If you live anywhere in North America, you need to go see the Geysers of Yellowstone National Park. The park contains roughly half the geysers known on earth. It is utterly unique, and so fantastic that when first discovered, most people discounted it as a tall tale. After seeing it in person, you can never forget it. If you have not been there, find the perfect RV on Outdoorsy, and make your plans to visit Yellowstone as soon as you can.
Different types of geysers
Yellowstone National Park is located on top of a super volcano. The crust of the earth here is thin and fissured, and underground magma superheats the groundwater. The heated water creates steam which builds up underground until it explodes outward throwing hot water and steam into the sky. In the process, minerals in the water accumulate above ground forming awesome formations around the geysers. Often the hot water forms pools on the surface in which brightly colored bacteria colonies thrive. This creates pools of water with incredibly vibrant colors.
In some parts of the park, the acidity of the water breaks down the soil and you get pools of boiling mud called mud pots. These boil and steam like a mad witches cauldron, each taking on the color of the minerals that comprise the mud. Some of the geysers only rarely throw water into the air and instead bellow out huge volumes of steam. These are called Fumaroles. In some case,s the steam will make a rumbling, thunder-like sound, in others, it can whistle like a giant kettle.
There are geysers that burst up out of riverbeds. There are geysers inside of caves that bellow forth steam like some sleeping dragon. Groups of geysers that together create small mountains of Travertine formations that cascade down like a waterfall frozen in time. To have seen one geyser is not to have seen them all. Whenever you think you have seen it all, you will be proven wrong in short order.
Maximal geyser happiness
While the sulfur pools, hot springs, mud pots, and other thermal features are pretty much doing their thing all the time, experiencing the geysers themselves are all about catching the eruptions. With so many, you can just show up to a geyser field and you will see something erupt sooner or later. Old Faithful, true to its name, erupts every hour or so, giving you a guaranteed show. But to really get the most out of viewing geysers, you want to get some idea of when they will erupt.
This is where GeyserTimes.org comes in. They track geyser eruptions and make predictions for future eruptions. By using their website or their mobile App you can keep abreast of when the geysers are most likely to be erupting. You can even help out by reporting eruptions to the site. Just keep in mind that geysers are somewhat unpredictable. Weather conditions and many other factors can change when they erupt and how powerful their eruptions are. Geyser Times greatly increases your odds of catching an eruption, but it’s not guaranteed. And the longer between eruptions, the harder they are to predict.
Most of all, give yourself time. Bring enough food and drink to keep you going and plan to spend a while exploring the geyser fields and waiting to see what’s going to go. If you see a big crowd forming somewhere, and nothing’s happening, chances are good that something is going to happen pretty soon. Yellowstone is a huge park, so the more days you can spend in the park, the better for seeing lots of great eruptions. Trying to cram a bunch in different locations in one day will tire you out quickly.
With thousands of thermal features and hundreds of geysers, there is a lot to see. Luckily, most of the really great features are clumped together into different geyser fields, so when checking out one awesome geyser, you can take a look at its many neighbors. Here are some of the big thermal attractions in the park.
Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin
Old Faithful is the most well-known geyser in the park, and the Upper Basin has nearly half the geysers found in the park. This makes a visit here pretty much mandatory if you have never been to Yellowstone. Old Faithful is a nice strong geyser and it fires off about once an hour, so you are pretty much guaranteed to see it erupt. You can also be guaranteed there will be a good crowd of people on hand to watch it with you. Before or after, hike the planked trails around Upper Basin and you are sure to see other geysers going off. Upper Basin is also where you will find the main Yellowstone Lodge and visitors center. The lodge is an especially cool building to visit.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is basically a small mountain of travertine created by a collection of hot springs and small geysers. Collectively they build up two tons of new limestone deposits per day. The result is a crazy living waterfall of white stone, steam, and colorful colonies of bacteria. It is like nothing else you have ever seen, or ever will see.
Echinus Geyser and the Norris Geyser Basin
Catching Echinus going off takes some planning and a bit of luck. It only erupts once every few days, so you want to use Geyser Times to plan a visit. It is quite powerful and puts on an impressive show with a lot of water spray when it erupts. Norris Geyser Basin has plenty of other great geysers, hot pools, and other thermal features to look at while you wait. The whole area looks like some kind of apocalyptic-blasted landscape. This is also home to Steamboat Geyser, the most powerful in the park, but with years between eruptions, you aren’t likely to see it go off.
Fountain Geyser in the Lower Geyser Basin
The geysers and other features in the Lower Geyser Basin are more spread out than in other areas, so you will likely drive from one to the next rather than walk a trail to see them. Fountain Geyser could well be the most picturesque in the park. It only erupts a couple times a day, but even at rest, it is beautiful. The geyser is surrounded by terraced pools of water colored by bacterial colonies. When it does erupt, it creates a picture perfect fountain in the middle of the pools. If you can get lucky, it will coincide with a sunset and really give you a breathtaking show.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin
Grand Prismatic Spring is the world’s third largest hot spring and is quite a site to see. It is huge, pretty much a lake unto itself, and it is unbelievably colorful. Since it has a wide range of temperature from the center to the edges, it has numerous different bacterial colonies, each with its own colors. This creates a kind of living heat map and can make for some stunning photographs. Like so much in Yellowstone, you won’t see anything like it anywhere else.
Provided you follow the posted safety rules at the park, visiting the geysers is very safe. You might imagine that you could get hit by boiling hot water, but it actually cools very quickly when it is sprayed into the air. If you are lucky you may get to have a nice geyser shower mist rain down on you. That said, if you don’t follow the safety rules, you could get yourself in serious trouble. Never leave the paths and never jump into a pool, no matter how inviting it looks! If you bring a pet, keep them leashed at all times. If you drop something, consider it lost forever, move on, and report it to a ranger when you can. When it’s windy, leave your hats in the RV.
But wait, there’s more!
Yellowstone is famous for its geysers, and they are a must-see, but the park has a lot more than that to offer. It is probably the best National Park in the US.. for viewing wildlife. Large herds of buffalo roam the park and can often be seen right alongside the geysers. Wolves, coyotes, elk, and many other awesome critters call the park home. Yellowstone Lake is great for boating and has some awesome bird watching opportunities. There are hikes galore. You can go fishing, with a permit, and even help rid the park of invasive species by catching and eating them. In the winter, there is snowshoeing and skiing. There are many historical sites in the park and some very cool rustic architecture.
If you are looking to save money on your trip, consider going during one of the Free National Park days, or better yet, pick up an Annual Park Pass and enjoy Yellowstone and other great National parks, anytime you like.
OK, stop waiting, go book a fantastic RV from Outdoorsy, and get yourself and your loved ones out to Yellowstone to see some geysers ASAP!
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