Trailside Notes (Number Two)
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NOTE: The text is arranged in three columns. Objects on the tourist's right are described on the right hand side of the page; those on the tourist's left, on the left-hand side. Objects in front and general descriptions occupy the middle of the page.

Web Edition Note: Due to numerous changes in the years since this guidebook was published, the text should solely be used for historical purposes.

0.0 (Set Speedometer at Museum)
Turn left on highway.

Cafeteria and Tourist cabins on right.
0.3 The Fishing Bridge, so called because of the large number of visitors engaged in fishing. Yellowstone Lake drains into Yellowstone River at this point. 0.3

Boat house on right.

Row boats and fishing tackle may be obtained here.
The banks of sand and clay on either side of the road are deposits of stratified material left by the larger Yellowstone Lake of the Ice Age.

Turn right for Canyon, Mount Washburn, Tower Falls and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Turn left for Thumb and Grand Tetons.

On right is the Absaroka Range.

The eastern boundary of the Park follows the crest of this range of mountains. The mountains are made up of layers of volcanic material,—breccia, ash and lava beds. These layers have been deeply eroded by running water and glaciers.

We now pass through a fine stand of mature lodgepole pine.

The Yellowstone River here enters a wide valley. Ducks, geese, swans, and pelicans are commonly seen on these waters.

During the early summer spawning trout may be seen in great numbers jumping through these rapids.


Sept. 1, 1877

General O. O. Howard was in command of U. S. soldiers who pursued the Nez Perce Indians on their flight through Yellowstone as they attempted to escape from their reservation in Idaho to Canada.

The ford by which the Indians crossed the river is about a half mile east of this point. After camping a couple of days, Howard took his command down the left bank of the River, around Mt. Washburn and then crossed the Yellowstone near the mouth of Lamar River at Baronett's Bridge.

Turn left to Parking Area for Mud Volcano and Dragons Mouth Spring.

6.6 Here we dismount and take the short loop trail to Mud Volcano and Dragons Mouth Spring. Gases are escaping along the trail. 6.6
These phenomena were viewed with wonder by the Washburn discovery party of 1870. The water in them is hot, but not boiling. The bubbles rising to the surface are of subterranean gases, a large part of which is carbon dioxide and sulphuretted hydrogen. The formation on either side is clay and sand of former lake deposits.


We return to our cars and drive on for a short distance and view a remarkable mud cone and several large pools of sulphur-bearing mud. A trail leads down to them for closer inspection. In the river beyond are numerous gas seeps and one spectacular hot spring in the river channel. We continue and at


This wide expanse of sage brush flats, and meadow lands was named for Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden, leader of the first government expedition for the scientific exploration of the Yellowstone region in 1871. He returned in 1872 and again in 1878. His recommendations for the extent of the National Park were accepted by Congress. The valley is an old lake bed and deposits of stratified clay and sand may be seen at many places in it. Elk and moose are often seen in this area.

On the left is the meandering stream of Trout Creek. The pattern made by the stream is similar to the symbol of the Northern Pacific Railway which is known as the Monad.

8.9 We proceed and at 8.9 cross Trout Creek. The elevation of the valley here is about 7800 feet. 8.9

As we approach the river again at 9.8 we note a very interesting skyline to the north. The sketch below gives the names of the mountains.


This creek which flows into Yellowstone River from the west actually has some alum in the water near its source. Most of the water in Yellowstone Park is soft water and suitable for domestic use. The water at Mammoth Hot Springs and in the Gallatin Mountains contains lime and is known as hard water. The water of Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River is remarkably free from minerals and pure in spite of the fact that there are many hot springs and gas vents near them.

Volcanic breccia may be seen along the left of the road.


Half a mile west of the road Captain W. F. Spurgin, 21st Infantry, let the wagon trains of General Howard down the steep side of the mountain. This was done by rough-locking the wheels and with ropes wrapped around trees, the wagons were let down steep places. Winches were used to pull some of them up the other side. Because of the scars left on the hillsides it was referred to as Spurgins "Beaver Slide."


After crossing Otter Creek a road to the left leads to the Grizzly Bear Ground. This road is open only in the evening when rangers can supervise the feeding and the traffic. Because of the presence of grizzly bears it is unsafe to visit the area at other times. A lecture on bears is given each evening at 7:15 by a ranger naturalist at the Grizzly Bear Ground.

However, there is a historic spot 3/4 of a mile up this stream. It was there that a party of tourists from Helena was attacked by Nez Perce Indians on August 26, 1877 and one of their number, Charles Kenck, was killed.

As we proceed on the highway we note the narrowing of the river valley.

On the right is a cable for gaging stream flow.
On the left are volcanic flow breccias and ash beds.

Again we note a small house on the river bank which is used by the U. S. Geological Survey to record water levels and stream flow.

Turn right and cross Chittenden Bridge to Canyon Lodge and Artist Point. Lodge 0.6 miles; Artist Point 1.6 miles. The trail to the base of the Lower Falls starts immediately behind the Lodge. Also trails to Sunset Point, Artist Point, and Point Sublime lead out from there. Beautiful, inspiring views of the Canyon and Falls may be had from each of these points. Chittenden Bridge (named for Major H. M. Chittenden, the engineer who built it) is one of the most graceful structures of its kind in the Park, although it was built many years ago. It spans the Yellowstone River at the upper end of the Grand Canyon. The most spectacular part of the Canyon is below the Lower Falls. The brightly colored part is about three miles in length.

When we return to the west end of Chittenden Bridge, set speedometer at zero.
0.0 We continue on main loop road to right. 0.0
0.1Bridge over gulch. 0.1

Top of Upper Falls (Parking space 100 yards farther on).
Height of Upper Falls 109 feet.

Haynes Picture Shop on right.
Cafeteria and Camp Cabin on left.

Ranger Station on right.
Information office and community room.

General store and filling station on right.
Turn left for freight road to Norris Junction.

Straight ahead on main loop road. Some of the best places to view the Canyon are just a short distance ahead.

Stairway leads to top of Lower Falls, 493 steps, height of falls 308 feet.
Turn left to Canyon Hotel and service Garage.

Straight ahead on main loop road.


A splendid view of the Canyon and Lower Falls. The trail on the right of the road is the north rim trail. At this point another trail leads down to Red Rock. Red Rock is a pinnacle of partly decomposed lava and between it and the canyon walls may be seen sedimentary beds of sand and gravel. Rangers and Ranger Naturalists lead parties on these trails daily. (See schedules on bulletin board at Ranger Station).

We return to our car and continue. At a half mile farther on we park at Grand View. Here we can view the Canyon in its majestic beauty. Osprey nests may be seen and not uncommonly these great fish hawks can be seen returning with a catch.

The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone have a height of 308 feet and are magnificent in their color and setting.

Turn left on main loop road to Dunraven Pass, Mt. Washburn, and Tower Falls.


Straight ahead to Inspiration Point. (Distance 1 mile.)

From Inspiration Point the entire sweep of the canyon is in view. The brightly colored part lies largely to the west but toward the east the canyon walls are more somber. As a matter of fact, the rock in both areas originated in the same way, being lava flows which poured out in this region before the Ice Age. The lava is normally a fine grained rock of the granite family known as rhyolite. In past times the area of the canyon between the Lower Falls and Inspiration Point was the site of hot spring and geyser activity. The hot subterranean gases rising through the cracks in the rhyolite lava decomposed it so that now we have remaining only the residue which is mostly clay with scattered quartz grains. The colors such as yellow, orange, red, lavender, pink, etc. are due to traces of iron or other metallic oxides in various amounts and stages of oxidation or hydration.

The Canyon itself has been washed out by running water. This well-known process of erosion has performed here a splendid piece of sculptoring which, with the help of the coloring of the decomposed lava and framed in the dark green fringe of a lodgepole forest, is a picture of enthralling beauty. There are still several hot springs and steam vents in the Canyon and at least one small spouter known as "Tom Thumb Geyser." It is located near the foot of Uncle Toms Trail. We now return to the Tower Falls Junction, where the highway continues to Dunraven Pass, Tower Falls, and Mammoth Hot Springs and set our speedometer at 2.2.


Turn right on highway.

3.6 Hedges Peak straight ahead. This peak was named for Judge Cornelius Hedges who, in 1870, suggested preserving the Yellowstone area as a National Park and pleasuring ground for the people. 3.6
Mule deer are often seen in meadows like the one to the left.

As we reach higher elevations we see different kinds of trees. Here are alpine firs. The rock along the road is a lava called rhyolite.

On either side of the road we see a more glassy lava of the rhyolite series known as obsidian porphyry.

6.2 Look for moose, especially in the morning or evening, between this point and Dunraven Pass.6.2
7.2 Dunraven Peak lies directly in front. The mountain is made up of fragmental volcanic rock called breccia.7.2

is seen on the right. The Yellowstone Canyon lies in the middle distance.
A good outcrop of volcanic breccia,—notice the fragmental character of this rock. It was thrown out of ancient volcanoes by explosive action.

Elevation 8860 feet
Snowy Mountains to left; distant view.

Turn right for top of Mt. Washburn. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are often seen on the mountain.

The trip over the top of Mt. Washburn is interesting and well worthwhile. Distance over the top is eight miles. The road is constructed for one-way traffic only. It can be climbed in second gear by motors in good condition. Second or low gears should be used by all. The mountain consists of volcanic breccia and agglomerate intruded by occasional dikes of basalt. The source of the breccia was most certainly eastward or southeastward rather than to the northwest as was formerly supposed.

Mt. Washburn is noted for its wildflowers in season and large areas are at times covered by mountain phlox, penstamon, chiming bells, phacelia, and many others of rare beauty.

An observation station is located on the top where a lookout is located throughout the season. He will answer questions and point out things of interest including the mountain ranges which may be viewed from the top of the peak. For viewing bighorn sheep and details a telescope is provided.

The length of the road over Mt. Washburn is eight miles; however, when returning to the main highway set speedometer at 13.2.

Straight ahead for main loop road to Tower Falls and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mt. Washburn is made up of layers of volcanic breccia and basaltic dikes. Some excellent exposures of these may be seen along the highway.

Good water on the right.8.4
on the left. White bark pine interspersed with fir and lodgepole may be seen along the way. If you have taken trip over Mt. Washburn, set your speedometer at 13.2 when you reach main highway.

Road on right is exit from Mt. Washburn. View across Antelope Creek Valley. Absaroka Range in the distance.
Glacial drift along highway.

A few bison are kept in a pasture on right of the road during the summer. The main bison herd, (about 1000) range on the Lamar River to the east of Specimen Ridge. They are not found near the highway in summer and can be seen only by those who will ride horseback from ten to fifteen miles up the Lamar valley, under the guidance of a Park Ranger, from the mouth of Soda Butte Creek.
Turn left for General store and campground.


Straight ahead for Parking place for Tower Falls and Haynes Picture Shop.

After dismounting we proceed along a trail for about 100 yards to Tower Falls. The waterfall is 132 feet high. The towers on either side are picturesque remnants of erosion composed of volcanic breccia. The Yellowstone River flows by a short distance to the north. A good view of the opposite canyon wall may be seen from the platform built for viewing Tower Falls. The canyon wall at this place is composed of breccia overlain by river gravel and two lava flows also separated by river deposits. The lava flows are of basalt and appear as though they were made up of posts standing upright and closely packed together. This columnar structure in the basalt is caused by the contraction of the molten lava when cooling. A close view of columnar structure may be seen along the main highway a little farther on at Overhanging Cliff.

We return to our car and proceed across Tower Creek and at

we see Overhanging Cliff.

We may park farther on to view again the canyon and the curious lava flows.
Overhanging Cliff of basalt.


Across the canyon the columnar structure of two basalt flows may be seen separated by ancient river gravel. The columnar structure is due to contraction joints developed as the lava cooled. On the near side of the canyon, needle-like spires of volcanic breccia may be seen, left by the erosion of surrounding material.

19.6 We now drive down an ancient glacial spillway through which the waters of Yellowstone River flowed for a time while ice still dammed the valley farther north. Remnants of a large number of these spillways may be viewed between this point and Mammoth Hot Springs. 19.6
20.8CAMP ROOSEVELT on the left.

21.0Turn right if going to Cooke.
and on the left Tower Falls Ranger Station.

Straight ahead if going to Mammoth and Gardiner.
0.0Set speedometer at

The valleys and hillsides in this area and along the road to Cooke and also to Mammoth Hot Springs make up the winter grazing ground of the elk and deer. Buffalo (bison), bighorn sheep, and antelope may also be seen in this region especially in the winter.


On the right is a huge glacial boulder of granite. Such boulders are scattered profusely over this valley.
Road on the left leads to a fine example of a standing petrified tree. At one time there were many petrified stumps visible on these hillsides. Most of them have been destroyed by souvenir hunters. The strata in this area and in several other large areas of the park contain many petrified trees and the impressions of myriads of fossil leaves. Distance to Petrified Tree, 0.5 mile.

1.3 On returning to highway set speedometer at 1.3
We pass a deposit of glacial boulders.

Here are volcanic tuffs and breccias.

1.9 Crossing ELK CREEK 1.9

On the right are old beaver dams.2.0
On left is Floating Island Lake, at the foot of Crescent Hill. This lake is inhabited by a beaver colony and many times, even in daylight, they may be observed swimming about. Crescent Hill is composed of layers of volcanic tuff.

The country to the right is in the valley of Yellowstone River at the mouth of Hellroaring Creek, a winter range for elk.
Tuff cliffs on the left.

The white barked trees are quaking aspens. The leaves of these trees tremble in the slightest breeze and add the golden colors to the autumn landscape.


(A geode is a stone having a cavity lined with crystals.)

6.9 Basalt flows on either side of the road. 6.9
7.3 Here we pass through another glacial spillway through which the waters of the melting ice drained. 7.3
On left is a tuff deposit overlain with rhyolite and farther up

a basalt flow has burned an ancient soil turning it red.

8.9 The high peak straight ahead is Electric Peak. (Elevation, 11,155 feet.) 8.9
10.1 Here we get some good views of the Gallatin Mountains which lie in the northwest part of the Park. 10.1
10.2 The valley immediately ahead is a fine winter range for elk and deer. 10.2
11.6 Crossing BLACKTAIL DEER CREEK 11.6
12.0 Antelope and coyotes are often seen in this area. 12.0

Basalt flows on the right.13.3
Wraith Falls on Lava Creek may be seen about one-half mile to the southeast.

14.1 Crossing LAVA CREEK
A small campsite is located here.

Parking place to view Undue Falls.14.5
These falls on Lava Creek are typical of many on the smaller streams in Yellowstone. The rock over which the water flows is a basalt porphyry, a lava flow. Lava Creek obtained its name from the fact that the creek passes over or around many lava flows.
From the parking place on down the grade both rhyolite and basalt may be seen on the left in the numerous cuts.


A fine view of Mt. Everts on the right. It was named for Truman C. Everts, the man who was lost for 37 days from the Washburn Party of 1870. His story of "Thirty Seven Days of Peril" reads like fiction.

The mountain is made up of layers of sandstone and shale of Upper Cretaceous Age and capped at the south end by a lava flow of rhyolite. Some Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep spend the winter on the north slopes of this mountain.

Bunsen Peak, on the left, is a stock of dacite, thrust up in a molten condition during the early period of mountain building and modified by erosion. (New bridge being built 1939.)
17.7 This knob and kettle topography is due to irregular deposits left by the melting ice of the ancient glaciers. The white deposits seen to the left at a distance of about one mile are the travertine of the Mammoth Hot Springs. 17.7
18.7 Straight ahead for Information Office and free Government Museum. 18.7

Hospital and Chapel on right.
Road to left to Haynes Picture Shop and Mammoth Lodge.

Road to right leads to the Museum, Park Headquarters, and the office of the Superintendent.

Museum and Information Office.
Park on left. Visit the government museum and learn about the interesting Mammoth Hot Springs, the varied plant and animal life of this area. The program of ranger naturalist activities will be found on the bulletin board in front of the museum.

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Last Updated: 02-Apr-2007