Day 8, 9 & 10, August 12, 13 & 14, 2016
Mom and I spent three days in Yellowstone National Park, touring around and seeing geothermal features, wildlife, architecture, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Rather than trying to do them chronologically, I am going to just do posts for each area of interest within the park, plus some posts for specifics. Who knows where this will lead! Hang on for the ride!
Geothermal feature is the name that encompasses all of the hot water ‘stuff’ in the park. Within that large grouping, there are:
- Geysers – They are the most famous features, because they erupt! Some of them regularly, some rarely. Water in a geyser reaches temperatures of over 400 degrees F!
- Hot Springs – These are hot water pools where the water circulates to the surface, steams and cools down, and then sinks back down to the bottom to be replaced by new hot water. This convection process never allows the water to get quite hot enough to erupt.
- Fumaroles – These are the hottest features. The water is so hot it flashes into steam before it has a chance to pool. They make hissing noises from the steam and gases.
- Mud Pots – These are hot springs that have a limited water supply and are very acidic. The organisms that live in them create sulfuric acid which breaks down the rock into clay, giving the mud look. These smell like sulfur.
- Travertine Terraces – These are found at Mammoth Hot Springs. Thermal waters travel through limestone, with lots of carbonate. Carbon dioxide is released at the surface and calcium carbonate creates travertine, which gives the terraces the chalky white rock look. They are unstable and change frequently.
Hot springs are the most common features in the park and we found lots of them! As we made our way around, many areas have boardwalks where you can get close to the springs in a safe environment. People were respectful and careful, and fortunately in control of their children – I can only imagine a toddler running and tripping here!
There were lots of different colors – oranges and blues and more subdued grays – of course I loved the more colorful ones best!
Several of the springs are located in close proximity to one another. We found the “Land of Lost Hats” right near the Old Faithful Geyser. Don’t try to go get it if it flies off your head!
Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most famous springs in the park – it combines blues with bright oranges. It is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world! The blue is caused by the reflection off of particles in the water. The oranges are caused by microbial mats. Interestingly, in winter the microbial mats are more dark green, as the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids changes with the seasons.
Grand Prismatic Spring is a popular area – expect waits for parking in the summer. You also get views of the river and several other springs, making it worthwhile to stop and wander around.
Firehole Spring is located off of Firehole Drive, a 3 mile detour from the main road that has a lake and several geysers and springs. It also has the oranges and blues in abundance.
You could probably spend years looking at all the springs and never see them all. Not to mention you might not be able to identify them later when you look at your photos! I was fascinated though – comparing all the shapes and colors, and watching the steam rise up from them. What a sight!