By Michelle Colesanti
The U.S. National Parks Service is currently celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Although President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service on August 25, 1916, we can thank President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and his love of nature and conservation for setting the stage to create the National Parks system.
My husband, Phil, and I recently visited the first established National Park, Yellowstone, along with a few others on a recent trip taking us through Wyoming and South Dakota.
Our journey took us into Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and across Wyoming, with a stop in Cody and two ranches before entering South Dakota to visit Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park.
Most of our trip was part of a one week Tauck tour. One of the reasons we chose this particular tour was so that we could stay inside the parks. This trip included overnights at Jackson Lake Lodge inside Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Lodge and Yellowstone’s Lake Lodge.
I knew we were in a special place at first sighting of the 40 mile long Tetons range. We arrived the day before our tour was to begin, so we took a scenic boat cruise out of Colter Bay Marina on Jackson Lake. It was a great way to learn information about the area while enjoying the amazing scenery.
One of the most popular activities in the Tetons is a 10 mile scenic rafting float trip on the Snake River. This was the first activity on our tour. Normally the water would be crystal clear, but on this day, it was murky from all of the mud being churned up due to melting mountain snows. Lucky for us we had an experienced young man at the helm keeping us away from the river obstacles. We saw bald eagles and a moose feeding at the side of the river; all wonderful sights as we marveled at the Tetons beckoning at every turn.
After a quick lunch and some shopping in Jackson, we stopped to take photos at Mormon Row, which is on the National Register for Historic Places. The Mormons established homesteads here in the 1890s. Though not inhabited anymore, the buildings with the Tetons set in the background are a photographer’s delight. It was soon time to leave behind the beauty and enchantment of the Tetons for Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park
Although Yellowstone is the first official park in the National Park’s Service, it was originally established by Congress in 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.
The park is most famous for Old Faithful. The lodge was built near the huge geyser, which erupts approximately every 90 minutes. Whether staying at the Lodge or just passing through, it’s also a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner.
There are miles of trails and boardwalk starting at the lodge, where you can view geysers and other hydrothermal activity up close. We were extremely lucky to catch an eruption of the Beehive Geyser, which usually erupts every 13 to 16 hours. It caught us by surprise on an early morning walk. Its height can reach over 200 feet and lasts about five minutes.
Near the center of the park is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. About 20 miles long and almost 1,200 ft. deep in places, there are cascading waterfalls in the canyon that are breathtaking. You can view the three waterfalls, Lower, Upper and Crystal Falls, from multiple areas.
Along with all of the interesting geothermal features, the wildlife is abundant. Many bison roam freely including on roadways. We were lucky enough to see elk, deer, red fox, coyote, big horn sheep, and a black bear. You should allow about three days to visit. To be continued next month as we journey through Wyoming and into South Dakota. For more information on Tauck Tours, visit www.tauck.com.