Spring in Yellowstone always represents a teasing of seasons. One never knows just what to expect. Take this past Saturday: the temperatures soared into the mid 60’s with a summer-like sunshine bathing the landscape. Western meadowlarks—a symbol of spring’s fecundity—were seen and heard from atop dozens of fence posts on our journey up the Boulder River, mountain bluebirds danced across the horizon, and the stilt-like legs of the sandhill crane were observed in numerous meadows, including one pair exhibiting their graceful mating display in a pasture along the banks of the West Fork.
We had clearly made it through another long Yellowstone winter. But the glorious return of spring is a precarious event. The following day we are faced with temperatures struggling to reach the fifties, winds from the north, and flurries of hail-like snow falling from the sky.
Today is a typical spring day in Yellowstone Country. It is cold and foggy with a deep bank of clouds hovering low over the railroad town and Yellowstone National Park gateway community of Livingston, Montana. Holed up in my office preparing for an early morning flight and a week filled with presentations in the Bay Area, the song of black-capped chickadees floats across the breeze. The river artery that represents the lifeblood and heartbeat of the Paradise Valley twisting its way north of the park has yet to reawaken. In the weeks and months to come, snowmelt will fill the river corridor with muddied waters, violently surging ahead in anticipation of a wild encounter with another legendary river at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.
As the waters of the Yellowstone clear, the communities that ebb and flow with the river itself will return to life, bringing a vibrancy to the region that only summer on the banks of the Yellowstone can bring. Livingston and Gardiner will once again welcome tourists from all over the globe wishing to experience the grandeur of the “Stone” from a drift boat or whitewater raft.
The pace of life is soon to change, with the reawakening of the Yellowstone during runoff, and the rebirth of the mighty river come summer. Until then I am simply content to observe the plethora of cottonwoods lining the banks of the river, defiantly challenging the fresh snow in the mountains, slowly budding, adding desperately needed shades of green and yellow to a drab post-winter landscape yearning to reemerge.
~Michael Leach, Director and Founder