Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
We left off last time after our first full day in Yellowstone in Part V. The next morning we made a picnic lunch and set up for the Lamar Valley. We were in the Hayden Valley by 9:30 and the Bison were out in force.

 Bison on the road Yellowstone

They were crossing the road again. 

Bison Family Yellowstone

Bison on the road Yellowstone

And there where huge herds of them on both sides of the road all through the valley. We estimate that there were over a 1,000 of them.

[Note: I asked an Interpreter at Norris Geyser Basin how many Bison were in the park these days. He said that they strive to have the population at 3,000 to 3,500. Most years by the fall there are 3,500 but when they return to the park in the spring there are usually 500 to 1,000 less. Those are replaced each year with new calves.]

Bison herd Yellowstone

We continued north through Canyon and up along the Yellowstone River towards Tower. They are re-doing a big section of road through the area before and after Tower Falls. So we got to wait before we got to Tower Falls (and then again afterwards). We got to the parking lot at Tower Falls at about 10:30 and got a parking spot on the outer edge of the lot. When we walked through the lot towards to trail we saw some empty spots so the place wasn’t over-run yet at that time of day. We took the short hike to the overlook where you can get a pretty good view of the falls.

Tower Falls Yellowstone

We'd planned on doing the hike to the bottom of the falls but it was closed so that you could only get down to the river where you couldn't see the falls. Since it was a pretty steep hike we decided not to expend the energy on it.

Our first wildlife sighting in the Lamar Valley east of Tower was a pronghorn up on a dry sage brush covered hillside.

Antelope Lamar Valley Yellowstone

When we went through a higher pass through some pines we saw a bunch of folks parked at a turnout. So we parked and hiked back and got to see an osprey nest with a juvenile sitting next to it. There was also a lone bison sitting on the hill waving his tail.

Osprey and nest Lamar Valley Yellowstone

When we came back out into the valley there was a turnout with a view of a huge herd of bison down near the Lamar River. .

Bison in Lamar Valley Yellowstone

They spread out all along the grassy area and there were bulls butting heads and raising dust.

Bison butting heads in the Lamar Valley Yellowstone

We drove on and just before the ranger station, we saw 3 more prong horns south of the road.

Pronghorn Antelope Lamar Valley Yellowstone

We stopped for lunch at the Soda Butte Creek picnic ground. We were lucky to get a spot in the shade and we had a great view of the creek and the surrounding mountains.

Soda Butte Picnic area Yellowstone

There were ground squirrels hiding under the walkway that came out to check us out.

Soda Springs Ground Squirrel

I also got a photo of the humongous thistle-like plant that grew in the meadow next to the picnic area. I’ve seen in down along the road in the Hayden Valley too.

Soda Butte Thistle

Just before we got to the NE Entrance of the park we saw a doe and 2 spotted fauns.

Spotted fawn near NE Entrance Yellowstone

We drove on into Cooke City and found a place to park. This a pretty happening place in the summer since it's the only town on this side of the park.

Downtown Cooke City MT

We hiked down the street (literally in the street) to the Cooke City General Store .

Walter Cooke at Cooke City General Store MT

It turns out to be a National Historic Landmark with some of the original fixtures still in place behind the counters.

Inside the Cooke City General Store MT

We hiked on a ways further to the Cooke City Visitor’s Center and museum. They had a nifty book on the history of the town but they only took cash. So we hiked but up the street to the Saloon (it was the real deal with motorcycles parked in front and loud music and low lights) to use the ATM. That was worth the trip actually. Then we picked up the truck which was across the street and drove back to the Visitor’s Center to get the book and see their outdoor mining museum.

Then we turned back and drove back into the park. The mountains in this corner are really pretty.

Mountains near NE Entrance of Yellowstone

We drove on for yet another view of another big herd of bison. There were at least 3 big herds in the valley but unlike the Hayden herds they stay way away from the road. It turns out that lots of bison congregate in the Hayden in late July and early August to mate which is why there are so many there now.

Bison in Lamar Valley Yellowstone

We saw 3 more prong horns (2 babies and a mom who just might be the ones we saw at first going in) resting in an open swale.

Pronghorn Antelope Lamar Valley Yellowstone

We opted to go over to Mammoth Hot Springs rather than going back through the Tower construction since otherwise we were going to miss that section of road. We stopped to take a panorama shot of the valley and mountains not far west of Tower and then drove on.

Panorama area west of Tower in Yellowstone

We stopped at Undine Falls and I got out and walked the very short distance to take a photo. I got lassoed into taking a group photo for a family which was kind of fun.

Undine Falls Yellowstone

We drove through Mammoth Hot Springs and then turned south and I grabbed a shot of this nice mountain just to the south.

South of Mammoth Hots Springs Yellowstone

Then wonders of wonders we spied a herd of 8 elk (all does) in the grassland south of Mammoth.

Elk south of Mammoth Hots Springs Yellowstone

As we drove over the Continental Divide between Norris and Canyon we saw a lone bison bull walking along the side of the road with great purpose. We think we saw him the next day out in a meadow on the road between Norris and Mammoth just north of Norris. The big herds had disappeared over the ridges in the Hayden Valley by late afternoon but there was a lone bull sitting in the ditch who just begged to have his photo shot.

Bison sitting next to road Yellowstone

In Part VII we'll head up for a day at Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Geyser Basin.