a stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone…
Despite the millions of visitors the come to Yellowstone each year from across the globe, I was surprised to experience the quiet sense of wonder there – it really didn’t seem busy or congested at all, as people took in the amazing grandeur all around them. Our tour guide Will also knew where he was going and helped navigate the park, minimizing congestion and maximizing our time there to experience as much as we could in a day trip.
Also, an interesting sign of the times to share – of course there were signs and information about how to stay safe around wildlife, but the National Park Service and tour guides have also begun educating visitors on how to appropriately and safely take selfies around wildlife. Don’t disrespect the bison!
Finally, a quick shoutout to the National Park Service celebrating its 100 year birthday this week. Happy Birthday NPS – here’s to another 100 years!