In all my visits to Yellowstone, whether for hiking or kayaking, I never encountered a bear in either the backcountry or the human-infested areas.
BUT I have seen their scat there. My impression is that bear encounters are more likely near the SE portion of Yellowstone Lake than at Shoshone Lake. Also at Heart Lake, which is extremely popular for backpacking.
The bear attacks that've made the news seem to always involve backpackers.
Could it be that they're not quite as careful about clean camp practices as the rangers tell them to be? Hmmm!
But you'll definitely see people in summer. Whether YOU think it's crowded or not depends on what you're used to. Also depends on whether the big groups (outfitters) actually occupy those sites they book so far in advance, or whether they cancel the day before due to not having enough customers to fill that trip. It's a crapshoot, and we can never be sure if we'll see just a couple other backcountry campers or most sites we paddle by will be occupied.
4-place Boat Trailer
The Kayak Wing
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