Video of Breaking the Ice on Yellowstone Lake

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Geyser Kayak Tours is very excited to report on our first kayak trip of the season, a full month sooner than last year. A year ago we had a winter of record snowfall, and it stayed cold and kept snowing right into mid-June. A low snowpack this year, combined with warm Spring temperatures, have allowed the ice on Yellowstone Lake to begin breaking, just enough so we can go kayaking. It was a beautiful sunny, warm and windless day. The surface of the lake was as smooth as glass. Just like so many days when we go kayaking in Yellowstone, there were no other people anywhere on the Lake. Yellowstone National Park has over 3 million visitor every summer, but you can kayak on Yellowstone Lake on any given day, and have the whole place to yourself. As we paddled around the shoreline to the West Thumb Geyser Basin,we had to cross over one area where the lake was stillfrozen. Having never actually kayaked through shifting ice packs before, we were all impressed by the power and beauty of our surroundings. Yellowstone is a very active  environment, with constantly changing natural forces. It is a different experience every time you go. Sea Kayaking in Yellowstone is always an incredible experience! Geyser Kayak Tours can take you quickly and comfortably away from the crowds to show you what Yellowstone is really like. No other outfitter in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Idaho, or Montana has guided trips as unique as our full and half-day guided kayak tours, and overnight back-country wilderness kayak trips.

First Yellowstone Lake Day Paddle of the Year

Geyser Kayak Tours is very excited to report on our first kayak trip of the season, a full month sooner than last year. A year ago we had a winter of record Occasional Geyser, Yellowstone Lakesnowfall, and it stayed cold and kept snowing right into mid-June. A low snowpack this year, combined with warm Spring temperatures, have allowed the ice on Yellowstone Lake to begin breaking, just enough so we can go kayaking.

 

Ice in the DistanceIt was a beautiful sunny, warm and windless day. The surface of the lake was as smooth as glass. Just like so many days when we go kayaking in Yellowstone, there were no other people Golden Eye Ducksanywhere on the Lake. Yellowstone National Park has over 3 million visitor every summer, but you can kayak on Yellowstone Lake on any given day, and have the whole place to yourself.

 

paddling thru the iceAs we paddled around the shoreline to the West Thumb Geyser Basin,we had to cross over one area where the lake was stillfrozen. Having never actually kayaked through shifting ice packs before, we were all Marmot on a Rockimpressed by the power and beauty of our surroundings. Yellowstone is a very active  environment, with constantly changing natural forces. It is a different experience every time you go.

 

Lakeside GeyserSea Kayaking in Yellowstone is always an incredible experience! Geyser Kayak Tours can take you quickly and comfortably away from the crowds to show you what Yellowstone is really like. No other outfitter in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Idaho, or Montana has guided trips as unique as our full and half-day guided kayak tours, and overnight back-country wilderness kayak trips.

Breaking the Ice on Yellowstone Lake

Ice in the DistanceWe arrived for our first trip of the year to find the ice had just broken around the shoreline on Yellowstone Lake. As we paddled our kayaks away from the geysers, there were still patches of thick frozen lake to paddle across.Breaking the Ice

Sea Kayaking in Yellowstone is always an incredible experience! Geyser Kayak Tours can take you away from the crowds to show you what Yellowstone is really like. No other outfitter in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Idaho, or Montana has guided trips as unique as our full and half-day guided kayak tours, and overnight back-country wilderness kayak trips.

Yellowstone Fly Fishing

Geyser Kayak Tours is offering fly fishing trips to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone fly fishing is widely recognized as some of the best in the Rocky Mountain region. The nation’s first national park is home to several famous wild trout fisheries that include the Madison River, Yellowstone River, Firehole River, Gallatin River, Lamar River, Soda Butte Creek and Slough Creek.  Guided trips will include both day trips by wading only and overnight kayak trips into remote back-country camping areas.

Angler kneeling in Yellowstone Lake and holding cutthroat trout with Absaroka Mountains in the background.

The fishing season officially opens the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and extends through and includes the first Sunday in November. A Yellowstone National Park Fishing Permit is required to fish in the park. Anglers 16 years of age and older are required to purchase either a $18 three-day permit, a $25 seven-day permit or a $40 season permit. Children 15 and younger may obtain a free permit that must be signed by a responsible adult; with this permit, a child can fish without direct adult supervision.

NPS approves Yellowstone Lake development plan

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — The National Park Service has approved a plan to manage future development of the lake area in Yellowstone National Park.

The area on the northwest shore of Yellowstone Lake is known for its spawning streams and grizzly bear habitat. It is also home to historic structures such as the Lake Hotel and the Fishing Bridge Museum.

The plan approved this month limits what development can occur at Lake Village, Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay.

It addresses such things as how to deal with old water and sewer lines in the area and design standards.

It also builds upon management actions from the past several decades designed to reduce human impacts on grizzly bears in the Lake Area.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/parknews/12024.htm

Yellowstone River Levels Rising Rapidly

The unseasonably warm temperatures, including the near-record high temperatures in late April, are already having an impact on the region’s river system. In particular, it is hastening the arrival of snowmelt from the mountains to rivers across the region.

“What we’re seeing now is actually that snowpack melting about a month early,” said Keith Meier, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service office in Billings. “The rises we’re seeing, and we continue to expect to see for the next few days on the rivers, is typical more of mid-to-late May.”

According to hydrographs drawn by the National Weather Service office in Billings, water levels on the Yellowstone River is expected to rise to 8.3 feet by Friday and is not expected to recede until Sunday. As of Wednesday evening, water levels on the Yellowstone River in Billings stands at around 5 feet, according to figures by the NWS.

Other rivers across the region are also registering similarly sharp rise in water levels. However, none of the rivers, including the Yellowstone, are expected to go past flood stage. Similarly, conditions are not ripe for a repeat of 2011’s devastating floods. The early arrival of snowmelt runoffs, however, may create water troubles down the road, Meier said Wednesday.

“In our part of the world, we kind of rely on the snowpack to melt at around the same time every year, and that’s when irrigators need it, and recreationalists need water. Water may be less available, as we get into July and August, when maybe some people may really need that extra water because it’s a usually dry time of the year,” said Meier.

Meier said, however, that it is still too early to tell if there will be drought conditions in the region for 2012 as spring rainstorms could bring more water and moisture to the region.

Early snowmelt hitting Yellowstone

On Saturday morning a gauge on the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs picked up the first sign of major snowmelt in the mountains that feed the basin.

From a height of 2.3 feet, the river began to swell as it ran by the equipment set up just outside Yellowstone Park. By Tuesday morning, the river was measuring 4.56 feet.

Later Saturday, the Yellowstone began to surge at Livingston. By Sunday, waters were rising at Billings, and by Tuesday, river graphs were showing signs of a steep rise at Forsyth. It won’t be long before melt water begins to churn the river at Miles City.

Snowpack, even at the highest elevations, is starting to melt, said Tom Frieders, warnings coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Billings. And it’s coming out a month early.

No part of the Yellowstone, or any other river in Eastern Montana, is close to flooding, though many are running above average for this time of year.

“It isn’t even on my radar,” Frieders said. “Just be glad it isn’t last year. With the snowpack we had, if we had had this rapid warm-up, things could have been a lot worse than they were.”

Last spring, ample snowpack combined with a wet, cold spring to produce record flooding for many parts of the state.

At Billings on Tuesday afternoon, the Yellowstone was at 4.11 feet, up from 3.2 feet Sunday. Flood stage here is 13.5 feet.

An early melt was set in motion by March temperatures many degrees above normal throughout the state, the meteorologist said. In Montana, it was the third-warmest March on record.

Snowpack, which ranged from slightly below normal to slightly above normal, began to warm, especially in the mountains of Wyoming that feed the lower Yellowstone and its tributaries.

When the pack uniformly hits 32 degrees, it is ready to melt, Frieders said. With warm weather through March and much of April, the mountains heated to above freezing in the daytime.

And when temperatures at lower elevations start hitting the 80s, temperatures in the mountains stay above freezing during the night as well, a critical factor in sending melt water down mountain slopes, he said.

Billings set a record 87 degrees on Monday and tied another record Tuesday with a high of 85.

“In a lot of areas the rivers have jumped two or three feet in the last few days,” Frieders said.

If the warming trend continues, the snow could be melted out by mid-May instead of mid-June, he said.

Temperatures through Thursday are expected to remain in the 70s in Billings. But a system moving in late Thursday could stop or slow the snowmelt. Highs in the 50s through the weekend here will likely mean mountain temperatures during the day will be in the low to mid 30s. They will dip well below freezing at night.

“It may even add a little snowpack,” he said.

Just how much moisture the system will bring is uncertain, he said. Eastern Montana and far northeast Montana could see most of the system’s effect, Frieders said. Even if more snow falls on the mountains, it is likely to melt quickly this late in the year.

Snowpack percentages for this time of year are showing the effects of a warm spring. It’s at 83 percent of average for the upper Yellowstone Basin, the stretch of river from Yellowstone Park to Custer. Snowpack on the lower Yellowstone is at 69 percent of average.

yellowstone distance map

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Free entry to Yellowstone and Grand Teton April 21-29

National parks across the country will open to visitors without entry fees during National Park Week April 21-29, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will be open for the start of the summer season, but with limited visitor services and amenities.

Road crews are working to plow snow from roads in both parks, and if weather conditions allow, roads along the west side of Yellowstone National Park will open to automobile traffic on April 20. Visitors will be able to travel by car through the park’s north and west entrances to Norris, Madison, Canyon and Old Faithful beginning at 8:00 a.m.

The National Park Service and its official fundraising partner, the National Park Foundation, present National Park Week each year to offer visitors a chance to experience national parks without paying an entry fee, and to encourage citizens to visit all of the nearly 400 sites in the national park system.

Additional roads throughout Yellowstone will open in May. On May 11, travel will open to autos from the south entrance to Grant Village, West Thumb, Fishing Bridge and Lake over Craig Pass to Old Faithful. Also, Tower Junction to Tower Fall opens to autos. Park planners are expected to open the road from Cooke City over Colter Pass to the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway intersection to the Long Lake gate as soon after May 11 as possible. For information on roads outside of the park from Cooke City via the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, travelers in Wyoming can dial 511, while those outside of Wyoming should call 888-996-7623. Information is also available at the Wyoming Department of Transportation website.

On May 25, Dunraven Pass from Tower to Canyon is scheduled to open to autos. If weather permits, the road from Long Lake Gate over the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge, Mont. is also scheduled to open. For information on the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge, Montana, travelers in Montana can dial 511, while those outside Montana should call 800-226-7623, or visit the Montana Department of Transportation website.

In Grand Teton, the Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake Trailhead to the Signal Mountain Lodge and the Moose-Wilson Road from the Death Canyon Trailhead to the Granite Canyon Trailhead are expected to open May 1.

For recorded road information about Yellowstone, call 307-344-2117. For recorded road information about Grand Teton, call (307) 739-3614.

Lodges, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone National Park  will open in spring starting in late April with complete operations on board by mid-June.

Visitor services open in stages to coincide with increasing demand as spring gives way to summer.

 

Yellowstone Cutthroat Aid Plan

With illegally introduced lake trout swarming throughout Yellowstone Lake, approximately 90 percent of the native species, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, have been eliminated since the mid 1990s when the lake trout took hold.

This has led biologists and wildlife activists to unite to save the endangered species through a variety of plans, partly since fishing for the cutthroats in Yellowstone Lake and its tributaries has been a popular tourist activity. Also, the cutthroats are considered a keystone species in the Yellowstone area that effectively dictate how other species live. For instance, since cutthroats spawn in streams, they are a prime catch for backcountry bears, making the animal highest on Yellowstone’s food chain less likely to become problematic for tourists. Lake trout, by contrast, never leave the lake.

When efforts first began, things looked pretty hopeless, but experts have more recently identified a number of ways to harvest lake trout without hurting the cutthroats simultaneously. And the effort appears to be working. In 2011, about 220,000 lake trout were removed from the voluminous Yellowstone Lake, a huge improvement even from the previous year, when 150,000 fish were harvested. Meanwhile, 2011 was the first year in which the cutthroats showed an increase in population in more than a decade. Under current fishing regulations, fishermen on Yellowstone Lake are required to kill or keep lake trout while being required to release every cutthroat caught.

The newest attack on the lake trout endangering Yellowstone cutthroats involves technology more heavily than before. While previous efforts involved netting as many fish as possible among other angler angles, the new efforts attack problem fish before or shortly after they are born by identifying breeding grounds. Since carbon dioxide is toxic to newly born lake trout, one environmentally sound option would involve dropping weighted dry ice into spawning beds.

But the largest problem facing biologists is finding the spawning beds. Luckily, cutthroats spawn in streams and tributaries while lake trout spawn in the lake itself, meaning experts can attack the spawning beds without worrying too much about detrimental effects to cutthroats. But to find the locations heaviest with lake trout eggs, National Park Service biologists have begun to implant tracking chips that will cause so-called “Judas fish” to betray their species by leading biologists to their spawning grounds.

The program needs more funding to be most effective. Though the National Park Service has employed gill netting to the tune of $1 million annually, Trout Unlimited and the Yellowstone Park Foundation hope to raise $85,000 by May to install the transmitters and receivers that track the lake trout for a fuller distribution in the lake. According to the Trout Unlimited website, they are still $23,000 shy of the goal. Meanwhile, the Yellowstone Park Foundation made a $1 million donation to the program in February. The donation was matched by federal funding.