testing: Yellowstone Wildlife Find Their Voice in the Fall

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July 03rd, 2010

There are as many as 20,000 elk in Yellowstone National Park, and beginning in September, the males of the bunch start to sing. Bugle, actually. The fall season in Yellowstone National Park is one of the best times of the year to see – and hear – elk and other wildlife in action.

“Our visitors say that elk bugling is one of the wildest sounds they’ve ever heard,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and activities in the park. Hoeninghausen’s office is in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in the northern part of the park. Mammoth is a particularly appealing area for elk to gather, and it is not uncommon to see bull elk gather their harem of females in shady areas near the hotel or to view two male elk lock antlers in battle right outside the hotel.

“Every fall, I can count on phone calls being interrupted by the bugling of vocal elk outside my window,” said Hoeninghausen. “Callers often think it is some sort of alarm.”

National Park Service rangers are often patrolling near the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel to warn visitors to keep their distance from elk and other wildlife.

Fall is also a good time to see one of the park’s other marquee animals – wolves. The drive to Lamar Valley, often called the “American Serengeti” because of its abundance of wildlife, is less than one hour from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Dawn and sunset are the two best times to see animals in action.

Xanterra offers multiple fall-season wildlife-focused programs and packages including multi-day “Lodging & Learning” packages, Adventure packages and full- and half-day tours. Rates quoted below do not include taxes, utility fee or gratuities. Here are some examples of Xanterra’s fall programs:

Fall Wolf and Elk Discovery. This four-night Lodging & Learning package includes four nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel; three breakfasts, three lunches and one dinner per person; in-park transportation; a welcome gift and expert instruction by a Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) naturalist/guide. This program is priced at $609 per person based on double occupancy and is offered on several dates from late August through early October.

Roosevelt Rendezvous. Participants in this four-night Lodging & Learning package stay at the historic Roosevelt Lodge, also in the Northern part of the park. Guests participate in their choice of daily field trips, many with a wildlife theme. Other field trips include geology treks and guided hikes. There is a maximum of 52 participants. The program also includes all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, in-park transportation and expert instruction by a YAI naturalist/guide. The rate is $709 per person based on two people in a guest cabin. The program is offered on Sept. 10 and 14.

Yellowstone Couples Adventure Package. Available through Oct. 2, 2010, this five-night adventure includes accommodations at the Old Faithful Inn, all meals, one welcome gift for each adult, in-park transportation, guided hikes and baggage handling. Transportation in the park is in a Historic Yellow Bus. This package is $1,659 per person based on double occupancy.

Wake up to Wildlife. This four-hour early-morning tour explores Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. Participants climb aboard a Historic Yellow Bus, and a trained driver/guide leads the group through the region searching for wildlife. Continental breakfast is included. This tour is priced at $75 for adults and $37.50 for children ages three to 11.

Picture Perfect Photo Safari. These half-day tours depart daily from Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Old Faithful Inn. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel tour explores the northern shore of Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, while the Old Faithful Inn tour explores thermal features and scenic areas from the Firehole River to the Madison River. Like all Xanterra tours, stops along the way vary from day to day depending on wildlife sightings and other conditions. Photographer-guides lead these small-group tours and share information about photo hot spots and tips for capturing the best images of Yellowstone. The tours are $81 for adults and $40.50 for children 11 and under. Continental breakfast is included.

Other fall tours and activities:
Kayaking Yellowstone Lake. Kayaking Yellowstone Lake was ranked second of the “50 Best American Adventures” by National Geographic Adventure. Visitors with a sense of adventure – and a little upper body strength – can reserve a backcountry shuttle operated by Xanterra to take them to one of several drop-off points from the eastern shore to the Southeast arm of the massive lake. Canoes or rowboats can be rented; visitors need to bring their own kayaks. Once dropped off, travelers can explore the remote park locations by foot or paddle. Pick-ups are pre-arranged. The final drop of the season is Sept. 13.

Circle of Fire tour. Visitors who find the park’s geothermal activity fascinating will enjoy this tour of the lower portion of the park. The tour stops at numerous geothermal hot spots including the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Norris Geyser Basin. The full-day tour also includes a stop for lunch at a park restaurant. The lunch is not included in the tour price. The tour departs in the morning from one of six park locations. The rate is $63 for adults, $31.50 for children ages three to 11 and free for children ages two and under.

Bike rentals. Another popular fall activity is bicycling the park. Old Faithful Snow Lodge offers bicycle rentals through Sept. 30. Adult bikes can be rented for $8 per hour, $25 for a half day and $35 for a full day. The shop also offers accessories such as helmets and hip packs as well as bicycles for children.

For a complete listing of Xanterra-operated activities in Yellowstone National Park visit https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/summer-activities-199.html. The Xanterra web site also offers a new activities search feature that allows visitors to look for activities by activity type, duration, intensity level and location within the park.

Xanterra operates lodging, restaurants, gift shops and activities in Yellowstone National Park. General reservations for accommodations, tours and activities can be made by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).