January 10, 2013
Exploring Yellowstone: Hot, Smelly Geysers and Springs
Yellowstone National Park
To really experience Yellowstone, one must visit the Geysers and Springs. Scalding water, emerald pools and the most potent rotten egg smell ever. How could we pass up that?
Yellowstone is divided into different basins and each basin contains many Geysers and Springs. I picked out a few of our favorites as recommendations for anyone visiting the park.
West Thumb Geyser Basin
I found this to be the most unique Geyser area in Yellowstone. The basin is located directly on the western shore of Yellowstone Lake. It dumps an average of 31,000 gallons of hot water into the lake every day, keeping it at a much warmer temperature than what it should be at it’s elevation. My favorite Geyser in the basin is the Fishing Cone. Unlike most Geysers in Yellowstone, this one is located in Yellowstone Lake. Supposedly a member of the 1870 Washburn Expedition described a Geyser on the shore of an alpine lake where you could catch a trout and cook it without every having to take it off the line, thus the name Fishing Cone.
Great Fountain Geyser
In my opinion, this is one of the prettiest formations in Yellowstone. The Great Fountain Geyser is still active, erupting between 9 and 15 hours and shoots water up between 75 and 220 feet. The reason I liked it so much was because of the rock formations that seem to spiral into the center of the Geyser.
Old Faithful Geyser
Yellowstone’s most famous Geyser, Old Faithful was the first Geyser in the park to receive a name. It is also one of the most predictable geographical features on Earth, erupting almost every 91 minutes. It can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet. Although impressed with the Geyser, I fell in love with the historical Old Faithful Inn, located nearby and recommend it to anyone visiting the park.
Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Heads up. It smells terrible. The water sloshes in and out of a cavern along with hot steam and strange noises. Did I mention it smells terrible? Get a taste (or smell) of what sulfur from the thermal features of Yellowstone really smells like by visiting Dragon’s Mouth Spring.
Fountain Paint Pots
These mud pots are located in the Lower Geyser Basin and are named for the reds, yellows and browns in the mud. The colors are from oxidation states of the iron in the mud. When we were there the mud was pretty thick but I’ve heard the consistency of the paint pots depends on how it has rained.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Easily the most famous spring in Yellowstone, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world. It is located in Midway Geyser Basin and is named for it’s color, especially the coloring around the edges. That color is caused by bacteria. We had a hard time seeing the Spring because it was a cool day and when cool air meets the hot air from the Springs, it creates a fog/steam.
White Dome Geyser
We were so enchanted by the White Dome Geyser because it looked like a mini volcano. It is located on Firehole Lake drive. The Geyser is surrounded by a 12 foot tall geyserite cone which is one of the largest in the parks. The eruptions are unpredictable but the Geyser itself was pretty neat.
Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active Geyser, which is why it should added to your list of sights to see! Major eruptions may be more than 300 feet in height! But don’t get too excited as these eruptions are unpredictable. Records show it could be four days to fifty years between each eruption. There are smaller eruptions that occur more frequently, however. We didn’t see one.
A full listing of Yellowstone’s Geothermal Features can be found on Wikipedia. Also available is a virtual tour of the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Don’t forget that although they look amazing and harmless, these are all very dangerous geothermal features, ranging in hot temperatures and are unpredictable.