Great America Road Trip Day 21: Wildlife Fiesta

Ribbons of mist clung to the Madison River in the chilly morning air. I had the river to myself this morning. It was nice to have some alone time so I could say good-bye to this magnificent National Park.

I hadn’t expected to like Yellowstone as much as I did. But it is a truly magical place, despite the crowds. It is such a big park, however, that there are plenty of less crowded places to explore.

IMG_9189
Madison River access
IMG_9194
Madison River in the misty moisty morning

Lamar Valley

Daniel and I planned to leave Yellowstone by the north entrance today and head towards I-90. But we had one last stop to make. We spent days exploring the park and had pretty much driven everywhere – except for the northeast corner.

So of course I wanted to check it out, being the completist that I am. I also heard that the wildlife viewing in this area is exceptional. We’d seen the occasional lone bison or elk, but not very many. We wanted more!

We drove towards the Tower area (which was only partially open) and headed towards the northeast entrance of the park. And there, finally, we found our bison. Lots and lots of bison. SO MANY BISON!!

We were thrilled when we found our first small herd of bison lounging under some trees in the shade. Then we continued down the road to find another herd of bison, and then even more. By the time we reached the Lamar Valley we were practically bored of bison, we had seen so many (just kidding, I was still as excited as ever).

IMG_9227
Our first bison viewing of the day. They are hanging out in the shade under these trees.
IMG_9237
Hey look, it’s more bison! Squee!
IMG_9255
I can’t stop taking bison photos
IMG_9266
Time for a dirt bath!
IMG_9275
A mama bison and her baby
IMG_9277
This bison means business!
IMG_9308
Our first glimpse of the Lamar Valley
IMG_9314
Can you see the bison way down there? Lots and lots of bison!

Sheep Crossing

Once we had our fill of bison viewing, we turned around. Daniel and I initially planned to exit by the Northeast entrance – until I read about Beartooth Pass. The Beartooth Highway sounds like a spectacular drive, but I don’t really want to drive the Rialta over a pass that is just shy of 11,000 feet. No, thank you!

So we headed back to Mammoth Hot Springs and the Northwest entrance. I was still bubbling with excitement about all the bison we had just seen. I felt contented and assumed that we were done with viewing wildlife for the day.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As we neared the entrance, we found some cars pulled over on the side of the road. It’s usually a sign that wildlife is nearby. I pulled out my camera, just in case,

That’s when we saw a whole family of Bighorn Sheep on the hill right next to the road. It was our first Bighorn Sheep sighting and we couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Traffic ground to a halt in both directions as the sheep cautiously prepared to cross the road. First, the two adults made it across. Then, the babies approached the road.

IMG_9336
My first glimpse of the Bighorn Heep on the hillside
IMG_6312
Daniel took this picture with his telephoto lens
IMG_9340
Sheep crossing!

Three adorable lambs huddled on the side of the road, but they were scared of the cars and people. After hesitating for a moment, they thought better of the idea and retreated up the hill.

At first, I was worried that the lambs were separated from their parents. But then, the adults crossed the road again to rejoin their offspring. We all cheered and got back in our cars.

How’s that for an amazing finale to our Yellowstone experience?!

IMG_9341
Baby sheep! So cute!
IMG_6355
Daniel also took this picture with his telephoto lens
IMG_9345
This lamb thinks better of crossing the road

Where are we now?

IMG_9250
We are in Yellowstone National Park!

Date: July 26
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 21

Starting Location: Madison Campground, WY
Ending Location: Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park, MT
Miles Today: 116.8
Total Trip Mileage: 2200.5

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

Leave a Reply