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Trip Report ~ Bear Sightings ~ by John William Uhler

16 April 2010

Black bear cubs by John William Uhler © Copyright All Rights Reserved

~ April 2010 ~

Friday - 16 April

Opening Day seemed to be taking forever this year. Finally 16 April 2010 dawned bright and early and beautiful. The sky was clear blue and the temp was warm.

Black bear cubs by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved
Black bear cubs by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

At 8:00 AM I was all packed and headed out the door on my way to Parkadise. I had hoped to be on the road at 7:00 AM, but had a few delays. I am looking forward to the new year and spending a fair amount of time back home in the Stone. There was very little traffic on Highway 20 North which made a nice drive. The osprey nest just before Island Park had been blown off the platform and the ospreys were no where to be seen. I hope they come back and rebuild their nest. I did not see a lot of wildlife on my drive from Rexburg to West Yellowstone.

At 9:34 I arrived at West Yellowstone and headed to the west entrance and into the park. A few cars were waiting to enter the park, not much of a delay and it was nice to be on the road from the west entrance to Madison Junction. At 9:40 AM, there were a few buffalo on the north side of the Madison River and I did see one trumpter swan on the Madison just before Seven Mile Bridge. It was the nice to see the swan as I had not seen one in this area for the past few years. There was a bald eagle perched on a tree just west of the nest. The eagle nest is fully rebuilt and larger than ever. It was a good looking eagle and nice welcome home sight. The spring runoff has not started, so the river was at its normal level, calm, and clear and beautiful. I always love the riverside drives in the park.

I arrived at the construction zone just before Gibbon Falls and the traffic headed north had just been allowed to proceed, so I had no delay at all. The road is dirt and with the recent snowfalls, it it really muddy. The road is a one lane dirt road with some large holes, so traffic travels slowly and it is dirt for about a half mile to just after the site where they will be putting the new bridge. The road turns to mud again just past tanker turn for a few hundred yards past where the new road will join the old road. The construction is a little before and past the new road as the old road had fallen apart shortly after construction on the new old road. A problem with the lowest bidder getting road projects in Yellowstone. It seems every few years the roads have to be redone as they do not put in a good roadbase, and plan for Yellowstone weather, geology, and traffic.

The new road is moved further west and away from viewing the falls as we were use to when driving north or south past this area. They are making some nice improvement for being able to park and view Gibbon Falls. It will be interesting to see if they get the Gibbon River Picnic Area back in this year. This picnic area was one of the largest and nicest picnic areas in Yellowstone. I hope they restore it back the way it was or better.

Please be aware that this area will be a real bottleneck from mid June through mid September. Plan accordingly and enjoy the wait along the Gibbon River.

Black bear cubs by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

At this time there is also construction on the bridge at Beryl Spring. The bridge also fell apart shortly after the construction was completed on the bridge and road area. The pavement is all tornup and they have the road fabric in place and it looks like they are about ready to replace the pavement. I hope they do a better job. It was really tough to dodge all the pot holes on the bridge.

There were about six buffalo out and visible at Gibbon Meadows as I headed north to Norris. At about 10:20 AM I arrived at Norris Geyser Basin. I then continued onward to Mammoth. My destination for this day trip was Lamar Valley. There were a few friends visiting the park at this time that I hoped to visit with.

At 10:27 AM I arrived at Roaring Mountain and there was not a lot of roaring. The temp was warm, so there was a little bit of steam vent activity, but not a lot of thermal activity was visible or audible.

I arrived at the Obsidian Cliff area at 10:32 AM. There was no wildlife visible in the meadow before the cliff area. So onward and northward ho. The road just north of Indian Creek campgrounds has the worst frost heaves I have ever seen. It is a good place to slow down and the road is posted as poor road conditions, believe it! It is quite a roller coaster ride.

I hit swan lake flats at 10:40 AM. The flats still had some snow on it and the lake was frozen, no wildlife to speak of at the time.

Drove through the Hodoo's or Silver Gate at 10:45 AM. No bears.

At 10:52 AM, I arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs. There were a few elk by Libery Cap walking through the parking lot. They did not look too good. I turned right or east at the junction and headed towards Roosevelt.

Blacktail Lakes are still pretty much frozen so not a lot of water fowl at this time. I arrived there at 11:02 AM.

There were two vehicles at Hellroaring Overlook. Spotting scopes were setup, but no one was looking or spotting. It was 11:12 AM and I continued onward. I passed Hellroaring Trailhead at 11:14 AM.

Floating Island Lake was still pretty much frozen over with no water fowl at the time, which was 11:15 AM.

The road to the Petrified Tree was not plowed and closed. So no short drive to check on bear and moose on this trip.

I arrived at the Roosvelt / Tower Junction at 11:20 AM and turned left or east to Lamar Valley.

I did not see any wildlife activity between Roosevelt and Little America. I passed Yellowstone Picnic Area, and no people and no wildlife.

The lower areas of Little America were pretty much snow free except in the shade and as you go up to higher elevations. I saw antelope and bison bwtween Little America and the Lamar River bridge. No one in the pullouts looking for wildlife. I crossed the Lamar River bridge and the Slough Creek Campground road at 11:28 AM.

Mother otter at Trout Lake in Yellowstone National Park ~ by John William Uhler © Copyright Page Makers, LLC

I entered Lamar Valley at 11:31 AM. There was one car parked at the second pullout. I went to the next pullout and there were about three other cars parked and folks were talking and spotting. They had seen the wolves earlier in the morning but not too much was going on now. There were buffalo in the valley and ducks and sandhill cranes were calling. I saw a few redtail hawks and one bald eagle. I setup my scope and checked out the valley and hill and dales with no bear or wolf success. I settled down and had lunch while spotting for wildlife.

At about 12:30 PM two cars pulled in and joined the fun. We did spot a coyote that was mousing in the sage brush and that was about it. We chatted and had a great time visiting. It was probably pretty close to 60 degrees or in the low 60s. I got a nice little sunburn to start the suntan season off. At about 2:10 PM a nice couple stopped in the pullout and asked if we had seen the grizzly. We hadn't. They told us it was just on the other side of the bridge, so we packed up and headed to the Lamar River Bridge. No one was there so we headed back to Slough Creek. The couple there said the bear was just east of the Yellowstone River Bridge. Off we went to the bridge. No one was in the picnic area or at the bridge, but I did see a few cars in the tanker pullout. So I turned around and pulled into the parking area just west of the Yellowstone Picnic Area. Folks had their binocs, scopes, and cameras, so I figured I was in the right spot. I got out and the griz was slowly wandering north toward trees and the Yellowstone River. I setup my scope and got a nice view of a great looking grizzly bear. It was a pretty good size bear, I guesstimate to have been between 350 and 400 pounds. It had a great coat and beautiful golden midsection.We watched it until it disappeared into the trees and then watched and chatted for awhile to see if it may head back out in the open. No luck, but a great looking grizzly on opening day is a good sign to me. I love the Great Bear and watching them. This all started about 2:35 PM.

From what I was told, the griz was first spotted just east of the Yellowstone Bridge and it headed east up to the Yellowstone Picnic Area and then crossed the road heading north. That is where he was when we spotted him.

It was a great sunny warm spring day in Parkadise. Temp was at about 60 degrees and clear skies. At a little after 3:00 PM I left Roosevelt and headed back towards Mammoth and home. The rest of the report is just different times I arrived at areas along the way for those who would like to get a rough idea of travel times. The travel time will be a little longer when the full tourist season hits with all the animal jams and construction.

3:35 PM arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs.

3:44 PM Swan Lake Flats.

3:46 PM Sheepeater Cliffs.

3:47 PM Indian Creek Campgrounds.

4:05 PM Norris Campgrounds and Norris Geyser Basin.

4:13 PM arrived at the first construction area just before Tanker Turn.

4:16 PM arrived at the second construction area and joined in the line of vehicles waiting for our turn to drive through the one lane construction area around Gibbon Falls.

4:20 PM it is our turn to head south and through the construction zone.

4:30 PM Madison Junction I turned right or west and headed towards the west entrance.

4:44 PM Seven Mile Bridge where there was a buffalo jam that slowed us down for about 10 to 12 minutes.

4:54 PM West Entrance of Yellowstone and headed south on Highway 20 to Rexburg.

6:14 PM arrived home in Rexburg, Idaho.

Until next time my friends take care and have fun with family and friends!

Raven by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

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Sightings and Trip Report are from the North and Northeast Area of Yellowstone

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