Island Park, ID
July 23-29, 2109
Buffalo Run is located on the western most end of the longest Main Street "in the world" in the tiny town of Island Park, ID. It is a small park with water and electric only. The quiet was deafening...and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. The cool days and chilly nights were nice too. Some afternoons the skies would turn dark and the wind picked up, but we never got any rain except a few sprinkles.
1. West Yellowstone (July 24)
West Yellowstone, MT was incorporated in 1966, but has existed as a gateway to YNP since the early 1900s. In fact, it was and still is the busiest entrance to the park. This small town in southwestern Montana has more than 4 million visitors a year !
The West Yellowstone Historic Walking Tour was a great way to see over 20 historic locations...just follow the bear tracks. It's a laid back small town with very friendly people. There isn't much chance for West Yellowstone to spread out as it is surrounded on all sides by federal or state lands.
In addition to bear tracks, there are 20 bison cows and 10 calves statues scattered throughout the town. All are made of fiberglass and hand painted by local and regional artists depicting YNP, West Yellowstone and Native Americans of the region.
|Life size statue of a bison calf...|
The Union Pacific Depot was completed in 1909. At that time, tourists continued their journey through YNP in stagecoaches.
What an adventure that must have been...a five day tour of YNP...including motels and sight-seeing. You can still take stagecoach tours today, but they only last about 3 hours.
Today the Union Pacific Depot is a museum that tells the story of travel to and through YNP. It also shares stories of growth and changes in West Yellowstone as it developed into a "true community". Well worth the time...
Of course no sightseeing trip should end on an empty stomach...lunch followed with yummy homemade chocolate cream pie at one of the small cafes.
|Flaky crust topped with chocolate and the best ever whipped cream.|
2. Harriman State Park (July 26)
Acreage for this gorgeous state park was deeded to Idaho in 1977 by the Harrimans. The Harrimans, from New York (and wealthy railroad investors), were just one of several families that owned 16,000 acres known as "Railroad Ranch". From 1908 until 1977 the ranch was a private summer retreat for these families although the ranch was a working cattle ranch all year round.
The park has one main road that you can take from the visitor center to the Railroad Ranch area. The best way to see the park is the hiking trails. We enjoyed 7.5 miles (RT) of total beauty including Henrys Fork (a tributary of the Snake River) which winds its way through the park, Silver Lake, Golden Lake, meadows, and Lodgepole Pines.
One of the highlights for us were the Trumpeter Swans that make their home in the park year round. A big thanks to MonaLisa for reminding us we might still be able to see them. Shame on me for not having my "big" lens. Pictures didn't turn out all that good. They never swam close for a better photo.
|Adolescent swans at Golden Lake|
We also saw a Bald Eagle.
|He was pretty far away...|
|and very handsome!|
And the wildflowers were amazing. Fields of Daisies, Sego Lilies, and Indian Paintbrush danced in the breeze.
The history of Railroad Ranch was interesting. All of the 27 original buildings remain on the ranch. While some are being restored, others are open with a volunteer to share interesting facts and answer questions.
|The view from inside the cottage...elbow rests that were used "for the convenience of bird watchers" are still there . Other personal items were left as they were when the Harriman's last visited.|
|The Dining Cottage...notice the drapes behind the couch...they were drawn until the meal was served. Everyone was expected to "dress" for breakfast, lunch and dinner.|
It was a most enjoyable day.
3. Big Springs (July 27)
and a beautiful natural spring is born. Big Springs is considered a primary source for the Snake River.
This picturesque setting became the home of Johnny Sack, a 4'11" German immigrant in the early 1930s. He built the entire cabin and the furnishings by hand.
|The water wheel was also built by Johnny to provide electricity and water to his cabin.|
Today rainbow trout make the clear, clean water of Big Springs their home. They love it so much, they never leave. (Fishing is prohibited here.)
4. Mesa Falls (July 27)
From the calm waters of Big Springs to the roaring waters of the Snake River, Upper Mesa Falls pours over the rim of the nation's largest volcanic caldera. A big thank you to Jodee who shared "It was a nice surprise". You were so right Jodee !
Upper Mesa Falls is roughly 114 feet tall and 200 feet wide.
Mesa Falls (Upper and Lower) are the last prominent waterfalls on the Snake River to resist human control.
There is a great viewing area at Upper Mesa Falls if you don't mind climbing back up a kazillion steps.
|Our morning exercise!|
The Big Falls Inn, built in 1916, serves as the Visitor Center.
|I loved the front porch. The restored building is listed in the register National Register of Historic Places.|
Also at Upper Mesa Falls there is a short hike (2 miles RT) from the parking lot to Lower Mesa Falls. It's mostly a walk through a forest of aspen and willow trees.
There were lots of berries and we were hopeful to see birds...that didn't happen.
When we came to the clearing, there was a nice view of the river, but trees blocked our view to get a good photo of the Lower Falls. We decided to drive to the Lower Mesa
|Our view of Lower Mesa Falls from the overlook...|
|A zoom of Lower Falls|
Quake Lake turned out to be another interesting outing. Someone in the office at the RV park mentioned it when we went in to get directions to Campfire Lodge on Hebgen Lake. What was going to be a scenic road hike to have breakfast on the Madison River turned out to be a geologic history lesson. I love it when an unexpected plan comes together !
On August 17, 1959, this area was hit with the most devastating modern geological disaster in the Rocky Mountains. An earthquake of a magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale violently shook the earth, triggering a massive landslide, large surface cracks expanded and contracted, and fault lines - miles long - tore into the mountainsides permanently altering the landscape and tragically resulting in 28 deaths.
A 225 foot thick mountain of shattered rock, strewn with boulders and splintered trees blocked the canyon entrance. Behind it swirled a new lake choked with mud and torn branches.
These huge boulders never rolled or tumbled, but rather floated atop the debris.
|Memorial Boulder...a bronze plaque lists the names of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake. Before the earthquake the canyon was a popular fishing and camping retreat.|
There is a nice tarmac walk leading up to Memorial Boulder, Sister Boulder and a gorgeous view of the canyon and Madison River. Thank goodness for engineers who figured out a way for the Madison River to flow. I don't pretend to understand how that was done, but I do remember that Quake Lake will probably become part of the river at some point in the future.
From the Earthquake Visitor Center, it is a pretty drive along Quake Lake
and along the Madison River to an old camp lodge for breakfast.
We weren't there for the fishing...we had heard great things about their breakfast.
Choices for seating are at the bar if you are in a hurry or you can choose the small dining room with a short wait.
The dining room at the back of the lodge is worth the wait (and we were really, really hungry). If you look closely, you will see Joe taking a picture of me through the window.
This is the picture he took of me...
and this is the picture I took of the Madison River...ummm, one of many pictures !
Breakfast was yummy (especially the bacon which I usually share with Joe, but not this day) and we left having cleaned our plates. We don't eat pancakes, but if they are a breakfast food you enjoy, the pancakes there are quite famous !
This pretty much sums up our visit to Island Park, ID. Up next will be Lander, WY so stay tuned.
Until next time...
|Old fencing from the Railroad Ranch days at Harriman SP|
|So much detail...captures the early touring days in Yellowstone NP|
|Earthquake Lake Visitor Center|
|Mist from Upper Mesa Falls|
|The Ford Model T was first manufactured in 1908 but were not allowed in YNP until 1915.|
|Trumpeter Swan babies (cygnets)...Harriman SP|
|Upper Mesa Falls viewing walk|
HAPPY TRAILS !