As Gordon and I began our first visit to Yellowstone National Park on June 2, 201, one of our desires was to see the buffalo (I mean bison) roam. However, we never expected to be stuck in a Park bison herd roundup. (Picture #1)We left West Yellowstone’s Stage Coach Inn about 9 a.m. and followed a stream of vehicles through the west Yellowstone entrance to Madison Junction. Most vehicles turned south towards Old Faithful Geyser for a drive that, according to our Official Guide book, should take 35 minutes. Suddenly the line came to a dead stop, with no cars passing us in the opposite direction.
People jumped out of their cars, cameras in tow, and rushed down the road in front of us. To our left we viewed a helicopter hovering over a mountain ridge, slowing moving our way. What was going on?
People with Cameras
I soon joined the camera-toting throng, making my way past vehicle after vehicle along the shoulder of the road. Just around the curve I was stopped by a milling crowd of photographers, all trying to get good shots of the parade of bison being driven down the mountain side to the river. (Picture #2) In the distance bulls, moms, and calves were swimming across the river and then shaking great sprays of water off their coats before they crossed the paved road and made their way into the huge, grassy meadows below to our right. (Picture #3)
Rangers on Horseback
Park rangers on horses blocked a close approach to the bison herd. (Picture #4) A ranger explained that 200 head of bison were being pushed back into Yellowstone Park boundaries, as ranchers whose land border the Park don’t want the bison mingling with their domestic cattle on their privately-owned grazing lands during the coming summer. Of course the swooshing blades of the helicopter and presence of horses (that bison hate) made for a nervous, distressed bison herd. Even I was delighted when the helicopter pulled away as the last bison swam the river.
Bison Follow the Leader
After about 30 minutes the line of cars started up again. We realized that not all the bison stayed in the meadows when a large bull moved into sight out Gordon’s drivers-seat window. The bull bison glared at Gordon, than slowly lowered his head and meandered along beside us. He was definitely much closer to us than the 25 feet park rules state must be kept between bison and people. At least the bull didn’t know how to open the van door.
We would have passed him if it hadn’t been that we were playing follow the bison with those rambling along the road in front of us'”at about a mile an hour. (Picture #5) It took us over two hours to get to Old Faithful, but we didn’t care. Our fervent desire to see the bison roam in Yellowstone National Park had been fulfilled.
Yellowstone: The Official Guide to Touring America’s First National Park, The Yellowstone Association, Updated 2010.