Join us on this exclusive tour for adults and families (7th grade and above). This unique program is designed for up to 14 guests, allowing us maximum flexibility to get the most out of our summer ed-venture. By day, your guide Dr. James Halfpenny–a renowned carnivore ecologist– will accompany you as you view Yellowstone’s incredible biodiversity and geologic wonders. In the evenings, you’ll retire to the Track Education Center or historic park lodges, eat delicious meals, stroll trails, enjoy programs about wildlife and the park, and share the company of your fellow travelers.
The 2.2 million-acre Yellowstone National Park offers exceptional scenery, steaming geothermal features, and diverse wildlife and plant communities. In fact, it is an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site!
Today’s park landscape is the result of its dynamic volcanic origins. Three gigantic eruptions occurred in the past two million years, the most recent of which formed a huge volcanic caldera (28 by 47 miles) in the heart of the park. Ice Age glaciers then shaped the area’s Mountains, valleys and lakes. Volcanism and glaciers together created more than 10,000 hydrothermal features (including Old Faithful) in the park.
Yellowstone is best known for its many geysers and hot springs. But it is a diverse landscape offering panoramic views of rugged mountain ranges, the majestic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, scenic waterfalls and sweeping glacial valleys. The plant communities range from thick conifer forests that are fire-dependent to short-grass prairies, wetlands and marshes to high mountain meadows.
Yellowstone offers abundant wildlife viewing including black and grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, bison, elk, moose, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope and big horn sheep. The greater Yellowstone ecosystem contains North America’s largest herds of free-roaming bison and upwards of 10,000 elk. Wolf activity is very dynamic within the park and the concentration of grazers provides the food base for the recently re-introduced wolf packs. And let’s not forget Yellowstone bears, both black and grizzly, which are raising cubs in the summer.
This trip combines education and adventure, wildlife tracking/viewing and geyser gazing, storytelling and history. Your guides are Dr. Jim Halfpenny, director of A Naturalist's World (ANW) and world-renowned tracker, educator and scientist; and Jim Jordan, senior program coordinator, School of Professional & Continuing Studies–UMSL.
Dr. Halfpenny's specialties include environmental ecology, carnivores and animal tracking. His greatest academic love–bears–led to 25 years studying black, grizzly and polar bears. He also works with wolverines, badgers, lynx, cougars and wolves. Dr. Halfpenny is no stranger to St. Louis having conducted a cougar workshop, evening lectures and leading Yellowstone trips for the Saint Louis Zoo. He has written more than 25 books and videos including Yellowstone Wolves in the Wild and Charting Yellowstone Wolves, Yellowstone Bears in the Wild, Scats and Tracks of North America, and A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America. He has led wildlife tours for adults, school groups, families and scientists in Yellowstone since 1971. Few know Yellowstone and its wildlife like Dr. Halfpenny does. He will accompany your group each day, sharing his vast knowledge about the park. Visit www.halfpenny.me for Dr. Halfpenny’s complete biography, publications and research projects.
Jim Jordan, science and environmental educator, has led adult and family trips for more than 30 years while program coordinator of SIU-Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center and Curator of Education at the Saint Louis Zoo. Jim is currently with UMSL’s School of Professional & Continuing Studies where he is offering a variety of noncredit programs for adults, families and educators. He has led family trips to Kenya, The Nature Place and San Juan Mountains in Colorado, Southern Illinois and Missouri Ozarks. Jim and Dr. Halfpenny have co-led six trips in Yellowstone. He enjoys reading the landscape, wildlife viewing and birding, wild flowers and hiking.
Wildlife Viewing: Wild animals are of course unpredictable, but Dr. Halfpenny knows where to look and we will certainly find them! This means some early departures (maybe even before daylight some mornings). The best way to see wolves, bears and other wildlife is to use our vehicles. Wolves cover large territories and may move 10 to 15 miles in a day. Therefore, part of the program is “drive and look.”
When we spot wolves or bears, we stand on the roadside and use spotting scopes and binoculars to view their activities. Herds of Bison and Elk will be viewed in the same manner, and if we are lucky we will observe the hunt and chase of predator and prey. Dr. Halfpenny may take the group 100 or 200 yards off the road to look at animal signs and tracks to read the story of their activities.
Field hikes: Hikes will vary in length–from 100 yards to three miles on marked trails. Hikes will allow us to see up-close the many geothermal features such as hot springs, geysers, mud pots, travertine terraces and fumaroles. We will also explore Yellowstone lakefront and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Hikes may include different options. Bring binoculars and spotting scopes if you have them.
Activities for both Adults and Teens: Field activities and hikes will be geared toward all participants with options available at some sites since both guides will be accompanying the group. Dr. Halfpenny has a number of skulls, bones and tracks that will be examined to help everyone see and understand the biology and ecology of Yellowstone’s wildlife. Evening optional activities are diverse and will include Native American myths and stories, animal origami, current wildlife issues and A Yellowstone Ed-venture interpretive walks. There is flexibility in the schedule to allow us to address specific needs and desires of the whole group. We encourage families to bring their tablets and smart phones to be active in social media and create a storybook of the adventure to share with their networks.
Accommodations: The trip includes five nights lodging in Gardiner, Gateway to Yellowstone National Park, and Old Faithful and Lake Village on Yellowstone Lake. The first two nights are spent at the Absaroka Hotel on the Yellowstone River in Gardiner, walking distance to A Naturalist’s World Track Education Center. The third night will be spent at the Old Faithful Cabins in the heart of the park, a 15-minute walk from Old Faithful Geyser. The last two nights are spent at historic Lake Lodge on Yellowstone Lake.
Standard arrangements are double-occupancy rooms for all participants. Private rooms may be available at an additional cost but must be arranged ahead of time. Each room has two queen beds and can hold up to four people. Registration fees reflect the number of occupants in the room.
Meals: All breakfasts, three lunches, and one dinner are provided. See itinerary on the next page for specific meals that are included in the program. On the second day, the group will purchase their own lunch at a diner in Cook City, and there are many dinner options in Gardiner from pizza parlors to restaurants to choose from that evening. Discounted dinner coupons can be purchased in advance for three evenings at park cafeterias. You may wish to dine in the historic lodge dining rooms all or some of the nights.
Arrival and Departure to Bozeman, MT by air or Gardiner, MT by car: If you fly to Yellowstone, Jim Jordan, UMSL Trip Leader will provide the suggested flight to book if you wish to fly with the group. He will accompany the group from St. Louis to Bozeman, MT. When you book your Thursday flight, you must arrive in Bozeman before 1 pm. Departure flights should not be scheduled before 2 pm on Tuesday. Airfares are not included in the price of the trip.
If you choose to drive to Yellowstone, plan on arriving in Gardiner, MT by 4 pm on Thursday. You will be provided directions to the Absaroka Hotel and A Naturalist’s World Track Education Center.
Ground Transportation: All transportation during the program (Thursday 1 pm – Tuesday 2 pm) is provided, including van pick-up from the airport in Bozeman, MT. During all park excursions, Dr. Halfpenny will be the tour guide while we travel by a 14-passenger minibus equipped with large windows for viewing the scenery and wildlife. If you fly into Bozeman, final drop-off at noon to the Bozeman airport at trip’s end is also included. Again, do not book a flight before 2 pm out of Bozeman.
Trip Orientation: An orientation meeting will be arranged with all participants (a conference call is possible for those outside St. Louis) at a mutually agreeable time to provide a preview of the trip, details about the trip’s itinerary and packing list, and to answer any questions you may have.
Trip Insurance: It is highly suggested that you purchase trip insurance, especially for your airline ticket if it is nonrefundable, in case the trip gets canceled or you have to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. See the terms and agreements section of the registration form for more information.
(All events are weather, highway construction, and safety dependent and may be changed as appropriate. Schedules may be moved to different days as needed.)
Thursday, July 11: Day 1 Pick up at the Bozeman airport at 1:00 pm and transportation to Gardiner, Montana along the Yellowstone River through Paradise Valley. We often see pronghorn antelope, mule deer and other wildlife on this two-hour drive through three mountain ranges. After settling into your hotel for the next two nights, you can explore Gardiner. The evening welcome dinner and program will be at the Track Education Center in Gardiner. Lodging at Absaroka Hotel. Dinner included.
Friday, July 12: Day 2 We will depart early in the morning and travel to Lamar Valley for a wildlife/wolf watch and field program. Breakfast will be in the field and lunch will be on your own in Cooke City. An early afternoon return to Mammoth Hot Springs will allow for a guided hike and exploration of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and the Historic Yellowstone Visitor Center. Dinner in Gardiner will be on your own. An evening program in the Track Museum will allow participants to see actual casts of tracks from mammals throughout North America and learn about the amazing adaptations mammals have to be efficient hunters, flee from predators, and climb mountains/trees or dig burrows. Lodging at Absaroka Hotel. Breakfast included.
Saturday, July 13: Day 3 Breakfast will be in Gardiner and then we will travel to Old Faithful with stops at some of Yellowstone‘s fascinating, but lesser visited, geological and geothermal attractions such as: Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin, Gibbon Falls, the Firehole River Canyon, Lower Geyser Basin, and Midway Geyser Basin. There will be a field lunch en route. A mid-afternoon arrival at Old Faithful will allow for personal or group hikes in the geyser basin. Dinner is on your own at one of the many dining venues. That evening a group walk back through the geyser basin will allow us to see the myriad of geysers, fumaroles, and pools that make the Upper Geyser Basin the highest density geothermal area in the world. We will stay overnight at the Old Faithful Cabins. Breakfast and lunch included.
Sunday, July 14: Day 4 Breakfast at Old Faithful will be followed by a journey over Grant Pass to West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake. After we hike the geyser basin, we will drive along the shore of Yellowstone Lake. We will visit Fishing Bridge and return to Lake Village for the evening. There will be a field lunch. Dinner will be at the Lake Hotel with time to walk along the shore or simply relax in the Lake Hotel Ballroom. That evening you can join an animal origami session and make some animals we have seen on our journey. Lodging at Lake Village. Breakfast and lunch included.
Monday, July 15: Day 5 There will be an early morning wildlife watch followed by breakfast at the Lake Hotel. Then we will travel to Hayden Valley known for its bison herds and other wildlife grazing along the Yellowstone River flats. We then visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of the most picturesque canyons in the U.S., where you can hike down into the Canyon on several trails. We then drive up the slopes of Mt. Washburn for a panorama of the park. We will enjoy a lunch amidst one of the many scenic vistas in the park. An early return will be made to Lake Village to relax after a full day outing. Dinner is on your own in the historic Lake Hotel. We will have a concluding evening session to share what we have seen and experienced. Lodging is at Lake Village. Breakfast and lunch included.
Tuesday, July 16: Day 6 We will have an early breakfast at the Lake Hotel and depart for the drive to Bozeman airport for an afternoon departure. We will make stops along the way at sites not visited earlier and where we spot wildlife. There will be a field lunch en route in the park before dropping off families in Gardiner and then continue on to Bozeman. We will arrive at the airport around noon. No flights should be booked before 2:00 pm. Breakfast and lunch included.