Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs Traps Tourists

Mammoth Hot Springs is a small, very historic settlement at the far north end of the park. It is dominated by a huge white mound created by the superheated thermal features it contained within it which hiss and steam. A boardwalk, again, carries visitors who wish to view these around and over the massive mound. Nearby, mid and late 19th century buildings mingle with more modern structures and the elk herd which resides in the settlements central square.

This is the site of Fort Yellowstone, built to ensure law and order in the park before the founding of the National Park Service. The current Park Ranger uniforms are a holdover from that era. The fort, troop and officer quarters, constructed of limestone, which abounds in this area, still stand. The bachelor barracks are a dormitory like structure while the officer quarters, now private residences, form a line of gracious homes standing along the square. There is also a general store, now a gift shop, which, like many of the buildings, also dates from the late 1800's. Inside the former fort headquarters are exhibits detailing the history of Yellowstone. A modern hotel and restaurant, operated by a corporate concession, also sits here, somewhat out of character with the older architecture. It is apparent that many park visitors do not venture much farther into the park than this judging from their excitement regarding the elk herd grazing in the square. At this point, we had viewed scores of the animals in much more natural environs. We later saw a small group of modest, modern homes nestled in a valley nearby. Presumably these are the homes of the service personnel at the exhibits and concessions. As the saying goes; if you love nature and the park "It's nice work if you can get it."

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