While visiting Yellowstone National Park last summer and on the same grey and rainy day we toured West Thumb Geyser Basin, my friends and I also drove to and explored some of the front country area around Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We checked out several spots near the canyon area but the view of Lower Falls from Artist Point was my favorite.
Many artists have visited Yellowstone’s Lower Falls over the years. In fact the Hayden Survey in the early 1880’s included both photographer William Henry Jackson, who became famous for his groundbreaking images of the expanding American West, as well as Thomas Moran, whose paintings of the Yellowstone country helped pave the way to it’s protection. No wonder this prominent viewpoint is called Artist Point!
The canyon is one thousand feet deep in some places and the lower falls cascade an incredible 308′ into the canyon. Amazingly, at 308′ of drop, Lower Falls are not the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone. It is however, the largest waterfall by volume not only in Yellowstone but the American Rockies.
Don’t let the precipitous drop you see in my photos deter you; the area is well marked and safe. These views are but a short and easy stroll from the parking area and can be enjoyed by anybody!
Lewis and Clark Expedition member turned mountain man John Colter was the first white explorer to describe the thermal features and area that encompasses what we now know as Yellowstone National Park. At first John Colter was written off as crazy and the strange place he had described was mockingly referred to as “Colter’s Hell.” But eventually, other explorers returned from the American West with tales similar to what Colter described. One such tale was that a large alpine lake existed where one could catch a fish and then swing his pole over a steam vent and cook his catch without so much as taking a step. Those early explorers could have very well been referring to the West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake.
Today, a large parking lot and boardwalk paths make accessing, walking, and viewing the West Thumb Geyser Basin very easy. Once on the boardwalk that is elevated above the shores between thermal area to the west and the lake to the east, the early explorer’s fishing tale is easy to believe!
I’ve vistited Yellowstone several times now, but last Summer was the first time I pulled off and checked out the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It isn’t nearly as grand as the geyser basins in and around Old Faithful (it was also less crowded), but with this geyser area immediately adjacent to huge Yellowstone Lake makes it a special place worth exploring.
I recently returned from a backpacking trip in Yellowstone National Park, a trip in which my group never saw the sun and was constantly wet. Heck, it was the last week of August and one night the snow line came within a few hundred vertical feet of our camp! With the weather making things such a struggle to stay dry and warm, it was a real challenge to get out and take great pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I am busy editing a bunch of photos that I did take in Yellowstone, I just wasn’t as successful as I had hoped to be.
Personal expectations aside, I did manage a few great images on the morning of my last day of vacation. I had just dropped my travel companions off at the Jackson Hole airport and was heading north towards Togwotee Pass and on towards home in Casper, Wyoming when I noticed the storm clouds start to part and barely reveal glimpses of the Teton Range off to the west. I thought the moment was right just as I was pulling up to the start of a construction zone. I pulled off the road onto the shoulder and jumped out of my truck to get a few images as the clouds lifted off the mountains. I got a tongue lashing from the flagger for exiting my truck at the start of a construction zone, but after a week of frustrating and lack luster photography conditions, I was fine with taking the abuse in order to capture a special moment in an incredible mountain setting.
Yellowstone National Park…I currently own five maps that cover the topography and trails of the entire park. Yet, I have never been in the Yellowstone backcountry. In fact, I have only visited Yellowstone once. Even though I have moved to Wyoming, the park’s closest entrance is still a four and a half hour drive from my home in Casper. Even with the long drive, I plan to visit America’s first National Park many times to come; in fact, I’ve officially booked a four day backpacking trip into its backcountry this August!
Until August, all I can do is look at my earlier images from the park and dream of what sites are to come. I’m so excited, I had to share a few…