Buildings/Vistor Centers, Yellowstone National Park
It was almost 2 PM by the time we covered the short distance from Cooke City to the Yellowstone NP Northeast Entrance, but it sure was fun getting there! The park has approximately 3 million annual visitors but, due its remote location and being closed for seven months of the year, the Northeast Entrance has the lowest yearly figures of about 200,000 visitors. The West Entrance alone is the busiest at 1.2 million, followed by the South, North and East Entrances in popularity.
The formalities were minimal as we paid our $25 for a one-week pass that allowed us access to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, going in and out as many times as we wished. It was great to finally be in the park and losing altitude as we drove along Soda Butte Creek and then into the Lamar River Valley. It was there that we had our first view of the wild Bison herds roaming along the river (2nd photo), and we were not the only ones out taking photos (3rd photo)!
Definitely stop by the numerous visitor's centers throughout Yellowstone. Not only do they provide books, maps, gifts, postcards but park rangers are available to answer any questions. Each center has a different themed display/museum on Yellowstone, such as animal life, the fire, etc. Admission - free.
The center shown is at Mammoth Hot Springs and the building is part of the Fort Yellowstone Historic District. It was once the Bachelor Officers Quarters built in 1909.
From its inception in 1872, the park was seriously threatened by poachers that killed animals, souvenir hunters breaking off pieces of geysers and developers that set up camps by hot springs. Civilians were hired to patrol the park but the plan was underfunded and understaffed. In 1886 the U.S. Army stepped in with continued service for 32 years until the Park Service took over.
Fort Yellowstone was established in the Mammoth Hot Springs area and included officer's quarters, a guardhouse, headquarters building, barracks and stables. Most of the buildings still stand today and are used by the National Park Service. Access to the buildings is denied, but a self-guided walking tour is available by picking up a Fort Yellowstone walking guide for .50.
For those who want to have a rest, there is a place here where you can buy food or even go to a restaurant. It cannot be missed if you follow the road signs; turn right after Lake Village coming from the south, drive across the bridge and you will discover the general store (main picture) with a huge parking in front of it. Inside is a souvenir shop as big as a shopping mall (almost!) where all sorts of the usual “souvenir” items can be purchased, from plush animals to mugs, calendars, picture books, etc, etc. . . .
The view outside, on the bridge is more interesting, standing on the bridge, looking south over the lake and its blue waters, with the Absaroka Range in background.
There are even antique cars circulating in the Yellowstone Park which make the visit enjoyable (last picture).
The Canyon Visitor Education Center was completed in August 2006. This center was completely paid for through entrance fees collected from 1997 to 2005. This two story structure contains 20,000 square feet and is designed to withstand earthquakes. The museum is centered on the super volcano that lies under Yellowstone. The photo you see shows you a set of 4 cubes. To the left you will see a single small cube that represents the ash from the Mount St. Helens volcano in Oregon. The other boxes are the amount of ash of each of the three largest Yellowstone Volcanoes in past geological history as compared to the Mt. St. Helen’s Volcano. These three large cubes are each made up of the smaller Mt. St. Helens cube. Another exhibit that you will see is a large globe, which rotates, showing you the location of other volcanic hot spots around the world. Nearby a huge fiber optic and LED animated topographic relief map explains the geologic history of the park. Photo 2 will show you the globe and the relief map. Besides exhibits about the volcano, you will also see murals and dioramas explaining the park’s glaciers, as well as life in the lodge pole forest and grasslands. (See photos 3 and 4.)
See a bison up close. This majestic animal, native only to the plains of North America, was driven to the verge of extinction in the late 19th century. "Buffalo Bill" was reputed to have killed 4200 bisons in a 17-month period. Thanks to conservation efforts, bisons again freely roam in protected parklands. Yellowstone is part of their refuge.
I don't remember whether we visited a Visitor's Center in 1948, but I did not do our usual visitor's center visit in 2010. We got information at the entrance station, but we did not get to the Old Faithful Visitor's Center until the day we were leaving. At the time it was in a temporary trailer while they were building a new center. the man at the Old Faithful Inn said I would have to walk to the Visitor's Center, but in fact there was a way to get there by car. Had I known that, I would have visited sooner.
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
Open daily through Nov. 7.
Through Sept. 30: 8 am–8 pm
Oct. 1–Nov. 7: 9 am–5 pm
Reopens mid-December for winter season.
Dynamic exhibits for all ages about hydrothermal
features. Geyser eruption predictions. Old Faithful eruption predictions: 307-344-2751, during visitor center hours.
My grandson did visit the museum at the Canyon Visitor Education Center when we stopped here for lunch on the Circle of Fire tour (photos 3, 4 and 5)
Open daily through Oct. 17, then closed.
Through Sept. 30: 8 am–8 pm
Oct. 1–Oct. 17: 9 am–5 pm
He saw the interactive exhibits about Yellowstone’s supervolcano but I don't think he saw the film Land to Life.
Yellowstone is a huge park and so the Park Service has several different visitor's centers distributed throughout the park. Each one is a little different in orientation so you could go to all of them. We went to the one at Old Faithful on our own on the last day - it was still in a trailer then. They have a new building now.
We stopped at Grant (which has information on fire in Yellowstone) to pick people up, and briefly at Madison (where we saw some of the old tour buses - they also have a Junior Ranger Station) on the Circle of Fire Tour. Since my grandson had already eaten his lunch, he spent his time at Canyon in the museum
Canyon Visitor Education Center
5/28-9/5 8 am-8 pm
9/6-9/30 8 am-6 pm
10/1-10/16 9 am-5 pm
Interactive exhibits about Yellowstone's supervolcano and other aspects of its geology. A spectacular new film on the geology of Yellowstone: Land to Life reveals how powerful geologic forces from fire to ice have combined to create a unique landscape which supports an abundant variety of life.
Other interesting visitor's centers include
Albright Visitor Center (at Mammoth Hot Springs - which we didn't get to at all on this trip)
Open daily, year-round.
5/28-9/30 8 am-7 pm
Exhibits on wildlife and history; films on Yellowstone and the national park idea.
Fishing Bridge Visitor Center (passed but did not go in)
5/28-9/30 8 am-7 pm
Exhibits on the park's birds, other wildlife, and lake geology.
The South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park is due north of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, the Grand Tetons and Jackson, Wyoming.
The entrance stands at 6,888 feet above sea level, near the headwaters of the great Snake River. The entrance road follows the steep Lewis River canyon north past Moose Falls, Lewis Falls, and Lewis Lake, before reaching Grant Village after about 22 miles. While it sounds like a short drive, in early winter, the road can be covered in a solid sheet of ice, and the safest speed might be 25 miles per hour or less.
I'm not sure if this was the actual name, but it's close. Just outside the park they have this refuge for wolves and bears that no longer can live in the wild for a number of reasons. It is a good chance to get up close to some of these magnificent animals. It's cheap and right in town near the west entrance to the park.
Located in the Old Faithful Area, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened on August 25, 2010. As you enter the center, you will find yourself in a lobby, with a huge window overlooking Old Faithful Geyser. This center contains staff to answer your questions, and supply you with informative pamphlets. There is an excellent museum in the center that features exhibits on the park’s hydrothermal features. These features are what made the park famous, and include geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles (steam vents). You will learn about life in these environments, the volcano beneath Yellowstone, and ongoing scientific research within the park. There is a Young Scientist exhibit room, that includes a full-size geyser model, and hands-on exhibits. If you are an adult with no children, don’t skip this room, it can be enjoyed by all ages. There is also a theater to view films to further enhance your understanding of Yellowstone. This is an excellent place to learn how geysers erupt, how life forms live in the scalding water and boiling mud, and what the colors in a hot spring may tell you. I highly recommend this visitor center, as it will increase your understanding, and appreciation of Yellowstone’s thermal areas.
The center also contains a small book store, where you can purchase a few souvenirs, post cards, and books.
This is a nice diversion from all the sight seeing. There is a nice I-MAX theatre in West Yellowstone. Even my 3 year old was enthralled by the hour long show about Lewis and Clark. They have different shows running throughout the day.
is the Chapel built in 1913 of native stone, slate roof and oak furnishings. The chapel is still in use today although the doors were locked when we were there.