Tag Archive | Yellowstone National Park

West 2016: Yellowstone Hot Springs

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!

 

A gorgeous blue spring – Blue Star Spring!

 

The water is so clear in some of them!

 

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!

The orange is caused by the micro-organisms that live in the hot springs

 

I call this the Land of Lost Hats. It is windy here, and if you lose your hat, you aren’t going to want to go in after it…

 

Me with one of the many hot springs near Old Faithful

 

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

 

An unfortunate dragonfly in Grand Prismatic Spring

 

Me with Grand Prismatic Spring – one of Yellowstone’s most famous springs

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.

A hot spring near the river

 

Hot spring water flows into the river

 

I loved the gorgeous bright blues!

 

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.

Me with Firehole Spring

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!

 

Yellowstone NP History

Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park – it was established on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant.  Yellowstone is a unique environment, with features that are really rare in other areas of the United States.  Early advocates knew that it should be protected for generations to come.

Yellowstone is 2,219,789 acres, and about 96 percent of the land area of the park is within the state of Wyoming.  Three percent is within Montana and about one percent is in Idaho. The park is 63 miles from north to south, and 54 miles from west to east, as the crow flies.  In 2016, 4,257,177 people visited Yellowstone.  That’s a lot of people!  It is also designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, a designation by the United Nations for sites which have cultural, historical or scientific significance.

The park contains the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest volcanic system in America – it has been termed a “super-volcano” due to its size.  The current caldera was created by an eruption 640,000 years ago, and was 1,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State.  Which, if you were around for it, you know Mount St. Helens felt like a pretty big eruption.  That wasn’t the only eruption though, and each of the several that have occurred over millions of years at Yellowstone have created the rock formations, the depressions where the lakes sit and have coated large portions of the Americas with ash.  Thousands of small earthquakes occur each year within the park, most of which are unnoticed by human visitors.

Yellowstone is know for it’s thermals and geysers – hot springs of liquid that often contain brilliant colors due to the bacteria that make their home there, and erupting fountains of water.  The park contains over 10,000 geothermal features – and 1,283 of those are geysers that have erupted.  About 465 are active geysers on average in a given year.  Yellowstone is named for the Yellowstone River; the headwaters of the river are within the park, and the Continental Divide runs diagonally through the southwest section of the park.

Human habitation has existed in the park for approximately 11,000 years; evidence has shown that Native Americans began to hunt and fish in the area then.  Clovis points have been discovered in the area, and obsidian found in the park was used to make cutting tools and weapons.  Arrowheads from Yellowstone obsidian has been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, indicating there was a rich trade among the Native Americans in this area with other tribes.

About 60 species of mammals make their home in the park, including bison, elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, gray wolf, coyote, lynx, and grizzly bears.  About 3,000 bison are in the park; their numbers fluctuate depending on how harsh the winter is.  Wolves thrive there now, after being hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s and eliminated from the park.  However, since the next largest predator, the coyote, cannot bring down large mammals, there was a big increase in the number of lame bison and elk, as well as an overall increase in their numbers, which throws the ecosystem out of balance.  A healthy ecosystem needs the apex predator.  Wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, and are estimated to number at slightly more than 100 animals within the park.

Me – Sign posing – As usual!

I visited Yellowstone as a child, but it had been a long, long time and I was so excited to go back!  Next up will be Yellowstone posts!