|Yellowstone Lake is as big as the sky.|
After spending a week roaming the juncture of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming I thought that anything "Big" would begin to seem normal. Big Sky, check. Big mountains, check. Big bears, check. Big trout, I wish. You get the idea. Everything is huge in a magnificent, stunning, awe inspiring, staring-with-a-slack-jaw kinda way.
But then you see Yellowstone Lake for the first time and despite having seen it on a map a few times you think, "Damn, that's Big!".
And you think about the Cutthroat.
And you think about those damn Lake Trout.
And you think, or may even say aloud, "Jeez, those Cutties are screwed."
|Unaware of the danger, my smolts|
frolic at the edge of Yellowstone Lake
It's oft said in angling that "You shoulda been here yesterday/last week/back in the 50s when fishing was good." That old saw seems particularly appropriate for the Yellowstone Cutties. Only 5-10% of the population that existed when I graduated from college remains.
Invasives and habitat challenges are nothing new to those familiar with conservation. Here in the east, like many places across this country, we've extirpated, restored and extirpated again all manner of wildlife populations as we built farms, then mills, and cities, and industry and then let it all go fallow again as field and forest. We seem intent on doing it again with housing subdivisions. Bad decisions, all in the name of progress, made with supreme neglect for wildlife but generally not with bad intent.
More recently we've managed to introduce the zebra mussel, didymo, whirling disease and a host of other nasty things; more acts of neglect. And we continue to liberally put Rainbow and Brown Trout, the kind of invasives we "like", where they wouldn't otherwise be. I suppose there are some concessions to be made but the lines seem arbitrary.
What seems particularly insidious about the Yellowstone Laker problem is that apparently someone did it on purpose and it has been catastrophic. A pristine location, or at least as pristine as they come, destroyed by a guy with a bucket and an idea.
At that's the solution as well.
People, ideas and actions.
|Pretty little fish.|
In Yellowstone I expect it's not much different. We need that cadre of dedicated individuals to imagine a different future. But we also need all of us. There's a hand to lend when work needs to be done, a keyboard that needs to be whacked when politicians need to be redirected and there's a checkbook that needs to be opened when its time for that.
But equally as important, there's a lesson in all this to bring home to our own watersheds whether they're storied and grand or just plain old grand.
|The ground smokes & steams. Everywhere.|
Even subtler actions are important. Bring a trash bag along on your next trip. If you fish bait, don't release it into the river or lake. Inspect. Clean. Dry.
I've been to a few of the marquee National Parks and while Yosemite has a special spot in my heart I haven't seen anything that matches the variety and grandeur of Yellowstone. To come down into the Lamar Valley and see the river winding through the flood plain and all those fuzzy dots, bison upon closer inspection, grazing is to be transported into another, magical time. The beauty of the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone are without compare. The rolling paint pots, the fuming geysers, and even the cheesy theatrics of Old Faithful manifest the power that is deep within our planet.
And the Grand Prismatic Spring? It's one of those "see it, to believe it" sort of things.
And I haven't even talked about the fish or the animals or the flora.
Yellowstone is the benchmark. If we cannot protect it, if we cannot find it worthy of our efforts to restore and sustain for ourselves and future generations, then we have truly lost our way.
|Grand Prismatic Spring.|
There's no photoshoppery going on here. Those are the real friggin' colors. Unreal.
|There are even good rocks to kick back and chill upon.|
|And you might as well catch the Tetons on the way up|
This is my submission for the Trout Unlimited, Simms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest
The battle for Yellowstone Lake
Trout Shangri-La: Remaking the Fishing in Yellowstone National Park
Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat