YELLOWSTONE II YELLOWSTONE CANYON AREA by john aldrich

October 5th was the day to move our lodging base from West Yellowstone to Gardiner, MT. The route we had intended to follow utilized the park highway from Norris Junction to Mammoth. But we found that road to be closed for construction which meant taking the longer route from Norris Junction to Canyon Junction, then over Dunraven Pass to Tower Junction and on to Mammoth.

As it worked out this was quite fortuitous since on our later return trip from Gardiner to Old Faithful we were unable to use the Dunraven Pass road because of snow. Thus, without the unexpected detour we might not have had a chance to visit the dramatically beautiful Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

It had snowed lightly the night before our departure from West Yellowstone so the drive was quite beautiful thanks to a dusting of white on the landscape. We stopped at a pullout near the Artists' Paintpots to make some photographs.

Then it was on to Canyon Junction. This is a busy hub in the summer, but with impending winter weather, many of the facilities had already closed. We headed initially to the South Rim Drive. This was a treat for me since on my prior trips to the area I had only seen the canyon from the North Rim. After crossing the river and driving north our first view was of the Upper Falls. This was just a teaser for things to come.

Further north on the South Rim Drive is Artist's Point providing a sublime view of the lower falls and canyon. In my opinion this was a significantly more dramatic point from which to view the canyon than the North Rim.

The following views show the colorful canyon wall looking north as well as a vertical image looking upriver at the falls.

Along the South Rim Drive we had the companionship of flocks of tourists - mostly Asian - and were fascinated by their endless need to take pictures of themselves and each other. As the week wore on this fascination rapidly turned to tedium.

The North Rim Drive had far fewer visitors but was also plagued by construction projects on both roads and trails. Nevertheless we found a number of beautiful spots from which to enjoy additional views of the canyon.

Traveling north from Canyon Junction we crossed Dunraven Pass at over 8800 feet. As we descended there were spectacular views to the north of dramatic skies and patches of sunlight.

Tower Falls, on a side drainage of the Yellowstone River, is one of the stops along the descent from Dunraven Pass. Although not dramatic, it was a pleasant sight.

Our last stop before reaching Tower Junction was a pullout from which we could view some intriguing geology which begged for description. Alas, none was to be found. An enormous wall towered over the highway and was formed by columnar rock elements that were breaking off near the bottom.

This view gives some idea of what the formation looked like.

- while this wide angle view in black and white gives some idea of the overall expanse of the wall.

We were now near Tower Junction where we would turn back to the west toward Mammoth. The Yellowstone River had emerged from its canyon and provided this more tranquil view.

From here we traveled on to Mammoth and then, five miles further north, to Gardiner, our lodging base for the next two nights.

Below is a park map for reference to the places I have mentioned.

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