June 15, 2010
Today was an early day that started at 5 am, but we were on our way to Lamar! As we entered Lamar Valley we saw a herd of 600 to 700 Bison and Bison calves scattered across the valley floor. Just as we were settling in to observe the herd, Rick McIntyre, a wolf biologist, stopped to tell us about a Gray Wolf den above Slough Creek that he was going to check out. Forget Lamar Valley, we are following Rick!
At Slough Creek we caught a glimpse of a black wolf who is part of a new wolf pack in Yellowstone, the Lamar Canyon Pack. Though they were far away, we had great views through our spotting scopes of the black adult male and two of the four golden-colored wolf pups.
In the afternoon we had planned to hike along the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail, but had to change our plans because the trail was closed due to Black Bear sightings. Instead we headed back into Lamar Valley to resume our wildlife observations which had been interrupted earlier in the day. Lamar Valley was named for Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, a Secretary of the Interior (with quite a name!). The valley supports a remnant of the great wildlife herds that once roamed North America. The open grasslands provide ideal habitat for Elk and Bison, and shallow snow cover in winter allows easier foraging compared to other regions of the park.
Kristina, one of this year's participants who visited Yellowstone with the Museum during the winter of 2009, shared her thoughts about Lamar Valley with us:
View from a returning Yellowstone lover
Entering the Lamar Valley rivals crossing the threshold of a sacred and spiritual place. To me, this is hallowed ground. I’ve returned to the Lamar Valley after a two-year absence. The emotions are overwhelming. Both vehicles listened to the same song as we entered the valley. The music floats in the background and slowly seeps into my brain… sunrise is my focus — the pink violet light filters through the clouds, creating an ethereal glow. The lyrics of the song finally take root: “Day is breaking in my soul.” Yes. That comes close to describing Lamar, but not quite. It is nearly impossible to describe this place with words — open, rolling, lush meadows; a meandering river bringing precious water; cottonwoods, willows and sagebrush dot the landscape providing food for some and shelter for others. There is life in Lamar. There is death in Lamar. There is peace in Lamar for those brave enough to open up their soul and receive the spirit of this place! You may leave Lamar, never to return. But a place inside you will forever be in Lamar. If you do return to Lamar, I can promise you, it will feel like the warm embrace and slow, sweet kiss of a long lost love.