Yellowstone National Park is famous for many things: being the first national park ever, its amazing wildlife, its super volcano… But, it is also famous for its incredible geothermal activity. You can thank the Super Volcano for that! The giant caldera, or mouth of the volcano, circles nearly half of the entire park. Most of the geothermal sites are found along the rim of this caldera. All types of geothermal features can be found within the park’s boundaries: geysers, hot springs, mud holes, fumaroles, and even hydrothermal vents on the floor of Lake Yellowstone. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see the hydrothermal vents in person, it’s pretty easy to see the rest of the features throughout the park.
Yellowstone is a very large park and in efforts to maintain its lush wildlife populations the roads are few and far in between. Plan at least 3 days to spend here in the park. If you don’t live near by, it could be quite difficult to squeeze this one in on a 3- Day Weekend Trip. Traffic can be slow due to construction and wildlife road blocks so add an extra day to your itinerary, just incase. Flying into Jackson Hole is the closest airport, but can be quite costly. Salt Lake City or Idaho Falls airports are your best options! I doubt I need to tell you that Yellowstone is one of the most visited parks in the world. That being said, book your accommodations months in advance!
10. Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Starting off our countdown is Dragon’s Mouth Springs. This is a fumarole and mud pot in one. The smoke plume and roaring sound is what gave this feature its name. It was once named green gable springs, but after a tourist tacked a piece of paper reading ‘Dragon’s Mouth Springs’, the name stuck and was changed forever. You can find this in the Mud Volcano Area.
9. Roaring Mountain
Many of these fumaroles let out sounds somewhere between a whistle and a roaring grumble. The sound is caused by the quick release of steam from the ground. It is a lot more awe-inspiring in person, I promise you.
8. Paint Pots/ Mud Pots
Mud pots form when the sulfuric acid released from below breaks down clay in its escape path. The mud may look like creamy acrylic paint, but at temperatures of over 200 degrees, you might not want to stick your paint brush near it. The Sulphur Caldera, featured in the last photo below, has a pH around 1-2 pH, similar to battery acid.
7. Abyss Hot Springs
This hot springs is 53 feet deep! The color you see is created by heat loving bacteria called thermophiles. Different colored thermophiles live in different temperatures. As the water temperatures vary, so may the bacteria, and therefore colors may change during each visit. Orange thermophiles have been spotted here as well! You can find this in the West Thumb Basin.
6. Black Spring
The Black Spring used to actually appear black from the green and brown thermophiles that lived in these waters. Those thermophiles are now long gone due to temperature changes, making the black spring one of the most attractive springs in Yellowstone. You can also find this in the West Thumb Basin.
5. Excelsior Geyser
Yes, geyser. This giant pool used to erupt 300 feet into the air. The water levels rise and fall every minute but it hasn’t erupted in decades, nor do scientist think it ever will again. The run off flows down a nearby rock bed and has carved its own colorful path to the river. You can find this in the Midway Geyser Basin.
4. Gardner River
Also known as the Boiling River, this is the place to be. Hot geothermal water drains into this ice cold, glacier fed river and creates the perfect temperature for everyone. The closer to the waterfall you are, the hotter it is. Run offs like these keep waterways open all winter, which enables many aquatic birds and mammals to stay year round- even in -40°F temperatures!
3. Mammoth Hot Springs
These hot springs are vastly different from the rest in the park’s. The cascading terraces are created through the breakdown of the surround limestone. Typically volcanic rock is found in other areas of the park, making this hot spring so unique. The yellow icicle looking additions are our friends the thermophiles once again.
Hang on to your hats! At almost every basin in the park you’re going to find someone’s windblown hat stuck in the water.
2. Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful got its name from being so faithfully predictable. It erupts every hour to an hour and 20 minutes. It hasn’t taken a day off since it was discovered in the 1800’s. It’s not the largest geyser in the park, but it is incredibly powerful.
1. The Grand Prismatic Springs
The granddaddy hot spring of them all! This perfectly colored rainbow hot spring is something people travel from all over the world to see. You can find it located next to the Excelsior Geyser in the Midway Geyser Basin.
Yellowstone is full of hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles. It also possesses a number of rivers and waterfalls throughout the park, as well. The waterfall that you absolutely cannot miss is Yellowstone Falls. This area is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the yellow color of the canyon walls is where the park got its name. Hike to the top of the lower fall to get an amazing view of the canyon and falls.
More Fun Geothermal Activity
Keep an eye out for my upcoming post on the wildlife of Yellowstone!
What is your favorite thing about Yellowstone? Did you know about the Super Volcano before visiting?
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