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  • John J King II

Report from Yellowstone: Winter in the Super-volcano

Updated: Mar 5

It is just before dawn and an azure blue sky is slowly emerging as the sun’s rays begin to crest the crater walls. Pam and I are layered and bundled in winter gear scraping snow off of glistening snow machines in West Yellowstone strapping camera gear and lunches into place for the day's 100 mile ride. The air is still and the temperature is 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At 35 MPH (speed limit in the park) we will be experiencing a windchill factor well below 0 degrees as we ride! Luckily for us the machines are equipped with hand and foot warmers!


Predawn color in the Lamar Valley

Male bison dueling over a patch of buried grass - Hayden Valley


We are brimming with excitement over the adventure that awaits as we are about to embark into Yellowstone NP. For more than 10 years we had talked about a winter excursion into the park, keen on seeing the unique and wonderful geothermal features that abound and hopefully recording images of some of the wildlife that braves winter inside one of the world’s most formidable super volcanoes. At this time of year the park is only accessible via snow machine or snow cat (warmer but slower) and the summer crowds are missing making the winter landscapes even more magical. Winter is also the very best time of year to try to see wolves in the park as their prey (principally elk and in some cases bison) are more vulnerable and visible at this time of year. We managed a couple of distant views of wolves but narrowly missed seeing the entire Wapiti pack (17 individuals) as they navigated on the road near the Lower geyser valley early one morning. We had to be satisfied with fresh tracks this time!


Here are some of the highlights in images of our week exploring the park. Truly breathtaking for us!

Sunrise Madison River

Golden Eagle prepares to fly - Soda Butte, Lamar Valley

Hayden Valley winter landscape

Bull elk near Mammoth Hot Springs

Bison on the run near Hell's Roaring - Lamar Valley...a sign of an impending snowstorm

Firehole River

Otter scarfing a fish - Pebble Creek

Bull elk near Blacktail Creek

Coyote pounces on a rodent - Madison River

American dipper finds a snack - Pebble Creek

Near Mammoth Hot Springs

Red fox makes the jump on a rodent - Pebble Creek

Biscuit Basin

Bighorn Ram near Pebble Creek

Bull Moose feeds on willow - Lamar Valley

Bison near Nez Perce

Hoar frost at minus 20 degrees at Gibbon Falls

Lower Geyser Basin

Bison - Hayden Valley

Coyote hunting - Madison River

Trumpeter swans - Madison River

Coyote near Fishing Bridge

Otter - Yellowstone River

Bald eagle - Madison River

Wolf track near Gibbon River - Wapiti wolf pack moving south toward Old Faithful

Fairy Falls

Old Faithful goes off on schedule......again!


Very rare glimpse of a badger outside his den in winter - Soda Butte, Lamar Valley

Beautiful red fox - Lamar Valley