West Yellowstone, Montana#PNW . Idaho . Montana . Outdoor Recreation . Trailer Camping . Travel
Yellowstone Vacation – Recommended 7 Day Itinerary (Day 4)
You are viewing Day 4 of our 7-Day Itinerary for Yellowstone National Park, “West Yellowstone, Montana.” Click on any of the days in the list below to view the post for other days. You can also click here to view our full, printable 7-Day itinerary with highlights from each day to help you plan your own adventure to and through Yellowstone National Park.
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Day 4: Lake Day and West Yellowstone – THIS POST
We may be some of the most recent visitors to Henrys Lake and this corner of Idaho, but there’s a much longer record of visitors, residents, and settlers in this area. Henrys Lake and the surrounding area have always provided a rich, fertile region for hunting and fishing, dating back to the earliest human migration and settlement. Even though early canoes and boats looked nothing like today’s recreational kayaks, I like to think there’s at least a slight connection between the two and the history of this place.
“10,000 Years of History. This area is believed to have been inhabited by humans for at least the last 10,000 years. Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead and Sheepeater tribes either migrated through here to fish or hunt bison, deer and elk, or made permanent encampments here. Europeans first came to Henrys Lake in 1810. Major Andrew Henry, a partner in the Missouri Fur Trading Company, brought between 50 to 80 men to what is now St. Anthony to establish a trading center. After a bitter winter, 27 men had either died or been killed, many suffered from snow blindness, and all of them were forced to eat their horses to survive. In spring 1811, Henry and his surviving men trudged to Montana where they had been trapping before coming to this area. The lake and a nearby portion of the Snake River bear the major’s name.”– Interpretive Sign at Henrys Lake State Park, Idaho State Parks and Recreation
After a long day of hiking around Yellowstone, we decided to spend a day close to camp, kayaking the lake and exploring the small Montana town of West Yellowstone, a quaint, rural outpost at the West Entrance of the National Park. For now, though, we inflated our two-person kayak and dragged Nyah’s new youth kayak to the lake shore and set out on an adventure of our own. We didn’t cruise around the entire lake, just the Southern shore. The sun shone bright and the water sparkled as we paddled along the marshy shoreline, past pelicans and ducks and smaller mountain birds flitting around the foliage. We are the latest to explore this area, transient adventurers just passing through.
“There are many stories of remarkable, rugged settlers who came to this area seeking adventure and a piece of land. One of those was Gilman Sawtell who was the first homesteader near Henrys Lake. He came West from Massachusetts after fighting in the Civil War. On Henrys Lake, he developed a commercial fishery, sometimes catching 90,000 pounds of cutthroat a year. He sold the fish in Butte and Virginia City, Montana, and packed it on ice for a train ride to Ogden, Utah, where it sold for nine cents a pound. When Idaho outlawed the sale of wild trout in 1890, Joe Sherwood built a fish hatchery on the lake to raise rainbow trout for commercial sale. This well-educated, enterprising entrepreneur also operated the first cruise boat on Henrys Lake and ran Island Park’s first sawmill. His most notable achievement, however, was the invention of the world’s first snowmobile – for which he held the patent – developed right here at Henrys Lake.”– Interpretive Sign at Henrys Lake State Park, Idaho State Parks and Recreation
We both grew up in the Pacific Northwest, Michelle in Central Idaho and me in Central Oregon. So we’ve both been a little spoiled when it comes to colorful Western towns rich with history like Sisters or Joseph, Oregon, and McCall, Idaho, where Michelle was born. West Yellowstone is a bit of a combination of each of these charming Western towns, but with more souvenir shops catering to the hoards of tourists that pass through town each summer.
The main strip, from the Slippery Otter Pub and Eatery down to the stoplight and turn into the West Gate of Yellowstone, has all the t-shirts, key chains, and Yellowstone paraphernalia you’ll ever need for family and friends back home. The fossil and rock shop has interesting minerals and rocks for sale, and a collection of LPs for sale in the back (A few days ago, I mentioned Neil Diamond singing Red, Red Wine; if you hurry, you can pick up one of his LPs right here in West Yellowstone. My all-time favorite is Hot August Nights, but (1) they didn’t have a copy, and (2) I already have my dad’s original record in my collection).
Firehole Avenue has a few good restaurants, and you’ll find a variety of hotels and cabins for rent closer to the West Entrance to Yellowstone. If you get tired of the touristy shops along Canyon Street, head over to Yellowstone Avenue and check out the historic center and buildings from the visitor center down toward Iris Street and the community learning centers. And if you’re here in the winter, you can ride your snowmobile on most city streets, except for the main highways in and out of town.