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A Postcard From Yellowstone National Park

This is a feature from Issue 11 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.

Eerie Landscapes

As we entered Yellowstone National Park it appeared more ethereal than majestic. Snow lay piled metres high at the side of the road and beyond, hundreds of stiff and blackened bare tree trunks rose, monuments to an 1989 wildfire. Even more otherworldly were the plumes of smoke rising from innocuous-looking puddles, the only indicator that a super volcano lay beneath us.

At Old Faithful, it was hard to feel close to nature, as throngs of tourists waited for the famous geyser to blow its top. But as we walked past bright blue pools, bubbling like witches’ cauldrons, I saw an osprey dive into the river and fly up through a sulphurous mist, a wriggling fish in its beak.

In Yellowstone, the wildlife comes to you. We walked past a large herd of grazing elk to get to lunch and our guide told us about a bear who made a game out of bouncing off people’s tents! Bison are everywhere, one even creating a tailback as it nonchalantly lumbered across the road.

Artist Point is a look-out offering sublime views over the Yellowstone River.

Fantastic Beasts

The star of Wyoming’s state flag and a poster child for conservation, bison once smothered America’s Great Plains. Native Americans hunted them but never wasted a scrap – even using the skin and bones to make clothes, teepees and tools. But in the 19th century Europeans killed some 50 million bison for food or mere sport, decimating the population down to a few hundred. Incredibly, numbers have now recovered to over 500,000, with many in Yellowstone.

Wolves are another conservation success here, but a controversial one. After being hunted out of Wyoming they were re-introduced into the borderless park and have thrived. But many say they
threaten farmers’ livelihoods.

On our last morning we spied a grizzly bear from the car. Sliding down to the icy banks of a glass-still river, we watched it shamble along the opposite side, relaxed but muscular. It stopped to paw a dead bison, frozen stiff, before melting into the trees – just as an otter popped up below us.

There are more than 100,000 hydrothermal features in Yellowstone: geysers, hot springs, mud pots & fumeroles.

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This is a feature from Issue 11 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.