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National Smokejumper Center Service Project at West Yellowstone

Program Number: 19543RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/8/2014 - 6/13/2014;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: West Yellowstone, Montana
Price starting at: $849.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Service Learning
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free    

In the 1920s, the National Forest Service built the Madison Ranger Station buildings that housed many of the men and women who oversaw the administration of forest lands. The recently moved buildings continue to serve as the hub of the National Smokejumper Center, educating people about the proud history of smokejumpers and fostering wildlands stewardship. Help honor the legacy of these brave firefighters by upgrading and preserving the Madison Ranger Station buildings and landscaping the new grounds of the National Smokejumper Center.


• Help restore and build up historic Madison Ranger Station log structures.
• Learn about the history of the ranger station, smoke-jumper wilderness firefighters, Junior Smokejumper program, ecology and management of fire.
• Explore Montana's surrounding national forest lands and enjoy an afternoon in Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful area.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile a day; varied and uneven terrain. Elevations of 6,666-7,365 feet.

Coordinated by University of Montana Western.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone is a lively community hugging the western edge of the nation’s first park. The town is surrounded by forests and rangeland and is an ideal entry point into a land of incredible beauty created by a violent geologic past.

Comfortable motel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Yellowstone Lodge
  West Yellowstone, MT 5 nights
 Yellowstone Lodge
Type: Motel
  Description: A modern, comfortable motel in Yellowstone National Park's West Gateway Community, the lodge is within walking distance of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, IMAX Theatre and downtown. Remember, you are experiencing the atmosphere of a small, rural community and meal options are naturally limited. Meals served at local restaurants; sack lunches in the field. Please be aware that not all dietary requirements can be accommodated at this site. You may wish to bring supplementary items. Questions? call University of Montana Western Road Scholar (406) 683-7302.
  Contact info: 251 South Electric Street
West Yellowstone, MT 59758 USA
phone: 877-239-9298
  Room amenities: Individually controlled heat and air-conditioning, Cable TV, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, Wi-Fi, hair dryer, clock radio, telephone with data port and voice mail, iron/ironing board.
  Facility amenities: Heated indoor swimming pool and whirlpool spa, coin-operated guest laundry, deluxe complimentary breakfast, free wireless Internet available in lobby/laptop available.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Varies. Seasonal rates; call for information (877) 239-9298.
  Check in time: 4:30 PM
  Additional nights after: Varies. Seasonal rates; call for information (877) 239-9298.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Registration at motel between 4 and 5 PM. You will be staying at Yellowstone Lodge that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after brunch; airport shuttle departs at noon. You will be staying at Yellowstone Lodge the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Please bring Golden Age, Senior or National Parks pass if you have one.
  Parking availability:
Airport parking is $5.50 per day.
To Start of Program
  Location:  West Yellowstone, MT
  Nearest city or town:  Bozeman, 89 miles to the north
  Nearest highway: State HWY 191
  Nearest airport:  Gallatin Field 10 miles west of Bozeman
  From End of Program
  Location: West Yellowstone, MT
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Bozeman, MT


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Greater Valley Taxi
phone: 406-388-7938
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Group rate is approximately $81.00; call for current group rate.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Two hours. 




89 miles.


Reservations must be made at least three days in advance; call (406) 388-7938 for rates and reservations. You may be asked to leave a message. Group shuttle departs airport at 1:30 pm. In order to take advantage of the group shuttle rate, your flight must arrive before 1 pm on Wednseday and depart after 3:00 pm on Monday. Arriving in Bozeman a day early or staying an extra day may be more economical than booking individual transportation.


Bozeman, MT


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Greater Valley Taxi
phone: 406-388-7938
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Group rate is approximately $81.00; call for current group rate.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Two hours. 




89 miles.


Return shuttle must be arranged at least three days in advance; call (406) 388-7938. Group shuttle departs site at 12:00 noon. Outside of the above scheduled times, individual transportation (not at group rate) can be reserved through Greater Valley Taxi (406) 388-7938 or Karst Stage (406) 556-3540 (72 hours notice required). Car rental and drop-off are available at the Bozeman airport; drop-off is not available in West Yellowstone or Yellowstone National Park.

Driving Directions
  Belgrade, MT Drive south on HWY 191 to West Yellowstone (89 miles).
  Billings, MT Drive east 150 miles on I-90 to Belgrade, then south 89 miles on HWY 191 to West Yellowstone.
  Cody, WY Drive west 148 miles on HWY 20/HWY 14-16 through Yellowstone Park to West Yellowstone. **BE SURE TO call (307) 344-2117 for road conditions, closures, construction, etc.
  Idaho Falls, ID Drive north on HWY 20 to West Yellowstone (100 miles).
Elevation Note: Lodgings and activities at altitudes ranging from 6,666' to 7800'

Equipment Requirements: Bring durable water bottle (At high altitudes you are more susceptible to dehydration and altitude sickness. Carrying a water bottle with you and drinking plenty of water is of utmost importance to avoid these sometimes dangerous problems.) and fanny or day pack. Bring binoculars for field day in Yellowstone.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-in, welcome dinner, orientation and introductions. Forester introduces work project goals and two possible work sites-the National Smokejumper Center and Forest Service outstation in Hebgen Lake Ranger District
(Sunday, June 8)
 Afternoon: Check-in between 4 and 5 PM.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at nearby restaurant; walk up to four blocks.
 Evening: Orientation and introductions followed by preview of work project goals for two work sites - The National Smokejumper Center in West Yellowstone and a Forest Service outstation located in Hebgen Lake Ranger District. The first work site is the Smokejumper Center housed in the historic Madison Ranger Station buildings in Yellowstone National Park's west gateway community of West Yellowstone, Montana. It honors the proud tradition and history of "smokejumper" wilderness firefighters and is committed to preserving smokejumper history and creating a unique educational experience for visitors of all ages, including providing inspiration to American youth to enable them to enjoy and be inspired to provide stewardship for America's wild lands. The second work site is in the Gallatin National Forest and will involve restoration of historic buildings at a Forest Service outstation.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Project orientation, walk through and safety meeting. Work projects begin. Tour the Yellowstone Historic Center, created to protect, preserve and display the rich travel history of Yellowstone National Park.
(Monday, June 9)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast on site.
 Morning: A ranger-led walk at Montana's historic Madison Ranger Station site puts things into perspective as you hear ranger station and National Smokejumper Center history. The site included a ranger station office, barn, garage/shop and small house. The buildings supported administration of the area forest lands which were established as the Madison Forest Reserve in 1902. The area became the Madison National Forest in 1907; later, in 1931, the forest was divided among Montana's Beaverhead, Deerlodge and Gallatin National Forests. The buildings are are now located at the new site of the National Smokejumper Center which is directly adjacent to Yellowstone National Park's west entrance. Group will divide, working in two work sites. The first group will remain and the Smokejumper Center to help with facility maintenance and the second group will shuttle to the Forest Service outstation. Project orientation for both sites, walk through of projects at each site, safety meeting and begin work projects.
 Lunch: Sack lunches on site.
 Afternoon: Work projects continue. The Smokejumper Center site projects include minor touch up jobs and cleaning after the site has been closed during the winter months and some facility maintenance. The Forest Service outstation projects include restoration of historic cabins, horse barn and corrals. Since 1872, folks have been fascinated by Yellowstone and have traveled from around the world to visit Wonderland. Train service to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park was provided by Union Pacific in 1908. Appreciate a later afternoon, docent-led walking tour at the Yellowstone Historic Center which is located within the Oregon Short Line Terminus Historic District - created to protect, preserve and display the rich travel history of Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone Historic Center is situated in the 1909 Depot, a grand setting for an historic American travel museum. Other buildings on site include the imposing Dining Hall, Pylon, Baggage Building,Generator Room, Oil House, Men's Dorm, Water Tower and Pump House, all built by Union Pacific between 1908 and 1929.
 Dinner: Catered dinner at lodgings.
 Evening: Free evening to rest, explore West Yellowstone, check out the IMAX Theater or the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Work projects continue. Explore the West Yellowstone Interagency Fire Center's Smokejumper/Air Tanker Base. Hear history and tradition of smokejumper wilderness firefighters.
(Tuesday, June 10)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast on site.
 Morning: Daily briefing; project work.
 Lunch: Catered lunches at work sites.
 Afternoon: Work projects continue. Travel to nearby West Yellowstone Interagency Fire Center's Smokejumper/Air Tanker Base, one of nine permanent smokejumper bases located throughout the western United States. Smokejumpers are wildland firefighters whose job it is to suppress fires in remote areas of our nation's forests and rang elands. Their primary mission is to get to the fires fast before the flames grow out of control. They are trained to jump out of airplanes since this is often the fastest way to the fire. However, as primary firefighters, smokejumpers may travel to fire by parachute, helicopter, vehicles, by foot; whatever mode of transportation is most efficient. Center personnel leads exploration; examine parachute loft, fire gear and more.
 Dinner: Dinner at nearby restaurant; walk up to four blocks.
 Evening: Evening presentation by Smokejumper staff.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Work projects continue then into Yellowstone National Park for an afternoon/evening exploration of the Lower, Midway and Upper Geyser Basins.
(Wednesday, June 11)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant; walk three blocks.
 Morning: Daily briefing and project work.
 Lunch: Sack lunches on site.
 Afternoon: Work projects continue. Mid afternoon field trip departure into Yellowstone National Park via Madison River to Madison Junction area. Naturalist provides on-board interpretation which includes geyser basin and regional geology, wildlife and habitats and human history of the area. Bring camera, binoculars for wildlife viewing and a walking stick if you use one. Travel along the Firehole River to Old Faithful via Lower and Midway Geyser Basins. Exploration may include colorful Fountain Paintpot. On to grand Old Faithful's pluming eruption and the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Peek into historic Old Faithful Inn, a massive log hotel built of local stone and logs in the winter of 1903-04 within viewing distance of Old Faithful Geyser. Centered around the 500 ton fireplace, the magnificent lobby sports raw pine ceilings 76 1/2 feet high. The Inn, a masterpiece of rustic architecture, is one of the few remaining log hotels in the U.S. and is now a National Historic Landmark. Walk Geyser Hill to experience Giantess and Beehive geysers and many more! See, hear and smell awesome thermal features - hot springs, geysers, mudpots and fumaroles - and confide their surrounding hydrothermal life zone. Prepare for splendor! On-board and on-walk interpretation.
 Dinner: Dinner at Old Faithful Cafeteria.
 Evening: After dinner return to lodgings encompasses the crepuscular hour which offers prime time for wildlife viewing. Expect to see bison, elk, trumpeter swan, coyote, waterfowl, golden mantled ground squirrel, marmot, raven and more. On-board interpretation.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Work projects continue. Become familiar with the ecology of fire and how forest fires and wildfire are "managed."
(Thursday, June 12)
 Breakfast: Expanded continental breakfast on site.
 Morning: Daily briefing; work projects.
 Lunch: Catered lunches at work site.
 Afternoon: Work projects continue. Afternoon lecture. Public lands specialist describes the ecology of fire, a natural part of the ecosystem. Consider the stewardship mission of Wildland Fire operations and the vital role that WFO plays in overall successful ecosystem management.
 Dinner: Catered dinner at lodgings.
 Evening: Walk to nearby West Yellowstone Visitor Center for a ranger presentation pertaining to natural history of the Yellowstone area. The natural history topic will focus on geology, wildlife, current issues, habitats, life in hot water, predator/prey dynamics and/or human history, etc.
Accommodations: Yellowstone Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Work projects windup and closing.
(Friday, June 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at nearby restaurant; walk three blocks.
 Morning: Daily briefing; work projects windup and closing.
 Brunch: Catered, sit-down brunch at lodgings.
 Afternoon: Airport shuttle departs at 12 noon.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Brunch

Free Time Opportunities
  West Yellowstone, MT Yellowstone National Park
Official web site for Yellowstone National Park. For additional information, visit
  Yellowstone Association
Founded in 1933 to assist with educational, historical and scientific programs that would benefit Yellowstone National Park and its visitors. Operates book sale outlets in park visitor centers which support expanded naturalist training and programs, finances publication of trail guides, books and pamphlets about the Park, helps with funding for museum exhibits and research equipment. The Yellowstone Association Institute sponsors outdoor courses for all age groups, some of which are especially designed for women, families and chldren. The Institute's purpose is to explore, understand and appreciate Yellowstone. For additional information, visit
  West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
provides local, area, Yellowstone National Park and statewide travel information For additional information, visit
  Free Heel and Wheel
Bike and ski rentals available For additional information, visit
  Rendezvous Ski Trails
Rendezvous Ski Trails consist of over 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows on US Forest Service ground. West Yellowstone winters offer reliable snow for a rewarding Nordic skier's experience. For the summer visitor, the trails offer a great place to walk, hike, run or mountain bike. Be aware that you may encounter wildlife such as bear, moose or elk so stay alert and be prepared. For additional information, visit
  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
Wildlife park and educational facility. For additional information, visit
  IMAX Theatre
Movie theatre offers educational movies including 'Yellowstone' in the IMAX film format. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

After the Fires: The Ecology of Change in Yellowstone National Park

Author: Linda Wallace, Editor

Description: The ravaging fires of 1988 caused many scientists to predict long-term devastation which did not come to pass. This scientific summary by wildlife biologists, ecosystem and forest scientists and landscape ecologists discusses the many things that changed and did not change in the Yellowstone area. Realize the role of fire in the ecosystem and the resiliency of nature.

High-mountain Two-manner: A Montana smokejumper recalls hitting the silk and the books in his college years

Author: Frank Fowler

Description: Related through letters written to his mother a half-century ago, blending past and present, the author describes his smokejumping years and the joy of working in the back-country amid the beauty of wild country. With roots in the east, a young man journeys west to attend college in Missoula, Montana and work summers for the Forest Service - three as a smokejumper - when the program was in its adolescence. Straight forward, inspirational and filled with love for the outdoors.

Splendid Was the Trail

Author: Kenneth D. Swan

Description: History/memoir illustrated by author's photographs document an important era in the history of the West, providing a detailed look at life and work in an isolated, sparsely populated region during the formative years of the US Forest Service. The author's career began with the Northern Region in 1911 when lands were mostly roadless and employees traveled long distances by horseback with a pack string. Lugging a 30-pound camera, he carefully took black-and-white photographs of remote places he visited; needless to say, he was transferred into the Forest Service's Information and Education Branch when it was established in the 1920s. He became an integral part of the development of the Camera Point program where he toured the Northern Region giving lectures, illustrated by his photographs, on forest conservation. These outreach opportunities revealed the unique beauty of remote, wild areas in Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas and captured the face of public lands, revealing its wildness and the value of conservation to the American public. KD Swan retired in 1947; 'his work had become art that transcended the mere recording of a place in time and today, a century later, his photographs still engage and entrance viewers and tell a resounding story about public lands in the west.' His photographs were used not only to illustrate a great variety of Forest Service publications - many of which he also authored - but also appeared in publications including National Geographic, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. A collection of his work is now housed in the National Archive in Washington D.C.

Breaking New Ground

Author: Gifford Pinchot

Description: Autobiography of Gifford Pinchot, founder and first chief of the Forest Service. Here is the courage and vision of a man who, under President Theodore Roosevelt, founded our country's conservation policy - "the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time" - by wresting the forests from economic special interests to bring them under management for multiple and long-range use. Editors introduce this commemorative edition by tracing the evolution of Pinchot's career in the context of his personal life and the social and environmental issues of his time.

Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder

Author: Richard Louv

Description: Nature deficit disorder or how today's kids are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Children learn science from nature and nature nurtures their creativity. The author argues for an awareness of and appreciation for the natural world for today's kids. Nature needs its children; where else will its future stewards come from?

The Forest Service and the Greatest Good: A Centennial History

Author: James Lewis

Description: Beginning with its roots in the 1800s to today, America's largest and oldest federal land management agency has interpreted for the "greatest good." First there was timber, grazing and watershed protection, later recreation, wildlife and wilderness and then ecosystem management. Documented here is the establishment of the National Forest System and subsequent conservation policies and the numerous men and women who address natural resource management conflicts on our 193 million acres of federal land.

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone National Park

Author: George Black

Description: Consider the history of the exploration of Yellowstone National Park through this "historical account of the origins of America's majestic national landmark." The author's well-documented history is a realistic look at people and political and economic factors; his book is sectioned into Pathfinders, Civilizers, Soldiers, Explorers and Tourists. "He casts Yellowstone's creation as the culmination of three interwoven strands of history - the passion for exploration, the violence of the Indian Wars and the 'civilizing' of the frontier and charts its course through the lives of those who sought to lay bare its mysteries."

Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country

Author: William Fritz & Robert Thomas

Description: Updated, classic roadside geology book for the Yellowstone Region explains current geological theories.

Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America

Author: Rocky Barker

Description: The Yellowstone fires brought to the forefront longstanding conflict over whether federal land management should go with immediate fire suppression procedures or the ‘let it burn’ philosophy. The author, who experienced the Yellowstone fires of 1988 as an environmental reporter there, reviews US wildlands fire history by highlighting wildlands fire management. Discussion of this history and the history of federal lands management considers how these policies shaped the protection of public lands in the US today. Further explained are the details behind the creation of Yellowstone National Park and the role the US Army played in ‘protecting Yellowstone and shaping public lands in the West.’

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