Day 5 – Lamar Valley and Mammoth Springs

December 10, 2006

Today, our last full day in Yellowstone, we planned to visit some of the remaining parts of the park which we had not yet covered (mainly to the north) namely Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Lamar Valley: I have written more about Lamar Valley in the Yellowstone Wildlife page of this Blog (look right side links). Lamar valley buzzes with activity usually during dawn and in dusk when animals come for feeding. We decided to go to Lamar valley early in morning to beat the crowd as well as enjoy the nature all by ourselves!.
Starting at 5:30 am  from our cabin in Canyon area, we drove north towards Tower Roosvelt junction. Make a right here towards the North-East entrance to go to Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley
Lamar Valley is home to herds of elk, bison, and several packs of wolves, making it Yellowstone National Park’s prime location to view wildlife. Lamar Valley yields a breathtaking wide-open landscape scattered with ponds and large boulders. Lamary Valley
Its saturation in natural beauty and wondrous opportunity make Lamar Valley as attractive to tourists as it is to wildlife. You can read more about Lamary valley at Yellowstone Wildife. After spending nearly 3 hours at this beautiful place during which we saw bisons, Grizzly bear, deers and lots of different wildflowers in full bloom, we decided to drive back and visit Mammoth Hot Springs. For this you have to drive back to Tower Roosvelt junction and start driving west to Mammoth Springs. The total distance is around 30 miles from Lamar valley to Mammoth Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs: Several key ingredients combine to make the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: heat, water, limestone, and a rock fracture system through which hot water can reach the earth’s surface.Today’s geothermal activity is a link to past volcanism. A partially molten magma chamber, remnant of a cataclysmic volcanic explosion 600,000 years ago in central Yellowstone, supplies one of the ingredients, heat.Hot water is the creative force of the terraces. Without it, terrace growth ceases and color vanishes. The source of the water flowing out of Yellowstone’s geothermal features is rain and snow. Falling high on the slopes in and around Yellowstone, water seeps deep into the earth. This cold ground water is warmed by heat radiating from the magma chamber before rising back to the surface.Hot water must be able to reach the earth’s surface in relatively large volumes to erupt as a geyser or flow as a hot spring. In Yellowstone, many conduits remain from the collapse of the giant caldera; frequent earthquakes keep this underground “plumbing” system open. Even though Mammoth lies north of the caldera ring-fracture system, a fault trending north from Norris Geyser Basin, 21 miles (34 km) away, may connect Mammoth to the hot water of that system. A system of small fissures carries water upward to create approximately 50 hot springs in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.Another necessary ingredient for terrace growth is the mineral calcium carbonate. Thick layers of sedimentary limestone, deposited millions of years ago by vast seas, lie beneath the Mammoth area. As ground water seeps slowly downward and laterally, it comes in contact with hot gases charged with carbon dioxide rising from the magma chamber. Some carbon dioxide is readily dissolved in the hot water to form a weak carbonic acid solution. This hot, acidic solution dissolves great quantities of limestone as it works up through the rock layers to the surface hot springs. Once exposed to the open air, some of the carbon dioxide escapes from solution. As this happens, limestone can no longer remain in solution. A solid mineral reforms and is deposited as the travertine that forms the terraces. Some of the important points of interest here are:
 Lower Terrace overlook :==>

Opal Terrace: Opal Spring flows from the base of Capitol Hill, which is across the road from Liberty Cap. After years of dormancy, this spring became active in 1926 and began depositing up to one foot (0.3m) of travertine per year.

Mammoth Spring
In 1947, a tennis court was removed to allow natural expansion of the terrace. Further growth threatens the historic home next to Opal Terrace. Designed by Robert Reamer and built in 1908, the house is an example of Prairie Style architecture. Among Reamer’s other designs are the Old Faithful Inn and the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s North Entrance. Today sandbags and an earthen wall protect the house. The National Park Service strives to protect both historic and natural resources. At Opal Terrace both types of resources must be considered.
Liberty Cap: This 37-foot (11-m) hot spring cone marks the northern portion of Mammoth Hot Springs. Liberty Cap was named in 1871 by the Hayden Survey party because of its marked resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution. Its unusual formation was created by a hot spring whose plumbing remained open and in one location for a long time. Its internal pressure was sufficient to raise the water to a great height, allowing mineral deposits to build continuously for perhaps hundreds of years.
Palette Spring: Water flows from a flat area and then down a steep ridge, creating a colorful hillside palette of brown, green, and orange (the colors are due to the presence of different heat-tolerant bacteria). This effect is much the same as an artist would achieve by allowing wet paint to run down a vertical surface. Palette Spring
Minerva Terrace: Minerva Spring is a favorite not only because of its wide range of bright colors but also for its ornate travertine formations. Since the 1890s, when records were first kept on the activity of Mammoth Hot Springs, Minerva has gone through both active and inactive mammoth4.JPG
periods. For several years in the early 1900s, it was completely dry, but by 1951 reports state that Minerva was again active.

During some cycles of activity, water discharge and mineral deposition have been so great that boardwalks have been buried beneath mounds of newly deposited travertine. Consequently, an elevated and movable boardwalk now spans the hill in the vicinity of Minerva. In recent years, hot spring activity has shifted dramatically from Minerva to other features on the Lower Terraces, and back again.

Jupiter and Mound Terraces: These terraces display cycles of activity typical of Mammoth Hot Springs. In 1937, Mound Terrace was called “the most beautifully colored spring”. Inactive for decades, its weathered travertine shows new Mammoth Springs
patterns where chunks of the soft rock have broken or fallen. In the 1980s, jupiter Terrace flowed heavily and overtook boardwalks several times. It has been dry since 1992.If you continue past Mound Terrace, you’ll see the top of Minerva Terrace and possibly the hot spring whose water create Minerva. Additional steps take you to the Upper Terraces, which you  can also reach by car.The entrance to the Upper Terrace Drive is 2 miles south of the Albright Visitor Center on the road to Norris. This one way scenic drive winds for 1.5 miles among Hot Springs and travertine formations.
Main Terrace: You can view this large terrace and its colorful springs from several vantage points. To your left, follow the board walk to an overlook of New Blue Sping. One of the best examples of the area’s dynamic character, New Map
Blue Spring shifts activity frequently and can become active or inactive several times in one year. It began overflowing to the north in summer 2000. An overlook leads to a view of the entire Main Terrace; at the far side you can see Canary Spring. At the beginning of the trail to Canary Spring, a short spur trail takes you to a view of Cupid Spring, which was active until early 2000. Continue on the trail to benches where you can relax and watch the waters and colors of Main Terrace.
Canary Spring: You’ll find flowing water, new travertine formations, and shade as you walk to Canary Spring. Listen to the cascading water and imagine you were here in late 1880s. At that time yellow filamentous bacteria was prominent. Yellow remains a common color near the vent, and the spring also exhibits the orange, brown, and green seen in the other hot springs of the area.
Prospect Springs: For a few years in the 1990’s, this area was more active next to the road. Travertine formed the distinctive mound in one year. In recent years, most of the activity shifted toward the trees. And it may have shifted again by the time you visit.
New Highland Terrace: Tree skeletons stand as monuments to a landscape created in the 1950s. This area has been inactive since the 1980s.
Orange Spring Mound: This spring flows slowely from several vents at its top. Its striking colors come from the thermophiles living in the hot water. Orange mound
Bath Lake: Bath Lake was popular swimming hole until it dried up in 1926. It filled again after the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake and remained a lake through the 1970s. By then bathing in hydrothermal features was illegal because it destroys fragile formations and change their activity.
White Elephant Back Terrace: Water laden with calcium carbonate has flowed from a fissure to build this ridge, which an early tour guide thought resembled the back of an elephant. Activity conctantly shifts here. White Elephant
Angel Terrace: The dramatic presence of this feature comes from abundant water, white formations, and colorful thermophiles that thrive in hot water. Angel Terrace was dry and crumbling for decades, but resumed activity in 1985. Some of the other dormant features you have seen on this drive may one day flow again too.
Click Here to check the live web cam video from mammoth springs.
Mammoth Spring
After seeing the Mammoth Springs, we started our journey south back towards Canyon area Norris Basin, stopping at Virginia Cascades which is a 2 mile diversion on the road between Norris and Canyon Area.Finally we reached our cabin at the Canyon Area, thus ending our 5 day sojurn to the one of the beautiful place in USA – The Yellowstone National Park which will be permanently etched in our memory.Tomorrow we will embark on a long drive to Glacier National Park which is around 450 miles from Yellowstone. 

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