Day 2 -Yellowstone NP: Geysers

August 8, 2006

Today the plan is to cover the geyser region of Yellowstone national park. Even though the whole park is a geologically active area, it is the region between Oldfaithful and Norris basin where you see most of the gysers and hot springs.In yellowstone one important tip to beat the crowd is to rise with the sun. Since all the tour buses and visitors start pouring in after 10 am, some of the well known places like Oldfaithful, Artist point can get very crowded. So it is always advisable to visit these places early in the morning to beat the crowd and enjoy the scenery all by yourself.As planned we checked out from room in Grant Village at 6:30 am, had our breakfast at the general store where you can get good breakfast at reasonable rate.
Kepler Cascades: Driving west from Grant Village, the first point of interest that you encounter is Kepler Cascade. This is a beautiful place and with the morning fog and the cascade below, it is really worthwhile spending at least 30 min here. Kepler Cascade
Old Faithful Area: We reached the parking lot of Oldfaithful area at 7:30 am (17 miles from Grant Village). The first thing to do is to visit the visitor center and check the eruption timing of all the geysers. Also check out the timing of all the ranger led tours in the area. Visitor center
It is always advisable to attend the ranger led programs/tours if available. That is the best way to learn more about the place especially in Yellowstone. We decided to see the South Section (map of south section ) which also includes Oldfaithful geyser in the morning and then come back at 5:30pm to attend the ranger led tour to see all the geysers in the Northen section(map of North section).
Old Faithful Geyser: As I mentioned earlier, it is better to be at oldfaithful geyser early in the morning to beat the crowd. OldFaithful geyser erupts every 90 min. The approx eruption time of all the geysers can be obtained at visitor center. Oldfaithful
Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers, although it is not the largest or most regular geyser in the park. Its average interval between eruptions is about 91 minutes, varying from 65 – 92 minutes. An eruption lasts 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, expels 3,700 – 8,400 gallons (14,000 – 32,000 liters) of boiling water, and reaches heights of 106 – 184 feet (30 – 55m). It was named for its consistent performance by members of the Washburn Expedition in 1870. Although its average interval has lengthened through the years (due to earthquakes and vandalism), Old Faithful is still as spectacular and predictable as it was a century ago.
Oldfaithful 2 The boardwalk near Oldfaithful is very quiet before 8 am and it is very pleasant to walkaround the area with a coffee. Also there are fewer than a dozen people on the Oldfaithful benches and you can enjoy the early
post sunrise eruption of the day without rubber-necking for a good view. After watching the geyser, we decided to take a stroll at the boarded Oldfaithful geyser loop which is 0.7 miles long. It is worth taking this hike and in the morning with mist and steam all aroubd, it is very relaxing.
List of Trails or walkways from Oldfaithful visitor center

  • OldFaithful Geyser Loop 0.7 miles
  • Geyser Hill Loop 1.3 miles
  • Observation point Loop 2.1 miles
  • Morning Glory Pool 1.4 miles
  • Lone Star Geyser 4.3 miles
  • Fern Cascade Loop 3.0 miles

Click here to view live video from Old Faithful Geyser. If you see people standing around, then the geyser might erupt shortly!
Check out the southern and Northen section map for a view of the area.

After our small hike, we stopped at the historic OldFaithful inn. Built during the winter of 1903-04, the Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert C. Reamer, who wanted the asymmetry of the building to reflect the chaos of Oldfaithful Inn
nature. The lobby of the hotel features a 65-foot ceiling, a massive rhyolite fireplace, and railings made of contorted lodgepole pine. Wings were added to the hotel in 1915 and 1927, and today there are 327 rooms available to guests in this National Historic Landmark.
Since we had decided to attend the ranger led tour in the evening to see geysers in the Northern section, we decided to proceed north from Oldfaithful to madison and Norris Basin. On the way, there are lot of points of interest that must be seen.
Biscuit Basin: Three miles north of Old Faithful is Biscuit Basin, named for the unusual biscuit-like deposits formerly surrounding Sapphire Pool. Following the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, Sapphire erupted, and BiscuitBasin 3
the “biscuits” were blown away. Other notable colorful features in the basin are Jewel Geyser, Shell Geyser, Avoca Spring, and Mustard Spring.
Biscuit Basin 1 BiscuitBasin 5
Midway Geyser Basin: Next stop is Midway geyser basin. This geyser basin, though small in size compared to its companions along the Firehole River, holds large wonders for the Midway Geyser Basin
visitor. Excelsior Geyser reveals a gaping crater 200 x 300 feet with a constant discharge of more than 4,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River. Also in this surprising basin is Yellowstone’s largest hot springs, Grand Prismatic Spring. This feature is 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet in depth.
Excelsior Geyser Grand Prismatic Spring
Excelsior Geyser Grand Prismatic Spring
Bacteria Mat FireHole river
Bacteria Mat FireHole River
Firehole Lake Drive: Leave the Midway Geyser Basin and continue down the road to Firehole Lake Drive. Take this drive slowly, stopping often and lingering. Since Firehole Lake Drive is a one-way loop, if you want to see something again you must repeat the entire circuit. You will pass Great Fountain Geyser, which is predictable but has a very long interval; pass it by unless someone Great Fountain Geyser
 who knows geysers confirms that an eruption is imminent, in which case stick around for the show. The most easily photographed geyser on Firehole Lake Drive is just a few yards down the road: White Dome Geyser. WhiteDome Geyset
It erupts frequently but unpredictably. I think I have waited perhaps 20-30 minutes at most for it to go off. Pink Cone Geyser and Firehole Lake are ahead, the last notable stops on Firehole Lake Drive.
After completing the Firehole Lake Drive, continue down the road to the Fountain Paint Pot area, and walk the boardwalk. You’ll see several geothermal features including a constantly erupting geyser Clepsydra), hot springs and paint pots. Paint Pot
Firehole Canyon Drive: After completing the Firehole Lake Drive, you can take the Firehole Canyon Drive. This 2 mile drive takes you through the beautiful filehole canyon and you can also stop to see the scenic Firehole Falls. Firehole falls
Gibbon Falls: Continue on the road to Madison, bear right toward Norris, you will be following the Gibbon River now. You will come to Gibbon Falls after five miles after Madison; it is usually crowded here during midday, perhaps difficult to Gibbon Falls
find a parking spot. The view of the falls from the road on the bluff is poor. If you are adventurous, instead do this: park a few hundred yards downriver from the main viewing area, hop over the wall, descend the dirt slope to the river, walk up the river along the fisherman’s trail to the foot of the falls, and enjoy this view.
Once you are done with Gibbon Falls, continue to Gibbon Meadows, which is a broad meadow area about five miles north of Gibbon Falls. The hope here is that you will see elk, they are often in the meadow. If you arrive to a line up of cars, elk are likely the cause of the traffic. If there are elk here, great, stop and admire them while you can. You will likely see more during your visit to Yellowstone but in the event you do not, you want to get a good look now (a bird in hand…).
As you proceed further from Gibbon meadows, you pass through terrace springs, Artists Paintpots(1 mile hike- highly recommended) and finally reach Norris Basin Area.
Norris Basin: Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. The highest temperature yet recorded in any geothermal area in Yellowstone was measured in a scientific drill hole at Porcelain Basin 2
Norris: 459°F (237°C) just 1,087 feet (326 meters) below the surface! There are veryfew thermal features at Norris under the boiling point (199°F at this elevation). Norris shows evidence of having had thermal features for at least Porcelain Basin
115,000 years. The features in the basin change daily, with frequent disturbances from seismic activity and water fluctuations. The vast majority of the waters at Norris are acidic, including acid geysers which are very rare. Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world (300 to 400 feet) and Echinus Geyser (pH 3.5 or so) are the most popular features. The basin consists of three areas: Porcelain Basin, Back Basin, and One Hundred Springs Plain. Porcelain Basin is barren of trees and provides a sensory experience in sound, color, and smell; a 3/4 mile dirt and boardwalk trail accesses this area.Back Basin is more heavily wooded with features scattered throughout the area; a 1.5 mile trail of boardwalk and dirt encircles this part of the basin. One Hundred Springs Plain is an off-trail section of the Norris Geyser Basin that is very acidic, hollow, and dangerous. Travel is discouraged without the guidance of knowledgeable staff members. The area was named after Philetus W. Norris, the second superintendent of Yellowstone, who provided the first detailed information about the thermal features.
After hiking the two trails in Norris Basin and also a stop at the museum, we decided to head back to the OldFaithful area to take the ranger lead tour of the Oldfaithful geysers starting at 5:30 pm from Castle Geyser.
OldFaithful Geyser Tour: This ranger led tour starts at Castle Geyser and goes all the way till Morning Glory Pool. On the way we pass through some of the most beautifyl pools and geysers.
Castle Geyser: The magnificient cone of Castle Geyser is thousands of years old and rests upon even older platform. Together, they form one of the largest sinter formations in the world. Castle’s eruption pattern has changed throughout Castle Geyser
its recorder history; it is currently erupting about every 13 hours. A water eruption frequently reaches 75 feet and lasts about 20 min, followed by a noisy steam phase of 30-40 min.its recorder history; it is currently erupting about every 13 hours. A water eruption frequently reaches 75 feet and lasts about 20 min, followed by a noisy steam phase of 30-40 min.
Crested Pool:  With temperatures above 199 deg F (93 deg C), Crested Pool is almost constantly boiling, sometimes to 8 feet or more. The extreme heat prevents most bacterial growth, resulting in exceptionally clear blue Crested Pool
water. Boiling is perticularly active along the intricate sinter formation circling the spring, the “crested edge”. Listen to the sizzling.
Grand Geyser:  If you see a crowd at Grand Geyser and the pool looks full, wait awhile. You might get lucky and see the tallest predictable geyser in the world erupt. A classic fountain geyser, Grand Geyser
Grand erupts with powerful bursts rather than a steady column like Old Faithful. An average eruption lasts 9-12 minutes and consists of 1-4 bursts, sometimes reaching 200 feet.
Beauty Pool: shows its brightest colors when its water is hottest. When the water is cooler, as it has been rescently, earth toned thermophiles thrive. Beauty is closely related to neighboring Chromatic Pool. During periodic Beauty Pool
energy shift, the level of one spring rises as the other descends.
Giant Geyser: This Geyser was dormant for many years after an energy shift in 1955. Since then, it has slowely become active again. During 2005, it erupted 10 times. Its spectacular eruption last Giant Geyser
about an hour and can reach 250 feet. In between and during eruptions, smaller geysers on the same sinter platform may erupt.
Daisy Geyser: Walk up the hill to Daisy Geyser, where you will find a good view of the geyser basin- and may be a close view of this geyser’s eruption.Daisy erupts at an angle to a height of 75 feet for 3-5 minutes. Daisy is usually Daisy Geyser
predictable, with eruption intervals of 120-210 minutes. An exception to this is when nearby Splendind Geyser erupts, although this occurs rarely and unpredictably.
Grotto Geyser: A popular performer, Grotto Geyser erupts about every seven hours and splashes 10 feet for 1.5 to more than 10 hours. The weirdly shaped cone may have resulted from sinter covering the tree that once grew here. Grotto Geyser
Riverside Geyser: Situated on the bank of the Firehole River, Riverside Geyser is one of the most picturesque and predictable geysers in the park. During its 20-minute eruptions, a 75-foot Riverside Geyser
column of water arches gracefully over the river. Eruptions are about six hours apart. Watch for water flowing over the edge of the cone beginning 75-120 minutes before an eruption. Look for rainbow in its spray.
Morning Glory Pool: Long a favoured destination for park visitors, Morning Glory Pool was named in the 1880s for its remarkable likeness to its namesake flower. Since that time, this blue pool has fallen victim to vandalism, people have Morning Glory Pool
  thrown tons of coins, trash, rocks and logs into the pool. Much of this debris became embedded in the sides and vent of spring, which reduced the water circulation and thur the water temperature. Orange and yellow bacteria, which can grow in the cooler water, now spread toward Morning Glory’s center.
That was the end of the tour and we trecked back to the Oldfaithful cafeteria Oldfaithu @ Nightfor our dinner. This cafeteria closes at 9 pm. So it is very essential to plan ahead. After dinner, we spent sometime savouring the bluish ambience at the OldFaithful which looked wonderful, before starting on our drive to Flagg Ranch Resorts, which is 2 miles south of South Entrance. It was well past 11 pm by the time we checked into our cabin and went to bed thinking of our second memorable day in Yellowstone.

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