Day 4 – Yellowstone Canyon Area.

December 1, 2006

Today, the plan is to cover the Canyon area of the National park. Since we are just outside the south entrance at Flagg Ranch resorts, the total distance is around 60 miles to the canyon area. As always it is very essential to start your day with the sun so that you can give yourself plenty of time exploring the park and avoid the crowd.
Driving north from South entrance, you would pass through the some of the natural points in West thumb area and Village area. Some of the must see points in Village area are:
Natural Bridge: Located just south of Bridge Bay Campground, it is an easy one-mile walk to the Natural Bridge. There is also a bicycle trail leading to the bridge. The Natural Bridge was formed by erosion of this rhyolite outcrop by Bridge Creek. The top of the bridge is approximately 51 ft. above the creek. A short switchback trail leads to the top, though travel across the bridge is now prohibited to protect this feature.
Fishing Bridge: .5 mile east from the fishing bridge junction in the main road is the fishing bridge. This is a very lively place and you can see people fishing standing on this bridge.The original bridge was built in 1902. It was a rough-hewn Fishing Bridge
corduroy log bridge with a slightly different alignment than the current bridge. The existing bridge was built in 1937. The Fishing Bridge was historically a tremendously popular place to fish. Angling from the bridge was quite good, Fishing bridge view
due to the fact that it was a major spawning area for cutthroat trout. However, because of the decline of the cutthroat population (in part, a result of this practice), the bridge was closed to fishing in 1973. Since that time, it has become a popular place to observe fish. It is at the location where the Yellowstone River emerges from Yellowstone Lake. After spending some time here, we continued our northward journey to the Canyon area.
LeHardy Rapids: The LeHardy Rapids are a cascade on the Yellowstone River, three miles north of Fishing Bridge. Geomorphologically, it is thought that this is the actual spot where the lake ends and the river continues it’s northward flow. LeHardy Rapids
In the spring, many cutthroat trout may be seen here, resting in the shallow pools before expending bursts of energy to leap up the rapids on the their way to spawn under Fishing Bridge. The rapids were named for Paul LeHardy, a civilian topographer with the Jones Expedition in 1873. Jones and a partner started off on a raft with the intent of surveying the river, planning to meet the rest of their party at the Lower Falls. Upon hitting the rapids, the raft capsized, and many of the supplies were lost, including guns, bedding, and food. LeHardy and his partner saved what they could and continued their journey to the falls on foot.The rapids became a popular visitor attraction when a boardwalk was built in 1984 providing access to the area. Due to increased visitation, a group of harlequin ducks, which once frequented this area in spring, have not been seen for several years. The boardwalk has consequently been closed in early spring to protect this sensitive habitat, but the harlequins have not returned
Canyon Area: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the primary geologic feature in the Canyon District. It is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. Depth is 800 to 1,200 ft.; width is 1,500 to 4,000 ft. The canyon as we know it today is a very recent geologic feature. The present canyon is no more than 10,000 to 14,000 years old, although there has probably been a canyon in this location for a much longer period. The exact sequence of events in the formation of the canyon is not well understood, as there has been little field work done in the area. The few studies that are available are thought to be inaccurate. We do know that the canyon was formed by erosion rather than by glaciation. A more complete explanation can be found in the Geological Overview section. The geologic story of the canyon, its historical significance as a barrier to travel, its significance as destination/attraction, and its appearance in Native American lore and in the accounts of early explorers are all important interpretive points. The “ooh-ahh” factor is also important: its beauty and grandeur, its significance as a feature to be preserved, and the development of the national park idea.
Canyon area tour involves two circuits. The North Rim road and South Rim Road. Both involves some hiking. So allow yourself sufficient amount of time and water to enjoy the diverse features in this area.
Click here to see a map of Canyon Rim Drive and Trails
While you are in the park, educate yourself with all the ranger led tours in the area you plan to visit. It is always a good idea to join a ranger on a guided tour. That way, you learn more about the area you are visiting. We learnt that a ranger led tour of the South rim starts at 3 pm from Uncle Tom’s trail. So we decided to cover the North tim road first and then move down to South rim in the afternoon. Before that we first filled ouself at the cafeteria in the Canyon area. There are lot of choices in the menu to choose.
North Rim Drive: This one way loop road starts at the parking lot of the Canyon area. This loop consists of walks and overlooks that give you a panaromic view of the canyon as well as an upclose view of the uper and lower falls.
Glacier Boulder: Along the road to Inspiration Point there is a house-sized granite boulder sitting in the pine forest alongside the road. It was plucked from the Beartooth Mountains by an early Pinedale Glacier and dropped on the north Glacier Bolder
rim of the Grand  Canyon of the Yellowstone nearly 80,000 years ago. Continued glacial advances and retreats led to the present-day appearance of the canyon and surrounding area.
Inspiration Point: After the North rim drive becomes one way, make the first left turn. Drive to the end of the road and park. More than 50 steps direct you down this moderately strenuous walk to an overlook and spectacular canyon Inspiration Point
views. Rest on the benches and enjoy the views: halfway down and at the base you can glimpse the lower falls of the yellowstone. From the overlook, you can view the canyon upstream and downstream, watch the acrobatic flights of birds, and smell the sulphur from hydrothermal features far below.
Grandview Point: Stop here for a colorful view of the canyon.(Bear left at the fork in the walkway. the right fork is part of the North Rim trail). You can see the river snaking through the rocks as it rushes downstream. Stop to rest on the benches cut from bolders and listen. Grand view
Lookout and Redrock point: Bear left on this paved trail for your first full view of the Lower Falls. As you scan the canyon, look for osprey nests and signs of hot springs (look for wet, rust-coloredrocks or for stream). Also notice the trail below you. lookout pt
Red Rock Trail takes the hardy visitor close enough to feel the spray. To reach this trail from the parking lot, bear right on the paved walkway. The trail drops 500 ft (150 m) in about 3/8 mile. It is not recommended for visitors with heart,lung, or other health conditions. Redrock view
Brink of the Lower Falls: Every second, an average of 37,417 gallons of water plunge 308 ft over the Lower Falls. You can experience this power by taking this trail to the brink. Even if you can’t make the full trip (a drop of 600 ft/180m), consider walking part way down for a glimpse of the brink and the upper falls. Brink of lower falls
Brink of the Upper Falls: To reach this overlook from North Rim Drive, turn left onto the main road, and then left at the sign. Shorter than the lower falls, Upper falls (109 ft/ 33 m) is impressive in its own way. Soon after you begin Brink of falls
the short walk, stop at the rocks on the left and listen to the rush of water. Then proceed down the steps and around the corner. You’ll be rewarded with the sight of the colliding currents rushing pellmell over the brink. Bursts of spray often create rainbows in the afternoon.
South Rim Drive: On the South Rim Drive you can view the Upper Falls from two view points at uncleTom’s parking area, Artist points. As planned we reached the Uncle Tom’s parking area at 3 pm to join the ranger led tour of the South rim trail starting at UncleTom trail’s parking area. I would recommend everyone to take this tour as it passes through the some of the most scenic views of the canyon at the same time is also very educative.
Uncle Tom’s trail: For an unparalleled canyon and waterfalls experience, take a deep breath and descend this trail. A series of paved inclines and more than 300 steps lead you about 500 ft down into canyon. Your destination is a platform form which you see, hear and feel the power of the Uncle Tom’s Trail
Lower Falls. Much of the walk is constructed of perforated steel sheeting, so you should wear comfortable, flat heeled walking shoes. Also watch out for ice in the early morning or in the spring or fall. View from Uncletom trail
Upper Falls View Point: This easy walk takes you to two viewpoints of the Upper Falls, which drops 109 ft over a lip of volcanic rock. Upstram of the waterfall, you can se the old canyon bridge, which today is part of the North Rim Trail. From the left overlook, you can glimpse Crystal Falls on the far side of the Canyon. ViewPoint
South Rim Trail: Begin this trail at the Wapiti trailhead on South Rim Drive near Chittenden bridge. This partially paved trail parallels the Canyon and connects the Wapiti Trailhead with Uncle Tom’s parking Area and Artist Point (1-3/4 miles). You’ll wind in and out of forests between striking viewpoints of both falls and the canyon.
Artist Point: When you reach this set of overlooks, you’ll see why this is obe of the most photographed views in Yellowstone. Framed by the Canyon walls with forests for a backdrop, the Yellowstone river thunders more than 308 ft over Artist point
Lower Falls. From the Upper overllook, you can view the Canyon in both directions. Look for Osprey, bald eagles, ravens and swallows. Artist Point 2
After completion of the South Rim, we decided to drive north towards Tower Roosvelt area. This drive passes through two important viewing points.
Tower Falls: Tower Fall is the most recognizable natural feature in the district. The 132-foot drop of Tower Creek, framed by eroded volcanic pinnacles has been documented by park visitors from the earliest trips of Europeans into the Yellowstone region. Its idyllic setting has inspired Tower Falls
numerous artists, including Thomas Moran. His painting of Tower Fall played a crucial role in the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. The nearby Bannock Ford on the Yellowstone River was an important travel route for early Native Americans as well as for early European visitors and miners up to the late 19th century.
Calcite Springs:  This grouping of thermal springs along the Yellowstone River signals the downstream end of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The geothermally altered rhyolite inspired the artist Moran; his paintings of this Calcite Blocks
scene were among those presented to Congress in 1872, leading to the establishment of the park. The steep, columnar basalt cliffs on the opposite side of the river from the overlook are remnants of an ancient lava flow, providing a window into the past volcanic forces that shaped much of the Yellowstone landscape. The gorge and cliffs provide habitat for numerous wildlife species including bighorn sheep, red-tailed hawks, and osprey.
Finally, exhausted after the day’s hiking and viewing this natural beauty, we returned back to the Canyon area and retired into our Pioneer Cabin thus ending another wonderful day in Yellowstone.
FYI: Pictures you see in this blog are shot by us during our recent vacation. If you are interested in any of these pictures (original 6 mb), please contact us at bestvacation@gmail.com
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