Monday, October 14, 2013

An Appreciation of National Park Bookstores in Wyoming

When we visited the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone national parks in September, Bonnie and I wanted to see many things, including mountains, waterfalls, beautiful lakes, Old Faithful and other geysers, hot springs, and a long list of wildlife. We saw four bears (two black and two grizzly), a gray wolf, bald eagles, river otters, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, elk, and many herds of bison. Sadly, we never saw a moose, despite repeatedly going to their favorite locations. What we did not expect to see in abundance were bookstores.

For several years, the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores has been a frequent topic in the news. From what we saw in September, they thrive in the mountain air, as our national parks preserve bookstores along with wildlife. The stores might not be built with bricks, however. The one near the hot springs basin at Norris (Yellowstone) is in a log cabin. Most of the others were inside very modern visitors centers. I was impressed with their rich offerings.

As you might expect, big beautiful photo books aimed at visitors wanting souvenirs of their visits claimed central display space, often flanked by travel guides filled with practical information and field guides identifying local flora, fauna, and geology. Every store was well stocked with local histories, biographies, and memoirs, and I saw books about the parks' most celebrated animals, especially bears, wolves, and bison. All had children's books, and most had several shelves of fiction, featuring novels set in the parks. The bookstore at Canyon Village Visitors Center (Yellowstone) even had a selection of science journal article reprints about geothermal forces, wildlife population dynamics, and the ecology of wildfire.

Just like any modern well-run bookstore, these bookstores also sell gifts. We saw lots of plush toys, tasteful carvings, mugs, and such. The store in the Colter Bay Visitors Center (Grand Tetons) even sold binoculars. Only a few sold T-shirts, which were usually found at the nearby gift shops, but they all sold bear spray. Every shop in western Wyoming must sell bear spray!

My favorite bookstores were as follows:

  1. Colter Bay Visitors Center (Grand Tetons) 
  2. Norris Information Station (Yellowstone) 
  3. Canyon Village Visitors Center (Yellowstone) 
  4. Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center (Grand Tetons) 
  5. Old Faithful Visitors Education Center (Yellowstone) 

So, if you are planning a trip to the national parks in Wyoming, do not worry that you are not taking enough to read. The bookstores have much to offer. And if you do not see any moose, you can at least buy a book about them at a national park bookstore.

No comments: