What if I told you that there’s a place where Grizzly Bears roam across grassy hills, where pronghorn antelope spring across broad plains and Bison cause traffic jams? A place where wolves are making a comeback and the bugling of elk echo through the air? Well, you’re in luck, because such a place exists and it’s known as the Lamar Valley.
The Lamar Valley is located in the remote northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Lauded as the best place to see wildlife in the park, the best time to see the animals is to rise before the sun or head there at dusk. These are the times that the animals are the most active and the best time to catch a glimpse of the elusive wolves.
On our trip, we were lucky to see a mother wolf and some wolf cubs! The easiest way to find them, is to keep an eye out for the massive group of people with their spotting scopes. Amongst them is a ranger who magically knows where the wolf packs are at all times. He is kind enough to let you view the animals through his scopes, which was lucky because my telephoto lens did not afford us a good view of the wolves. They were incredibly far away, to the naked eye they were just frolicking specs high on a hill. Viewing them through the scopes was wonderful, the cubs gamboled through the tall grass while their yellow-eyed mother looked on.
We didn’t see hide nor hair of either Grizzly or black bears, which was slightly disappointing as it is supposed to be one of the best places to see them. We did see hundreds of bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer and this lonely coyote.
We also got stuck in an incredible Bison Jam. They lumbered down the road, their heavy bodies stopping traffic and causing a photographer to completely abandon his scope. We pressed our noses against the glass, almost able to smell the curly coated behemoths as they passed mere inches from our car.
It was wonderful sitting quietly while the bison sauntered by, they were not concerned about the cars or the slowdown they were causing. They own the roads entirely.
Everywhere we looked there were animals. Though bison were the most plentiful, we saw many other inhabitants of the valley. Pronghorn were nestled in the grass awaiting the sunrise, a bald eagle perched in a dead tree, scanning the horizon and mule deer tiptoed daintily across the highway.
I love animals, and viewing them in their natural habitat was breathtaking. We got up before 5am to drive out to the valley from the Norris campground, taking a little over an hour to get all the way out there. We watched as the first fingers of sunlight climbed over the hills and lit up the valley below. It was cold and pristine, besides the few other cars and the road that stretched like a ribbon in front of us, it looked untouched.
The opportunities for wildlife viewing, scenery and photography are unmatched. If you’re in Yellowstone for more than a couple of days and you want to escape the crowds, head out to the Lamar Valley to experience the American Serengeti.