Eagles, Wolves and Waterfalls

The east side of Yellowstone National Park is known for its fertile valleys, the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone Lake.

In late May, the waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are roaring, and the overlooks had just opened the day we were there. While we could only view the canyon, which has many hiking trails from above, we saw eagles and other raptors flying to their nests.

Snow-covered fields along the road provided the perfect contrast to see a wolf in the distance. There are several wolf packs in the park, and they have proliferated since several dozen were captured in Canada and turned loose in 1995. But they are usually viewed only at dawn as they cross the valleys.

Throughout the park, there is still evidence of the 1988 forest fire, the worst in its history, which burned nearly 800,000 acres. Burned-out trees remain standing in many locations, while new lodgepole pines grow near them.

Yellowstone Lake was frozen, which made it difficult to admire its beauty and size — 132 square miles with a shoreline of 141 miles. But we did see open water at the West Thumb Geyser Basin at its south end, which includes hot pools that empty into the lake.

We stopped for a beverage in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the oldest standing building in any national park. The original portion opened in 1891. The entrance to the sunny yellow structure, with massive white columns, faces the lake instead of the road because visitors used to arrive by ship. The view from its large sunroom was impressive, even though the landscape was white.

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