West 2016: Yellowstone Geysers

Day 8, 9 & 10, August 12, 13 & 14, 2016

Yellowstone has at least 1,283 geysers that have erupted in the park and approximately 465 of them are active in any given year. Geysers are characterized by the intermittent eruptions of super-heated water that ejects from them, with some of the water turning into steam as it hits the cooler air. They only occur where there is magma close to the surface of the earth, which is required to heat the water to the necessary temperature.

There are two types of geysers, a fountain geyser and a cone geyser. The fountain type is a geyser that erupts from a pool of water – Grand Geyser, the tallest predictable geyser on earth is a fountain geyser. A cone geyser erupts from cones or mounds of siliceous sinter – Old Faithful is a cone geyser.

Sponge Geyser – no excitement here.


Some of the geysers we saw were just bubbling quietly, not erupting.  Not nearly as exciting as an erupting geyser, but mesmerizing in their own right…

Aurum Geyser Bubbling


The Lion Geyser Group – with a mini-eruption…


Young Hopeful Geyser – doesn’t it look hopeful!?


Beehive Geyser – when erupting it sprays 200 feet in the air!


We also saw White Dome Geyser erupting. We were in the car driving toward it, and by the time we got there it was done. It erupts every 15 minutes to 3 hours, most commonly every 20 – 30 minutes, but we didn’t stick around to see the next one. There is only so much time in a day at such a big park!

White Dome Geyser, erupting!


White Dome Geyser, not erupting

We did see Old Faithful erupt twice while we were in Yellowstone. Old Faithful is located in the Upper Geyser Basin of the park and is one of the most predictable geysers there. It erupts approximately once every 65 and 91 minutes – the interval between eruptions depends on the length of the last eruption. It shoots high into the air, between 106 and 185 feet, and each eruption lasts between 90 seconds and five minutes.  What a sight to see!

Old Faithful Geyser

Interestingly, Old Faithful was once used as a laundry. In 1882, General Philip Sheridan’s men were stationed in Yellowstone and they used to throw their dirty clothes into the geyser, to be ejected clean with the next eruption (I am not sure what happened if you didn’t catch them before they fell to the ground though). Apparently linen and cotton clothes came out just fine, but wool clothing got ripped to shreds. Don’t try this when you go folks…  I have a feeling this type of behavior is frowned upon…

Next up – Mud Pots!


14 thoughts on “West 2016: Yellowstone Geysers

  1. Absolutely a fantastic read 🙂 we could well be heading down here next week!! Do you know of any good 3-5 night hikes in the park? And get a good chance to see wolves? We have had a few adventures of our own you might enjoy 🙂 check out a few of my reads would love some feedback 🙂

    • Hi there! Thanks for the follow! I was actually in Yellowstone again a few weeks ago (although these posts are from last year’s trip). We saw wolves both in the Lamar Valley and the Hayden Valley, but had better luck in the Lamar Valley. There is a pack that stays pretty stationary in the Hayden Valley, they are easily found by just watching for the great pack of people with spotting scopes perched on the hill. Several of them are happy to show pics, loan their scopes to see them and talk to you about what they know. The Hayden Valley pack was there last year and this year. The Lamar Valley has more wolves that we saw and way fewer people watching for them there, but for us, it was the better spotting. You need a good scope or binoculars and even then they are typically so far away they are very small. We saw 2 black bears – one as we headed toward the Lamar Valley from the Canyon area – coming down from Dunraven Pass I believe, and the other in Lamar Valley. A ranger told us there is a grizzly and her cubs currently hanging out in the area near the Petrified Tree (we didn’t see her). At least she was there a few weeks ago.

      Let me know if there is other info you would like! And have a great time!

      I didn’t do much hiking while we were there, and most of our hikes were shorter because I traveled last year with my mom, who is in her 70s and this year with my nieces and nephew (10, 8 and 5). There is a new overlook to Grand Prismatic Spring that I wanted to do but couldn’t find the trailhead for. I believe it is the Fairy Falls trailhead. There is also a walk along the LeHardy Rapids of the Yellowstone River where we saw several cutthroat trout hanging out in the protected pools beneath the boardwalks (so be sure to peer over the edge). I also thought the boardwalks at Mammoth Hot Springs were well worth the effort – the rock formations and colors there are beautiful!

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