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  • J.F. Rowan

Soda Butte-Grizzly Incident

(JULY 12, 2019) "Soda Butte", that was the name of one of several national forest campgrounds we were heading to when we pulled out of Cody, WY. Neither one of us were sure what to expect along the way or even the destination itself. The fact that we were heading to one of the most popular national parks in the country made us wonder what would be available seeing how we were still in "Peak Season." But when we arrived outside the northeastern part of Yellowstone after a long day of driving, some of our questions were answered, but more questions would come into play.

As we pulled into the campground named Soda Butte, as we always do when we first arrive, we drive most if not all of the camping area to scope out what’s available and get an overview of the layout. We noticed that one entire loop (lower) seemed to have been abandoned. Not that we were seeing anything there that looked decent for us, it just seemed like the loop may have been for tents or smaller campers and did not look like it had been maintained in a while. Once we were done, we settled into one of the sites in the back of the park, just above the lower loop. But I couldn’t help feeling like something was strange here, it just didn’t feel…normal.

As I said, we had a few campgrounds in mind, and Soda Butte was the third and last campground we had visited before stopping for the day. As we suspected, the first campgrounds were full, or nearly so. Soda Butte had plenty of spaces open so we found a nice spot and settled in.

And, according to the camp host, this campground had the fewest mosquitos of the three we looked at. And though he wasn’t lying, the little blood suckers were still present especially when the sun went down. But the “skeeters” that were present, were serious and pros at their job. Soft landings, expert drilling, and a quick stealthy departure left us with a few welts and fairly itchy.

As it turns out, the loop we drove through that we thought was abandoned, had been closed about a year ago because of a fatal bear attack. If you want to read about the incident, click HERE.

We camped about 200 feet from where some of the tragedy occurred. Though we never saw a bear in the short time we were there, we did see plenty of sign.

A rough timeline of the bear attack the previous year. This was taken from one of the online news sources.

As we had planned, we departed the next day hoping to get an early shot at a campground slot inside Yellowstone National Park itself. All of these sites inside the park are first-come-first-serve so it’s hard to know what's available, and what's not. The fact that it’s Yellowstone, you have to assume that everything is full and the only chance you have at getting a spot is to be there early, and well, start hovering. And that’s what we did. And so the next day, we scored a fairly mediocre site inside the park at a place called Slough Creek CG (Campground). Stay tuned...

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