In 1882, General Philip H. Sheridan and 150 men spent the summer building what became known as the Sheridan Trail. It was the first trail connecting the Jackson Hole area to the thermal features found on the Yellowstone plateau. The trail became Yellowstone’s South Entrance road in 1895.
From the south, the road works its way along the Lewis River Canyon just to the east of the Pitchstone Plateau. The last lava flow in Yellowstone occurred there 70,000 years ago. Some rocks on the Pitchstone are still two to three times as radioactive as rocks found elsewhere in the park.
If you continue to the north, you enter Yellowstone’s volcanic crater, or caldera, at Lewis Falls. The water falling over this 29 foot waterfall is dropping out of the caldera. The floodplain just downstream is good moose habitat. Watch for them in the early morning foraging along the riverbank.
Just upstream, you find Lewis Lake and Shoshone Lake. The waterfall kept fish from populating these lakes. In 1890, brown trout from Scotland and lake trout from Michigan were introduced into both lakes. Lake trout don’t pose the same threat in these lakes, as they do in Yellowstone Lake, because there are no native fish to compete with.
The campground at Lewis Lake is beautiful. The boat-ramp there gives boaters access to two lakes. While motor boats are allowed on Lewis, they are not allowed on Shoshone, but you can take canoes and kayaks into Shoshone. Fishing is great on both lakes.
Lewis and Shoshone Lakes are cold and susceptible to high winds. Always be prepared for severe weather. Before you venture into the backcountry, either by boat or foot, check with a backcountry office.
The boating and hiking is unbeatable in the south of Yellowstone. Bugs can be thick at times, so carry repellent. There is a lifetime of adventure to be had right here in the Lewis River drainage.