Our Western Adventure – Boiling River

1645On our second to last day in Yellowstone, we went to the Boiling River. It was one of the favorites for almost everyone.

What makes the Boiling River swimming area special, is that it’s an area where the Mammoth Hot Springs empty into the Gardner River. Temperatures fluctuate from feeling icy cold, to burning hot. There are places you can stand where one leg feels super hot, while the other is cold. It’s definitely a neat experience!

Other features include a couple of small waterfalls (but they are too hot to go under), and stone sculptures. People created these small sculptures in the areas where the water is colder, the current flows faster, and/or, on the other side of the river. When you notice them, you can’t help but be impressed by the balancing acts of the stones (and admire the patience of the people who created them)!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

Side Note: We had hoped to be able to spend some time in Mammoth, but time just didn’t allow. It’s definitely on our “must see” list for next time. What we could see from the road while driving through, looked pretty cool. We stopped on the way to the river to have a picnic dinner just outside the Mammoth Hotel. No more than about 3 minutes after we got up to throw our trash away, a few elk came (seemingly out of nowhere) and took over the area we had just been in. After we left our picnic, we headed out to do some swimming.

When we got to the parking area, it was full. We had to park in an overflow lot across the street. When we walked across to begin the hike down to the river, there were a couple of elk next to the road/driveway in a grassy area. The female that was closest to the parking lot seemed a bit agitated, and kept bellowing (or whatever you call an elk’s sound). I was wearing a red shirt. After an experience I had as a kid, when I was chased by a bull while wearing a red jumper, I was feeling a bit nervous. I was sure she was yelling at me. I walked very slowly by her, trying to give her as much space as I could.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

To get to the swimming area, it is anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 a mile hike down a path. It was a nice walk, and well worth it in the end. That being said, you never know what you might encounter…. Jason and most of the kids had gone ahead. Michael came back to change, since there was no port-a-potty or other area to change down by the river. This would have been helpful to know before we started walking down there… Michael and I saw a small snake cross our path as we walked.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

For some reason, I ended up getting to the river last. Four of the kids were already swimming, while Jason and Nikolai were “watching our stuff.” There were quite a few people there! As I was getting to the final part of the path that went to the water, I watched an elk cross the river, and stand directly between me and where everyone else was at. I tried to wait him out, but he was enjoying some tasty grass… I decided to back track, and walk in the water to where everyone was at. That was tricky, but I did make it.

I would recommend for anyone planning on swimming in the Boiling River to wear some sort of strap on sandals or water socks. The rocks are slippery, and some are rather large. It can be tricky to maneuver around in the water, especially when you are looking for the perfect spot to sit or swim. I tried the first time bare-foot. I learned my lesson, and wore my sandals when I went back in (after setting my bag down on the shore). Jason was wearing flip flops, and when one caught on a rock and popped up, he slipped. It could have been a disaster!

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

There were 2-3 areas that almost seemed like the rocks were placed just so, creating man-made hot tubs (I’m guessing people put the rocks that way to create sitting areas). Temps in these areas were perfect for basking. Unfortunately, those areas were pretty full of families who got there long before us.

Our kids had a great time swimming, testing the different areas, and skipping rocks across the river (which isn’t very wide). We would definitely come back the next time we come to Yellowstone.

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