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Moose Falls in Yellowstone

My first stop in Yellowstone was Moose Falls. Yes I’d been here yesterday but I wanted to find the trail to the bottom of the falls. I must have missed it yesterday and since today I was concentrating on waterfalls, it seemed appropriate to take another look. 

Crawford Creek Bridge

Over the Edge

After careful scrutiny I found what seemed to be a possible trail. As I tentatively started along it I saw that it soon started down along the rock face right next to the falls. The rocks made a series of rough steps. I moved carefully until I was almost at the bottom. I just couldn’t make myself take that last step. It was a bit bigger drop/step so I settled on the almost bottom.

Moose Falls

Sunlight, friend or foe

The early morning sun was slanting over the falls at a pretty steep angle. It wasn’t high enough to actually hit the falls yet but it was high enough to be heading right into my camera lens. Well, you can’t always get what you want so I decided to try to play with the light a bit and see what kind of results I could get.

Falling Waters at Moose Falls

A Pretty Falls

This is such a pretty falls when you get down near the bottom. There appears to be a cave behind the falls. I’m just guessing as I couldn’t get over there to verify it. Since the sun wasn’t filling the gorge yet I was able to get a slower shutter speed to make the water frothy and soft. A little different angle and the sun rays created a colorful series of bokeh spots.

Dawn at Moose Falls

If You Go

It was really nice sitting there next to the waterfall watching the sun peak over the edge. I could have stayed there for hours but there were other falls calling to me. If you go the Yellowstone, Moose Falls in located just inside the South entrance. The stream that creates  the falls is Crawfish Creek. There’s  parking in a pull off just over the bridge and it’s an easy walk to the falls.

Crawfish Creek over Moose Falls

Waterfalls of Yellowstone

Waterfalls are everywhere!

So you want to see waterfalls? The concierge was waving a map at me. If it’s waterfalls you’re looking for you have come to the right place he went on. We’re better than Niagara Falls! He handed me a map with the best spots all circled and marked for me. I’d seen geysers and animals. Now it was time to concentrate on the water features, waterfalls.

Grand Teton Waterfalls

His map started with Yellowstone so I asked him if there were any waterfalls in Grand Teton National Park. He said yes but most were only accessible by hiking to them. The Yellowstone waterfalls are often near the road with parking  areas and look outs. Since my back injury makes hiking difficult Yellowstone became my destination again. They pulled my car around and I got started. It’d be a good hour before I reached the southern entrance to Yellowstone. I was determined not to get side tracked.

Horses at Elk Flat Ranch

The Elk Flats Distraction

I was hustling along pretty good until I got to Elk Flats again. There were photographers pulled over taking pictures of the horses grazing in the pasture to the left. They paid no attention to the 2 pronghorn antelope frisking around in the field to the right. Yes, I had to stop. You have to take these opportunities as they present themselves.

Prong horn at Elk Flats

The Bison are back

Bison in the morning

Just over the rise I found the bison herd. No elk this morning but the bison had moved much closer to the road. They were even jumping over the rail fence. The bison paparazzi were brazen. They were right up to the fence the bull had just jumped. Too close for my taste. In front of me two bulls were head butting, getting ready to spar. A bit of Nat Geo Wild right in front of me. As much as I was enjoying the show time was passing and I hadn’t reached Moran Junction yet, much less Yellowstone. Time to get back on the road. 


Jousting BisonGet ready to fight

Is there a Photo Opportunity Here?

Moose are high on my Photo Wish List

A moose photo is a challenge, at least for me. They are solitary creatures. Moose are the largest species in the deer family. The males have huge flat antlers. Other members of the deer family have treelike branching antlers. Moose are called Twig Eaters. It’s their ability to survive on twigs and browse that gave them this nick-name but they are also well known for eating tons of  aquatic plants when they can find them. My first moose picture was in Maine in the summer of 2012.

Nice moose – bad picture. My 2nd chance came in Alaska in 2013 from a moving bus while the moose scrambled up a dirt bank.

Is this my chance for The Moose Picture?

If you’ve followed my blog for long you know that I went to Maine in June of this year (2017) to try to get an iconic moose photo for my wildlife collection. I saw moose but they were pretty mangy looking.

A Moose heading for the trees

They were also by the side of the road. One thing about wildlife photography is that there’s a lot of luck involved. You need to be in the right place at the right time and hope the animals cooperate. Now here I was once again on the side of a road, camera in hand, hoping for that picture that would let me cross MOOSE off my list.

It’s a Moose on the Loose

As I reached Gros Ventre I ran into the biggest traffic jam yet. I kept driving but very slowly. I didn’t see anything. Then about halfway down the gauntlet of cars I saw it, a massive bull moose. He was in no hurry, or so it seemed. I saw the antlers first. The afternoon sun reflected off them but his dark coat seemed to blend into the brush. I expected him to head for the hills.

Come on Mr. Moose

Hey Mr. Moose give me a something worthwhile. I tried. He was certainly handsome enough. A nice shiny coat, big antlers and he was just strolling along. I snapped picture after picture but I just couldn’t capture the image I was looking for. I guess my moose photo quest will continue.

The Herd at Elk Flats Ranch

Is that a Herd of Cows?

I’d just reached the open land of Elk Flat Ranch when I spotted a herd of something. The dark spots were scattered across the landscape. At first I thought they were cows, after all this is cow country. A lone car was pulled over while the driver scanned the horizon. Maybe there was more there than meets the eye so I stopped too. Good thing I did. I was about to see 3 of the major herd animals all in one place. The black spots I thought were cows were actually bison!

Bison and Elk at Elk Flats Ranch

B is not just for bears

Not just for bears, B can be for Buffalo or more correctly Bison. Those dark spots I was watching turned out to be bison. As I watched them I saw some other movement in the herd that didn’t seem to flow with the bison. I’d forgotten to pack my binoculars so I grabbed the camera. Not as much magnification as I’d have with binoculars but better than my naked eyes. Right in the middle of the Bison herd was a small herd of Elk.

Elk on the run

Elk & Bison herd

The elk herd consisted of several females and at least 2 bulls. The bulls were a mismatched pair, one set of antlers much larger than the other. The bigger bull seemed to be bullying the smaller one. Both were running circles around the females. It was like watching a National Geographic wildlife special for real! But wait, there’s something else moving in that herd and it’s not a bison or an elk.

Prong Horn Antelope too

On the outskirts of the combined Bison/Elk herd I spotted two moving objects that were much lighter in color and moved very differently than the lumbering buffalo or the elegant elk. It’s a pair of prong horn antelope. Could this be where the “deer and antelope play”? The prong horns seemed to be  with the herd and yet apart as they bounced around the fringes. Soon they would be joining other prong horns to start their annual migration.

Prong horn join the mixed herd

From zero to 4 in 30 minutes

From no animals to 4 different species in about 30 minutes! Bears, bison, elk & prong horn. Not bad for the afternoon! But I still have about 50 miles to go to get back to the Teton Club. Maybe there’s more in store.

The Afternoon is for Animals

A is for Animals

The animals have been hiding so far. Yellowstone is known for it’s wild animal viewing but so far I’ve only seen one lonely bison. The thermal features are impressive enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon so I thought I should stop my exploring here and start back to Jackson.

B is for Bears

3 bears out for a stroll

Lots of signs along the way remind you that you’re in bear country. My Gaperguide repeatedly suggests bear spray when hiking and not to hike alone. Even so, I’d not seen any sign of  bears so far. That was about to change. I’d just entered Grand Teton National Park when as I approached one of the many bridges that cross the streams and rivers I saw cars lined up along both sides of the road. I had no idea what they were stopped for but I stopped too. Grabbing my camera I quickly headed over to the edge of the crowd. I didn’t have to ask what it was. Right there in plain sight was a Mama Bear and 2 cubs. Big Mama looked black in the afternoon light but one of the other spectators quickly pointed out the hump that identified this bear as a grizzly.

Bear 399Mama and Cubs

Mama and cubs paid no attention to their audience as they ambled off to the nearby woods. As the spectators headed back to the cars I overheard one bear watcher say that this was bear 399. Bear 399 was made famous in the book Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, a book by photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen and writer Todd Wilkinson. Mama 399 is now 21 years old which is quite old by wild grizzly standards and even more rare that she is still breeding.

 Long Lived and Well Loved

“Every year that 399 has remained alive, raising successive broods of cubs, staying out of trouble with people, has been for those of us who enjoy her presence a gift and a miracle.”

In her two decades of life, 399 has given birth to three sets of triplets, one set of fraternal twins, and two single cubs. Her daughter, identified as 610 by researchers, has also raised four cubs of her own; 17 total cubs descended from 399: 18 total bears if you count her. Pretty Awesome!

Into the woods