I had managed to get us a week at a campground inside Yellowstone starting on July 26, but we had another week to kill before that; so we decided to move as near to Yellowstone as possible for that remaining time. I found a great RV review website, which help me settle on the Red Rock RV Park about 20 miles away from the west entrance to Yellowstone.
While we were once again disappointed by a lack of trees, Red Rock RV was a pleasant enough place to pass the next week and finally settle into trailer life. The camp is located five miles off Highway 20, the main road to Yellowstone, on a paved but lightly-used country road. It was certainly remote and quiet enough; it's right in the middle of a huge pastureland, with grazing cattle all around the camp, and a forested mountain just across the road.
The staff and campers at Red Rock were very friendly, and so was the local wildlife. Robins were everywhere, and very unafraid of the people. One pair of adults had a half-grown baby that followed them around, hopping after mama across the lawns and hiding under chairs and other man-made objects. Other local fauna included some kind of small ground squirrel that scampered constantly around the campground and on the road, standing upright like a tiny prairie dog to survey the landscape, then bounding away at incredible speed with its long skinny tail held fully erect.
We spent the week here alternating between exploratory drives into Yellowstone and local
activities. One evening we attended a local rodeo/barbecue at a kind of
"rodeo camp", where for only $500/week during the summer, you can
get rid of educate your
teen-aged fledgling cowpoke in the fine arts of bull-riding, bronco-busting, and
barrel-racing. The rodeo was mostly an excuse for the kiddos to show off
for admiring family members, but the barbecue vittles was good eatin'.
We took several hikes on local trails around the RV park. Nothing spectacular, but one day on a hike in the woods we made an interesting discovery: this makeshift, tumbledown lean-to. Who could have built it and used it?
We also saw, and snapped, many lovely wildflowers.
The owner of Red Rock recommended a local "river float" as a possible activity for us. A company in the nearby town of Island Park rents boats -- rafts, canoes, or flat-bottomed fishing boats -- for a leisurely float in the local river, a branch off the Snake. They drive you and your chosen craft five miles upriver, so you can float back downstream right to your parked car at the rental office.
We soon discovered we'd made a fatal mistake by going early on a Saturday morning, at the same time as several large family groups. While Mike and I were seeking the peace and serenity of lazily flowing water, the several dozen youngsters occupying six rafts in our vicinity obviously believed they were competing in a hollering contest.
In self-defense, we discovered that we could stray off the main river into many winding side channels, removing us from the assault of the screamers. On one of these explorations, we spooked a duck and her dozen duckling charges. The babies immediately turned into tiny paddlewheels, churning for all they were worth onto the bank and a safe hiding place. We followed the adult for several hundred yards as she squawked and flapped her way ahead of us around bend after bend, either protesting our presence or luring us away from the brood, we couldn't decide which. Alongside her was a fledgling who seemed to be a trainee decoy, now and then imitating her behavior.
In other side trips, we discovered several well-maintained, impressive beaver dams. Unfortunately we never encountered the local architects. We did see a couple of bald eagles flapping their way downriver, and found a nest with a fledgling atop a nearby power pole. And we saw some cormorants perched high in the dead branches of a tall tree.
We also had a few distant glimpses of some much smaller mammals swimming just under the surface of the water, or close to the banks. Finally, toward the end of our voyage, we were treated to the sight of one of these little creatures swimming the entire width of the river, right in front of the bow of our boat. It was dragging a very long plant leaf in its mouth and swam doggedly around our canoe, determined to reach its destination. We maneuvered the canoe to follow it until it disappeared into an underwater hole in the opposite bank. Mike observed that he must have found one tasty morsel, to work that hard to deliver it home.
Once we got away from the crowds, the float trip turned out to be a lovely way to wrap up our week at Red Rock, a serene day spent with water and wildlife. Just what we'd come for.