Yellowstone Through The Back Door

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After the irrigation proposals were defeated, the Bechler region settled back into the anonymity it enjoys to this day. Poaching remained a problem for decades, and Bechler-area rangers still spend much of the off-season patrolling for illegal hunters. But the other controversies swirling in and around the park—from the devastating fires of 1988 to the re-introduction of wolves and the slaughter of bison wandering beyond the park’s boundaries—seem a world away. The Bechler area has made only minor headlines in the 1990s, once in September 1993, when crews finally went in to retrieve the wreckage of an Air Force bomber that had crashed near Trischman Knob thirty years earlier, and again in the spring of 1995, when Yellowstone officials announced the park would start charging its regular entrance fees to the Bechler district, despite the fact that the road dead-ends just two miles into the park.

During the 1920s, perhaps to make the Bechler country less remote for tourists, Horace Albright proposed a thirty-mile road from Lone Star Geyser near Old Faithful down the Bechler River Canyon. A preliminary survey was done, but no road was built. So the Bechler entrance remains Yellowstone’s most quiet by far, with no teeming visitor center, no cafeteria, nothing but a mimeographed brochure offering suggestions for hikes and tips for avoiding bears. The Bechler country is no longer undiscovered, exactly, but getting there takes a certain determination and a willingness not only to walk or ride horseback for many miles and ford thigh-deep rivers but also to let nature take the reins. And that, Bechler aficionados will tell you, is just the way wilderness ought to be.

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