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Yellowstone + Mount Rushmore

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore, information, experiences, mass tourism, tips and tricks.

Yellowstone lake
Yellowstone lake

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

For Americans, their national parks are not just a source of pride, but a part of their history that is passed down from generation to generation. They were the first in the world to inaugurate the principle of the national park in 1872 with Yellowstone.

With reason. It contains 2/3 of the planet's geysers. The reality is that it is one of the most amazing places in the world. Just by looking at the photos while preparing for my trip, I said to myself: ''The photos are retouched, it's impossible''! To be honest, the photos don't need so much editing because naturally, the colors of the pools are beautiful, almost unreal.

Plan several days in Yellowstone, this park covers 2.2 million acres, and has several attractions worth visiting. To give you an idea of its extent, crossing it by car from south to north takes more than 3 hours. Same thing from east to west.

West Thumb

black pool yellowstone west thumb cristal blue natural pool
Black Pool

It is a group of several basins, geysers and tourists as well. Prepare to have to make your way to take a picture, it's tourist madness. You will perhaps forget it, by plunging your eyes into the “Black Pool”, tinted with all the variations between black and crystal blue. The pond reaches a temperature of around 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). It overflows into nearby Yellowstone Lake, painting it with octopus arms that range in color from yellow to orange. Yellowstone Lake is magically pure. Small chimneys emerge from its bank. The phenomenon is intriguing. Continuing on the small landscaped path, you will be able to see several other pools a little smaller than the most popular pool of West Thumb (Black Pool).

There is a path laid out because it can be dangerous to walk directly on the ground which is not very stable and which can collapse, dragging your foot into more than boiling water.

Black Pool Yellow Arms, West Thumb
Black Pool Yellow Arms, West Thumb

The Old Faithful

Old Faithful Geyser (32 to 56 meters)
Old Faithful Geyser (32 to 56 meters)

Old Faithful Geyser produces one of the largest jets of hot water in the world after the Icelandic Strokkur. The height of its jet in the air can range from 32 to 56 meters. Allow at least two hours on site and more. Not that the spectacle of his explosion lasts all this time, but because it erupts within a 60-90 minute window. You may need to be patient. But it's worth it. Everyone holds their breath as the squalls of boiling water begin to issue quietly from its orifice at first. Then it bursts. It gets bigger and bigger, for 5 minutes. We wouldn't want it to stop, but gradually, the jet decreases. We can't help but applaud!

Grand Prismatic Spring

The largest hot spring in the United States, it displays all the colors of the rainbow. To be honest with you, it may be a beautiful place, but the ton of tourists there discouraged us from going to its observatory, we went our way. Today, with regret. I didn't have as much experience then with organizing travel film shoots and in hindsight, you definitely need to get to these places as soon as you can. In general, I believe you should spend double the time you planned in Yellowstone Park to have an enjoyable experience and to avoid mass tourism.

Fountain Paint Pots

Fountain Paint Pots yellowstone
Fountain Paint Pots

Another amazing place to watch the colors of the mineral-rich microbial mats, which make the ground burst with peculiar colors, hence the name paint pot fountains, literally translated. At this location, I especially liked the fact that we can experience smaller geysers that erupt a bit more frequently. You can place yourself directly in the fog of the hot-cold phenomenon that is created. The smell of rotten eggs is a little more pronounced in these places, but it is tolerable, especially with the beauties that we can see.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Terraces Mammoth Hot Springs yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs terraces

Surprisingly, one of my favorite filming locations in Yellowstone, because I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie. The landscape is surreal. These travertines were formed thousands of years ago and its color is once again due to micro-organisms or micro-algae. By paying attention, we observe a thin layer of water falling from these forms of terrestrial limestone, almost invisible as it flows silently. It was raining drizzles when I went and I think the experience was even more amazing because of that. It seemed to me that only those who take the time to observe this mammoth will be able to soak up the mysterious energy of this place.

Yellowstone waterfall

inferior waterfall yellowstone
Yellowstone waterfall

It is at this moment that we feel helpless and understand the importance of this huge park with life-size water games. The sound of the torrent reaches us from miles away. Perhaps the most impressive scenery is that of the Lower Falls, as it then empties into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The color palette on the premises is stunning. At 94 meters high (308 feet), it's hard not to be impressed.

Apart from all these natural aquatic formations, wild animal life is very active in Yellowstone. We were able to observe several large animals such as caribou and a bear!

If you plan to visit more than one national park in the United States

Money-saving tip: get the ''America the beautiful'' pass:

Please note that only national parks are included in this offer.

Which parks are included in the ''America the Beautiful'' pass:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

At the time, I lacked experience in organizing travel shoots, but sometimes the unexpected can lead to better experiences. The sun had already set for almost an hour when we arrived. I thought to myself, this will be a difficult shot to take, without lights. I approached the monument without much enthusiasm...

But the trip wanted to teach me something else about these places that had nothing to do with the symbolism of the statues or about the American mentality. Towards the end of the trip, I felt completely exhausted, not sleeping very well, added to the stress, lacking a budget, I had to return to Quebec at all costs as soon as possible. Impossible to add a few days to the shooting. We learn a lot about our profession by practicing it, that's what I was going to discover. I was going to find some hope.

So as I said, I move towards the hall of flags in the center of the attraction. I look away. I become positive again! The owners of the park had thought of everything. Huge jets of light illuminated the faces of the former presidents, allowing us to admire this unique troglodyte work, even after sunset. On top of that, I think there were barely ten of us on the site. Definitely the best time to go see this monument. Subsequently, I always believed in my lucky travel stars and luck always followed me for the other shoots.

approaching rushmore monument by night with flags
Approaching the Rushmore Monument

Observing these serious faces, one certainly wonders: but where does this incredible idea come from to represent four presidents of the United States (Left to right: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) sculpted in the Black Hills mountain ? Isn't it an oversized and rather megalomaniacal project, to illustrate 18-meter-tall (60-foot) busts of American leaders in this way? It is certainly not an obsession with greatness on the part of these presidents, despite having achieved great things, because all these presidents were already dead when the sculptures were created. Abraham Lincoln, last president of this series, was assassinated in 1865. The ''Sanctuary of Democracy'' (name given to the work) is a delusion of grandeur yes, but from its creators, Doane Robinson ( ideator) and Gutzon Borglum (supervisor and sculptor). Conducted from 1927 to 41, ''the four presidents were chosen to respectively represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of the nation'', explains the website of the United States National Park Service.

rushmore monument left to right : George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln
Gauche à droite: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt et Abraham Lincoln

I was surprised to learn, however, that the master idea came from historian Doane Robinson, who was inspired by another similar idea in the state of Georgia in the United States (Stone Mountain). Personally I liked his basic idea better which was rejected by the project manager Mr. Borglum. He wanted to represent explorer heroes of the West of the country which includes several Native Americans. This flick on Borglum's part leads me to believe that it is no coincidence that the Native American nation of the Sioux are claiming their stolen lands. Imagine arriving at a sacred place to perform a ceremony and that in these mountains, which are the oldest in the territory, the symbol of your persecutors is suddenly engraved there. Do you think they would have acted differently if it had been the depiction of their Native American ancestry?

Leave everything and travel, become a nomad. Many people dream of it, but many also fear doing it. Be inspired by the adventures of an independent travel filmmaker who challenged herself to make 10 travel films around the world and become a full-time nomad.

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