In the Lake Village vicinity you can tour one of our spectacular historic hotels, take boat rides on Yellowstone Lake, or visit Fishing Bridge and its classically styled visitor center. Duration: 1 minute 55 seconds
At over 130 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is the largest North American lake above 7000 feet in elevation. Like an inland sea, it has well over 100 miles of shoreline and is beautifully ringed with mountains. It’s a great place to watch wildlife and is home to the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout—an important species to the ecosystem. The area is also great grizzly bear habitat due to the many streams feeding the lake where fish like to spawn.
Bridge Bay Marina and the boat ramp at Grant Village are launching points for boating on the lake. Scenic tours and guided fishing are available but afternoon winds and storms can whip up quickly creating waves over three or four feet so canoeing and kayaking can be dangerous. Swimming isn’t recommended due to the chilly waters—which average less than 50 degrees in the summer.
The lake is over 400 feet deep in places but averages 140 feet in depth. Its odd shape is the result of water filling the craters left by steam explosions creating odd-shaped bays. Uplift along fault lines and glacial sculpting also contributed to its shape. The lake used to be much larger, extending into Hayden Valley.
Along the northwest shore are Bridge Bay Marina and Campground, and Lake Village with a store, clinic, post office, restaurants and lodging. The large yellow colonial-style Lake Hotel opened in 1891 and is the oldest hotel operating in the park. Visitors often enjoy the music of the piano or string quartet while taking in views of the lake from the sunroom. There is an historic visitor center at Fishing Bridge to the north as well as a store, gas station and RV park.
Park roads offer great views from the lake’s western and northern shores and there are hiking trails on the eastern and southern reaches of the lake. Go ahead and enjoy the beauty, immensity and diversity of wildlife, which has drawn humans to Yellowstone Lake for thousands of years.
In winter, Yellowstone Lake seems as far from civilization as any place I can imagine. Cody, Wyoming is 80 miles east. Jackson, Wyoming is 97 miles south. And everyplace else is just a long way away. Visiting this frozen landscape is still worth the planning and effort it takes to get here.
For you to visit, you will need to arrange a trip with one of the many concession companies that operate during the winter. Check the, “Plan Your Visit,” page on our website for a list of those companies. Winter visitation is limited, so make your reservations early. (http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/index.htm)
With a surface area of 131.7 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is considered the largest alpine lake in North America. Most years, it freezes over by mid-December and remains frozen until late May or early June. The ice can be from a few inches to nearly three feet thick with several feet of snow covering the ice.
Even though you will be with a guide, come prepared. Extra clothes, food, and any supplies you need for survival should be part of your planning. Here in the lake area, this small warming-hut and a few pit-style restrooms are the only escapes from the elements.
The popular Lake Yellowstone Hotel is boarded-up and frozen in the snow. A few winter keepers and maintenance workers are working here to maintain the buildings. And a limited number of both interpretive and protection rangers also spend the winter here.
While the snow covered landscape gives the impression that everything here is frozen, nature often reminds us that is not true. Just a few weeks ago, between Dec 26, 2008 and January 1, 2009 nearly 500 earthquakes occurred along the floor of Yellowstone Lake. The largest was a magnitude 3.9.
This earthquake swarm started just southeast of Stevenson Island and migrated north toward Fishing Bridge. Much of Yellowstone Lake sits inside the Yellowstone caldera. This disturbance was near the eastern edge of the caldera floor.
Earthquakes are not rare in the park; we average nearly 2,000 a year. I was woken-up by a magnitude 3.5 here at Yellowstone Lake back in 1992. Yellowstone is a land of mystery and adventure, especially in winter.