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Animals of Wyoming: From the Tetons to Yellowstone

Updated on October 7, 2014

Yellowstone Animals Living Around the Continental Divide

I've just returned from a wonderful holiday seeing the animals of Wyoming by visiting two of the most fabulous national parks in the world, the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

The trip was brilliant for many reasons; we had good weather and saw beautiful nature, but importantly for me the photo opportunities were tremendous!

Where were we?

We were in and around Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Jackson Hole was our starting point in the heart of the Grand Tetons, then after a few days we headed northwards to Yellowstone.

My mission, apart from enjoying the scenery and wildlife, was to capture as much of this beautiful part of the world on my Nikon camera. And is it beautiful? It's absolutely stunning.

There is everything a nature lover would want from the magnificent Grand Teton Mountain range with pristine glacial lakes to the animals of Yellowstone - and of course the famous geysers. So many photo opportunities, so little time!

Wyoming now has a place in my heart; it has to be one of the most beautiful areas for a keen photographer to visit. I've never seen anywhere where there are so many tripods and cameras out and about from 5am preparing to catch the sunrise. This was going to be one amazingly special trip - and it certainly was!

Created on 21 Sep 2013 for IMMINENT Animals

All photos © 2013 Rob Hemphill

Our First Early Morning Sunrise

Early Morning Buffalo (Bison)
Early Morning Buffalo (Bison)

The first early morning photo session found us just 6 or so miles north of Jackson. I was looking for a popular and well-photographed American barn. On our way, we came across numerous bison (or buffalo as they're referred to locally).

These gentle giants of the plains certainly have presence, especially under the mountains in the morning sun. Temperatures were already high, and I kept wondering how they coped with their seemingly huge overcoats in the summer sunshine. As they've been roaming around this part of the world for centuries, obviously fine.

Then came the beautiful Moulton's Barn on Mormons Row bathed in that soft glow with the Tetons in the background. Again, we were not alone as this is one of the most photographed barns in America - I'm not surprised!

Having taken a dozen pictures from all angles, trying to avoid other photographers and nature enthusiasts, the morning light was losing its subtlety. Time to pack up and move on.

 Moulton's Barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons behind
Moulton's Barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons behind

One Guide You'll Definitely Need

Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide)

If you're planning a trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone, I would highly recommend this guide. It has so much information to get you going on almost any activity you choose: backpacking to biking, hiking to horseback riding, and so many more.

Don't leave home without it!


Mystical Morning of Rays and Reflections

Schwabachers Landing on the Snake River
Schwabachers Landing on the Snake River

A deer is seen foraging in the enchanting environment of this beavers dam on the Snake River at Schwabachers Landing.

This is what I really wanted to do as I had seen some amazing photographs taken by other photographers who had found the same great sites. What makes these locations special is that beautiful reflections of the sun off the mountains can be caught in the calm waters of the river.

One of the prime locations for this type of landscape photography is at Schwabachers Landing, about 10 miles north of the popular small town of Jackson Hole. There are, of course many other spots that are just as good, but this was my favorite.

On a July morning at 5.30am, I arrived near the location and parked up on the road knowing that I would have a walk ahead of me, but I had no idea that it would be a very considerable one - I reckon it was between 1½ and 2 miles. Not much you may say, but time was of the essence, and I needed to get there during the golden hours*.

*Golden hours – the optimum time of the day for catching the sunrise or sunset for the best light.

A Dream Location For All Nature Lovers... - ...especially photographers!

Flight in the Tetons, Schwabachers Landing
Flight in the Tetons, Schwabachers Landing

A duck flew through this stunning scene, what more could I have asked for after catching a sunrise, majestic mountains, awesome reflections and a gorgeous scene?

I hastily walked with my camera bag and tripod for what seemed an age and eventually arrived at this super location. Two other keen photographers were already set up and enjoying the moment. I quickly unpacked and was treated to the most fantastic views in front of me - I was in heaven! This is what I had been longing to do for ages and now I was living the dream.

Take Plenty to Read About the Areas

Animals Began to Appear...

...bathed in morning sunlight.

It didn't take long before a few animals were spotted, after all this is the best time of day to see them. First a deer appeared from a heavily wooded area, and made its way to the waters edge. We were not far away and each of us had our camera lenses trained on it.

This was turning out to be a morning to remember, but luckily it wasn't over yet. After shooting the best of the sunrise reflections, a small duck swims by bathed in rays of the early glow. It was busy feeding and was completely oblivious to our presence - this is what nature photography is all about!

It was time to head back to the car as a breakfast was awaiting us at 8am back at the Teton Tree House, a charming lodging house we were staying at near Wilson, about 5 miles west of Jackson.

Young at Play at the Water's Edge

Packing up my gear, I set off on the return hike. Always keeping eyes peeled for anything, it wasn't long before I spotted two fawns by the rivers edge. Just like any young animal, they were more intent at playing with branches of trees and bushes so didn't care about me setting up my tripod only 30 yards away.

Magical Morning - Saw a Moose!

A female moose foraging in the shallows of the river. I can see where the term 'moose drool' comes from now!

On the move again and about half way back to the car, I spy a moose grazing in the river. Only problem is it's quite a long way away, so this time it's a trek across scrub and bush to get a vantage point. My biggest lens is a Nikon 70-300mm telezoom, so I should be able to get a reasonable shot provided it's mounted on the tripod (to avoid camera shake at full zoom).

I've never witnessed a moose feeding before and was fascinated at the way it spent so much time with its head under water grazing on the weed on the riverbed. A stag moose would have been wonderful, but this female was the only moose I saw on the entire trip, so I was very happy.

I eventually returned to the car and just made breakfast in time - this has been a truly wonderful morning, and I still had the day ahead of me!

Have You Been To Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons?

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Grand Teton National Park - Trails Map

Grand Teton National Park - Trails Illustrated Map # 202
Grand Teton National Park - Trails Illustrated Map # 202

A good hiking map showing all the trails and walks around Jackson Hole and the Tetons.


Off to Yellowstone

Grazing Elk
Grazing Elk

We left the Teton National Park and drove north to Yellowstone traveling up the west side of the mountains through the potato state of Idaho. We were advised to take this route to avoid the busier traffic on the east between Jackson and the Yellowstone National Park - it was good advice!

On entering the Park at the town of West Yellowstone we saw our first elk grazing by the river alongside the road. We had been told to keep an eye out for a congregation of cars; this meant that there was a chance of seeing some wildlife.

Driving on the southern loop road we soon arrived at the lower geyser basin and were greeted by the incredible spectacle of earth’s activity. There were steam trails everywhere. Stopping to take a closer look at the wonders of the area, we were amazed at the sheer power of constant boiling water in prismatic pools and craters belching out sulfurous gases, as well as boiling mud pools. There was activity of some kind all around.

Moving on to see the infamous Old Faithful at the upper geyser basin we were faced with a wealth of different geysers of varying sizes and power. What an extraordinary place and well worth a visit, in fact worth spending at least an entire day here – we returned two days later to do just that!

Buffalo at Haydens Valley Near Canyon

Having a Dust Bath
Having a Dust Bath

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - Lower Falls

Right of Way
Right of Way

If you love waterfalls, the lower falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one you must see. From a magnificent viewing area, called Artists Point you get a panoramic view from the top of the canyon towards the falls. If you are energetic, there is a good walk, ‘Uncle Toms Trail’ which takes you down 327 steps near to the front of the falls. Do it if you can!

Near here we came across a male elk quietly chewing the cud lying in the grass with dozens of enthusiastic admirers trying to take his portrait. At one point, the local Ranger has to tell everyone “don’t freak him out”!

Further down the road we came across another traffic jam – must be more animals, I wonder what. Turned out to be a herd of bison crossing the road to get to the river. It seemed odd that these quiet beasts were causing so much interest. We had all come to Yellowstone to see the earth move or at least express itself, and we sure saw plenty of evidence of that. Seeing whatever animals we could who live in this dangerous region was a bonus, and we saw many of them - but the bears eluded us.

No Bears This Time!

On our return home, the first question family members asked was, “did you see any bears”? Unfortunately we didn’t.

A week’s trip to such a wonderful couple of areas such as the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone served only to whet the appetite for more. I would dearly love to return in different seasons and perhaps concentrate on other aspects of this special part of the world.

I’ll be back to see that elusive grizzly!

Animals of Yellowstone

What is the Wyoming State Animal?

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More on Yellowstone and the Tetons

Squirrel With Attitude!

I had fun taking photos of this little squirrel, he seemed to enjoy his moment in the limelight! I thought it was a chipmunk but they have a stripe down the center of their head.

For those of you who aren't sure what the State animal of Wyoming is:

It is the Buffalo (Bison bison)

Do Share Your Traveling Tales of This Area - Or Another! - Thanks for your visit

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    • Squirt2Squidoo profile image

      Squirt2Squidoo 4 years ago

      I visited the area back in '86 and it was absolutely gorgeous. Very nice pics. and lens. Thank-you for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Absolutely double wow, what great photo's. Feels like I took the trip with you!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      Wow! Such awesome photos -- I think the Moulton's Barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons behind looks like a painting. Haven't been, but you have enticed me!

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      Wow, what great pictures and information in this lens! For many years I've wanted to go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, but I've not yet done so. Only time I was in Wyoming was briefly driving through the southeast corner and Cheyenne.

    • profile image

      jennabeezer 4 years ago

      You have captured some priceless views here Rob. It is a BEAUTIFUL area, isn't it? I am lucky to live in the Idaho mountains, so my family has made this trip many times. My chief ambition as a child was to share my s'mores with the squirrels, which led to a great dealing of crouching down with a graham cracker and a disposable camera. Needless to say, most of my shots didn't actually capture any wildlife. Enjoyed this lens very much! Thank you.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We have these animals too in Northern Ontario. Squirrels sometimes pose as I take their pictures. You have very beautiful pictures.

    • LoriBeninger profile image

      LoriBeninger 4 years ago

      These are fantastic pictures/stories. I am so ashamed that I have never been to either of these gorgeous areas even though I've lived in the Western US all of my life and I have an abiding love of nature and its glories. You've reminded me that I need to make that trip soon.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      As far as any of these states, I've only been in the far northwestern part of Montana, but it would be grand to visit those mountainous parks.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      I haven't been there in many many years! Loved the photos you captured. Congrats on your purple star.