This Week in Yellowstone, a winter storm is coming despite it being spring. The bears and wolves have been feasting close to the roads, while animals of all shapes and sizes have returned to the region. Most of the park roads open in a week, but that doesn’t mean this week won’t have some amazing things to experience. Bundle up, drive safe and get ready for a winter wonderland in early-April.
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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK
Yellowstone’s Bison Population Experienced Limited Losses in Seasonal Cull and Hunting
Be ready to see more bison in Yellowstone this year. On April 7th, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that the bison hunts and cull for the season had ended with lackluster results. Bison management operations culled just 41 bison from the population this winter season. The cull, which happens every year to prevent herds of bison from leaving the park, was projected to cull 600 to 900 animals from the population this winter. The hunt, which was done by state and tribal-regulated hunts outside of the park, only netter four bison.
The report linked above stated that “two of the bison were shot by state-licensed hunters — one near Gardiner and one near West Yellowstone. Hunters from the Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation killed the other two animals north of the park.”
While the hunt numbers and cull numbers were low, one good aspect of the report was that 10 bison have been captured for quarantine. If checked out and they test negative for Brucellosis, they will be shipped off to tribal lands to help restore the purposely eradicated by manifest destiny species.
Most Interior Roads Open on Friday the 15th
After five and a half months of seasonal closures, the roads to the interior of the park will once again be open for passenger vehicles. That means that starting on the 15th, scenic spots like Old Faithful Grand prismatic, Norris Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will once again be accessible. For those who have visited the park numerous times when the only open road is the one from Gardiner to Cooke City, the opening of the roads in one week is cause for a celebration.
Starting at 8am on the 15th, you will be able to drive the following routes, weather permitting: West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon Village. Be prepared for snow still on most trails and in nearly all areas, as the coming storm and the winter snowpack is still around.
Reservation Windows for Park Lodges and Select Campground Has Changed
The following is a press release from Yellowstone National Park Lodges, a Xanterra company:
Beginning with April 2023, the process for booking advance reservations for Yellowstone lodging will change beginning April 2022. At that time, we will change the reservation booking window to accept reservations for stays up to 13 months in advance*. Specifically, on the 5th of each month, we’ll begin accepting reservations for the same entire month of the following year. For example, on April 5, 2022, guests will be able to make Yellowstone reservations for applicable dates and properties from April 1 through April 30, 2023. On May 5, 2022, guests will be able to make reservations for May 1 through May 31, 2023, and so on.
- Please note, guests whose intended lodging or campground reservation arrives in the 13th month may extend their stay by up to 4 additional continuous nights into the 14th month, in the same lodge/campground for the same room/site type. For example, if May is the 13th month, a reservation arriving on/before May 31 can be reserved to include up to 4 nights in June, checking out on/before June 5 in the same lodge/campground and same room/site type. Stays extending beyond the 4th night of the 14th month will need to be reserved when that month is opened with the rolling 13-month schedule.
The majority of our rooms and campgrounds are available to book via our online reservations system. Due to the extreme demand, we strongly encourage use of our online system to avoid anticipated long wait times on our phone lines.
As I predicted, last week’s snowfall did little to stop the drought the region is experiencing. While the percentages dropped ever so slightly, the news failed to be good after a dose of storms rolled through. Thankfully, there is another storm, this time with some more moisture behind it, that should help a bit. The gains will be minimal, but will be gains, potentially delaying the loss of snowpack for another week or so once the summer hits. Only time will tell, but don’t expect much.
WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK
To help with the struggling snowpack, this week’s weather is a punch of winter in spring. Temperatures in the teens and single digits will occur, as will widespread snowfall through the park. Cooke City is forecasted to get nearly a foot of snow this coming week, from Saturday through Thursday. The highest temperature out there will be right around freezing. The cold will come all the way to Mammoth and Gardiner, so expect some wild weather.
This is the weather.com forecast for the three closest areas that are currently drivable in the park- Gardiner, Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City. Park wide weather forecasts will return next week! While they don’t specifically cover the entire region, these forecasts give a great idea of what to expect all around the region. As always, weather can and does change fast in the park, so always be prepared for anything.
ROADS AND CAMPGROUNDS
The snow and cold will make travel in the park a bit of a struggle at times, but the park will be doing their best to keep the roads clear and open. Expect snow and ice on the road the farther east you drive in the park, with ice potentially being around all day, but worse in the morning and late evenings. Drive slow and be extremely safe, as towing fees are astronomical and are rarely covered by insurance.
For up-to-date information call (307) 344-2117 for recorded information, or sign up to receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777 (an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions). Anticipate possible road closures due to inclement weather and dangerous driving conditions.
Planning on camping in the park this week?
Mammoth will be open for camping, but I don’t expect many people to be in the campground. The weather will more than likely limit tent campers to a handful or less, while a scattering of RVs and trailers may be in a few sights. The campground will not be full, unless some extremely strange event happens where everyone wants to camp in the cold and snow in April.
Last week was wild in the park. At Blacktail Ponds, just east of Undine Falls, wolf packs ran across roads, a bison fell in a pond and then a chunky grizzly feasted on it, all to the amazement of the smattering of people in the park. Elsewhere, bighorn sheep are in large numbers around Rescue Creek and the Yellowstone River Picnic area and have been hanging out here for weeks. Bison are roaming the roads and causing numerous bison jams a day, while the pronghorn are returning to the region, spotted in Lamar Valley a few days ago. There have even been a few rumored sightings of the first red dog, a baby bison, near Slough Creek, but I have yet to see a picture that verifies it. Bluebirds and sandhill cranes are back, as well as eagles and osprey, so keep an eye out. While all this sounds awesome, be aware that the cold weather will make wildlife sightings a little less frequent. Be patient and I am sure you will see quite a bit of activity.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
Fresh Snow Means Fresh Tracks
While many may look at this week’s forecast with disdain, the spring snowfall gives all who visit a chance to see just how well-populated the park is with wildlife. In the fresh snow and later the wet mud, animal tracks off all sizes litter the landscape, giving an insight into the movements of all of your favorite wildlife. While easy to see from the road, one of my favorite spots to walk and see fresh animal tracks is the seasonally closed Slough Creek Road that leads to the campground. Five miles in total length, this out and back walk takes you along a heavily traveled wildlife region. Don’t be surprised if you see coyote, fox, bison, elk, pronghorn and ermine tracks. You may even see bear or wolf tracks in the fresh snow too. What makes this fun is that often, when you hike back on the road, you’ll see a print of an animal on your footprint, telling you it crossed your path after you left sight. For me, this is one of the coolest things to see, as it lets you know how close you are to wildlife at all times and how a few minutes can make all the difference.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Stop Everywhere on the North Road
With roads to the interior opening on the 15th, this is the last chance you have to enjoy the relative seclusion of the Northern Range. With each passing week, the pullouts and short trails will start filling up, taking away some of the seclusion that visitors to the park currently have when visiting. Because of this, I highly recommend enjoying breaks in the wintry weather by doing things like walking closed roads to the Petrified Tree and Tower Falls, wandering into the Pebble Creek Canyon, and walking to the top of Undine Falls along the Lava Creek Trail. Even hiking to the Yellowstone River on the Rescue Creek Trail is a perfect adventure. If you are hoping for more information on any of these, please shoot me message and I will happily hook you up with great spots.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Curious about something not mentioned in the post?