Yellowstone National Park has been a popular summer travel destination for decades, but even the nation’s first park can’t rest on its laurels.
One of the biggest changes at the park this year is the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, said Al Nash, Yellowstone public affairs officer. The new center was dedicated late last summer and offers a dramatic change from the visitor center most people remember.
The spacious new center offers many state-of-the-art interactive exhibits on the geologic features found within the park. One of the more popular exhibits features a working model of a geyser.
“You can see it heat up the water and then go off,” said Nash.
But the center’s not the only thing that’s new in the park.
Construction was also finished last fall on a road that runs between the Norris and Madison basins. Nash said the road dramatically improves parking and access, and three new picnic areas have been opened along that stretch of road.
“It’s a much nicer and safer drive and it offers some additional opportunities for visitors that weren’t there prior to the completion of this project,” said Nash.
Yellowstone visitors of all ages can partake in a variety of traditional ranger-led activities offered throughout the park. Ranger-led talks and walks provide guests information on the wildlife, history and geology of the park. A ranger-narrated cruise around Yellowstone Lake is also offered beginning on June 15. Reservations are required.
The Yellowstone Junior Ranger program offers activities geared toward children ages 5 to 12. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the program and to celebrate the park is offering it for free.
For a complete schedule of ranger-led activities, go to www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/events.htm.
The park will also be rebuilding a bridge east of Tower Junction, in the northern section of the park, but Nash said he doesn’t expect the project to have any significant impact on park visitors.
Of course, some things in the park never change. Nash reminds visitors to use caution around large animals within the park. Regulations require park visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from large animals such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer and moose. Visitors are strongly encouraged to view animals from the safety of their vehicles.
“We typically have a few people who get hurt every year because they get too close to big animals,” said Nash.
To get the latest park updates and general visitor information, go to the park website at www.nps.gov/yell or call (307) 344-7381.