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Originally published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 1:41 PM

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See Yellowstone before the summer crowds arrive

Get to Yellowstone National Park before the summer rush; here's where to get travel information online.

The Associated Press

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There's still snow in the high country, but spring is a good time to go to this land of geysers and bears and bison before summer crowds overrun the landscape.

Whether you go now or wait until summer, go to the park's main Web page — www.nps.gov/yell/ — to learn about the history of America's first national park, its wildlife and the awesome scenery. "Photos & Multimedia" has a Webcam aimed at the Old Faithful geyser, and a collection of videos you access by clicking on a park map. Click into the digital slide file for thousands of images, including a big library of historical photos. As with any national park Web site, "Plan Your Visit" has lots of valuable info on things to see and do and know before you go; this one adds an interactive map where you can learn even such mundane but needed details as the locations of the laundry at Fishing Bridge and of the showers at Grant Village.

Since Yellowstone is so popular, it's spawned lots of Web sites offering park information along with connections to commercial sites that you might find useful.

Yellowstone Net — www.yellowstone.net/ _ advertises lodging reservations, hotel reviews, and information on the area's fly-fishing, waterfalls (check the photo of Union Falls), geysers, wildlife, Top 10 attractions and more Webcams. They also have a link to the Yellowstone Association, a nonprofit organization that provides educational services supporting the park.

Look under "Things to Do" at YellowstonePark.comwww.yellowstonepark.com/ — for another list of Top 10 Things To Do, including whitewater rafting and hiking some of the park's 1,300 miles of trails. They have their own collection of videos about the park and surrounding region, and podcast guides. And if you click on "Maps & Travel Routes," you'll find downloadable guides for your road trips to the park from major starting points including Denver and Salt Lake City.

Don't forget that this is a great slice of the outdoors begging for you to park the car and go exploring. The outdoors specialists at GORP have a guide — www.tinyurl.com/cf9znp — to the park's nature trails, fishing and boating, and wildlife viewing. They also list scenic drives.

The site www.yellowstoneparknet.com/ has more links to the region's motels, lodges, cabins and guest ranches, under the "Lodging" heading. There are links to resorts that offer package specials and deals under "Travel." Look to the upper left part of the page for "RV & Camping" parks throughout the area. And if you're not driving across the country, "Travel" also has information on airports and airlines.

If you want to stay in one of the park's famous lodges, they're operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts — www.travelyellowstone.com/ — which also runs lodgings in other major parks. Try for a room in the Old Faithful Inn, the huge log hotel whose original section was finished in 1904. Look for "see more photos" under the geyser picture on the right to see what the inn looks like, especially the immense rustic lobby. Xanterra also has reservations for campgrounds and cabins inside the park.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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