April 9th -14th, 2020Register for this Tour
Yellowstone National Park is known throughout the world for its scenic grandeur, fantastic geothermal features, and easily viewable wildlife. Historically however, it was well known to many of the local Native American tribes long before the travels of early fur traders and explorers. John Colter, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is often thought of as the first white man or mountain man to explore the park, in 1807 or 1808. By around 1825, many fur traders had entered the region and their stories of visiting “hell”—steam, hot springs, and geysers—were generally disbelieved by more educated Easterners. Gradually, more people explored the area, and eventually the United States government deployed teams to map and record the uniqueness of the region. In 1872, congress created Yellowstone, our nation’s first national park.
Yellowstone National Park is approximately four million acres—much of it high plateau country averaging 8000 feet elevation. It is known as much for its geologic features as for its wildlife and landscapes. There are over 10,000 hydrothermal features in the park, the most of any place on Earth. Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Geyser, and numerous other hydrothermal marvels remind visitors of past and present volcanic activity. The variety of habitats is impressive, with valleys and hillsides covered in grassland-sagebrush, while cottonwoods line the creek bottoms at lower elevations. As one ascends in elevation, pines, firs, and aspen dominate the landscape. Eventually these trees give way to the spruce and fir trees of the Canadian zone, which ultimately yield to the harsh conditions of the highest-elevation alpine zone.
Outside Alaska, Yellowstone is the greatest place in North America for viewing large animals. Bison and elk have long been symbols of the park, and studies of grizzly bears from 1959 to 1970 and wolf reintroductions by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in the mid-1990s have made these animals some of the most popular to the public. In fact, the Yellowstone populations of the four species listed above are some of the highest found anywhere in the United States. There are other species of mammals additionally; moose, mule deer, big horn sheep, and pronghorn round out the larger species that are relatively easy to observe. Some grizzly bears emerge from winter hibernation in March, and thus we will keep a keen eye for them also. River otters are often seen along the ice shelves in several creeks and rivers. Mountain lions are common, but our chances of seeing one are slim.
The park hosts a limited number of bird species during the winter, but what is given up in quantity is gained in quality. Bald and Golden eagles, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, and Prairie Falcon head an exciting list of possible raptors. A wide diversity of corvids winter in Yellowstone, and we hope to see Black-billed Magpie, Clark’s Nutcracker, Common Raven, and Gray, Pinyon and Steller’s jays. The magpies and ravens are some of our key species, as they often locate predator kills and thus alert would-be wolf watchers to an area where the predators are likely. Local specialties such as Trumpeter Swan, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Northern Pygmy-Owl, and Red Crossbill complement a tantalizing variety of winter residents like Northern Shrike and Bohemian Waxwing. Flocks of Black and Gray-crowned rosy-finches can often be found hanging around birdfeeders in nearby Gardiner, and we will certainly make an effort to locate any that are reported.
During our time in the field, our activities will also include discussions of predator and prey relationships in conjunction with observations of wolves, elk and bison, coyote, red fox, and small mammals. We will observe and discuss the natural history of all these species and bring together how the ecology of Yellowstone National Park is affected by the process. We will also cover aspects of snow ecology and geothermal features such as Mammoth Hot Springs. Additionally, we will discuss how animals adapt to the extreme winter conditions that grip Yellowstone in winter.
Day 2, 3, & 4: On Day 1 we will depart Bozeman at 8:00am for Absoroka Lodge where we will stay for the next three days. We will check-in and then head out to the Paradise Valley and on to Yellowstone for the day. We will have lunch in the field. The next day we will have basically the same schedule. We will depart for the park at 7:30am on day 3 & 4 and spend the entire day in the field. Nights:Absoroka Lodge, Gardiner, MT.
Day 5: We will leave Gardiner and take a casual drive back to Bozeman, MT. We will take every advantage of birding and mammaling opportunities. We will have a farewell dinner at one of Bozeman’s fine restaurants. Nights:Holiday Inn, Bozeman, Mt
Day 6: Participants can depart anytime today.
We will be traveling in a 12-passenger van or Suburban throughout our travels.
EXPECTED WEATHER & EQUIPMENT:
Yellowstone is high plateau country and it is best to be prepared for all conditions. Although mid-April is spring in most areas, in our area of Yellowstone, it is late winter. There will be snow, and temperatures will range from the 20’s to 40’s. Yes it could be 50 degrees, but also be prepared for snowstorms and even blizzards with temperatures below freezing. The wind often blows very hard and can cut through your clothing rather quickly. A wind parka is recommended.
Layered clothing is recommended for Yellowstone’s beautiful spring days and harsh winter conditions. For example, consider lightweight long underwear such as; cotton, polypropylene, capilene or silk. Followed this with; a wool shirt, fleece pullover or zip-up, and an outer protective coat or windbreaker. Insulated winter boots, winter socks, a warm hat that covers your ears, scarf, and gloves or mittens, are important. You will be much happier if you are warm. Wool or another type of insulated pants are also advised. Also bring sunglasses and sunscreen. On the other hand, it could be warm, and if so, you will be able to layer down and be comfortable in all conditions. You should also bring a bathing suit or shorts for the hot springs at your hotel, and comfortable dress clothes for dining.
You should pack a pair of binoculars that are in good repair, along with a belt pack or daypack (good for carrying books, sunscreen, extra film, etc.). As a precaution, it is a good idea to pack your binoculars, a change of clothing, toiletry items, medications, and travel documents in your airline carry-on bag. Your leaders will have a spotting scope; but if you have one and wish to bring it, please feel free to do so. Other items you should bring are an alarm clock and camera.
TOUR REGISTRATION & COSTS:
The fee for the tour is $1,775 per person, double occupancy from Bozeman, Montana. This includes all meals from breakfast on the 1st evening to a farewell dinner on the 4th day, lodging as stated in the itinerary, ground transportation during the tour, usual and customary gratuities, and guide services provided by the tour guide.
The single supplement for this tour is $300.00. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire single accommodations. The tour fee does not include airfare from your home to Bozeman or return, airport departure taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry or items of personal nature.
Registration closes 30 days prior to tour departure. To register for this tour, please complete our Tour Registration Form and read/sign our Agreements Form and return both with a deposit of $300 per person to the address on the form. Full payment of the tour fee is due 30 days prior to tour departure.