Yellowstone's Geyser Basins

Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Oct 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Thursday, September 30, 2010

We left early today to get a good start on the day and skipped breakfast. We travelled south from Mammoth Hot Springs and made our first stop just down the road at the Hoodoos. Its a small area with large rock formations, there is a hiking trail in the area but we just took a few pictures before continuing on our way.

Next we stopped at at the turnout for Rustic Falls. Its a nice 47 foot high waterfalls that empties into Glen Creek, as you can see we were there in a dry time of the year and the waterfall was just a trickle.

Going further south on the Grand Loop road we made another stop at the Sheepeater Cliffs. Its an area comprised of cliffs sculpted from basalt columns, the remnants of old lava flow in the area. The odd name is due to a sect of the Shoshone tribe that lived in the area.

Our next stop was at Roaring Mountain. Its between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Geyser Basin. Many fumaroles cover the surface of the mountain side here and let off steam and a hissing sound, hence the name of the mountain. There isn't much to see here beside the mountain and alot of steam. Just across the road is a plaque that reads "naturally re-seeded by wildfire in 1988". Alot of the forest in the area was destroyed in the large forest fire on 1988 but there are many new trees growing in this area.

We continued south until we came to the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris is divided into two distinct geyser basins, the Back Basin and the Porcelain Basin. I stopped in the book store to have my passport stamped and to get a map of the area. We started our tour with the Back Geyser Basin. The Back Geyser Basin is considerably more forested than the Porcelain Basin, the geyser are also more spread out and not as scenic. The Back Geyser Basin has 6 springs, 10 geysers, 2 steam vents, 1 caldron, and 1 crater. As with the West Thumb Geyser Basin the smell of sulphur was everywhere. We walked in a clockwise direction starting with Emerald Spring and and ended with Minute Geyser. We didn't see any geysers erupt but Steamboat Geyser was steaming pretty good.
Next we crossed over into the Porcelain Geyser Basin. We began at the Porcelain Basin Overlook and the views were gorgeous. The springs in the Porcelain Basin are aquamarine blue surrounded by what looks like white quartz, its far more scenic than the Back Geyser Basin. The Porcelain Geyser Basin has 5 geysers, 2 vents, 1 pool and several springs. You pass Black Growler Vent which provides a constant noisy eruption of steam and you descend the boardwalk down into the basin where you will beautiful blue springs bubbling and splashing while small vents let off steam. We didn't see any eruption here either but the views were well worth the short hike.
Continuing South we bypassed the Artist Paint Pot Trail which mainly contains bubbling mud pots and also the Monument Geyser Basin which is now mostly dormant geysers in favor of one small stop at Beryl Spring, which is a pretty blue colored spring alongside the Grand Loop road near the Madison River.

We continued on and took a detour off to the Fire Hole River Drive. It is a short 2 mile drive on a paved roadway that runs alongside the beautiful rapids of the Firehole River. The scenery is wonderful if you have the time to do the drive. It is also one of two areas in the park where swimming in the river is safe and legal. As a whitewater kayaker I have to say the rapids on this particular stretch of the Firehole River looked rather exciting. Many section were clogged with trees and there were massive boulders everywhere creating huge frothing holes. It looks like a pretty technical run. The drive ends near the 40 ft Firehole Falls before rejoining the main roadway again.

Our next stop was at the Fountain Paint Pot trail. This is great little trail with alot of scenic little geysers. It has 2 pools, 2 fumaroles, 1 spring, 1 paint pot and 7 geysers. It is only about a half mile long on a boardwalk and is well worth going to see. The colors in many of the springs and geysers here are very beautiful. One I really liked was Clepsydra Geyser which erupts nearly constantly. There are some interesting and colorful bacterial mats in the area as well, Silex spring was particularly pretty. We did not see Fountain Geyser erupt but that was ok since Clepsydra was putting on such a colorful show. While we were watching the geyser erupt we could see lots of traffic forming in the valley outside, which meant only one thing, wildlife!

We decided to go see what was out and drove north a quarter of a mile to see what sort of wildlife was outside. When we got there we saw it was a lone coyote hunting in the fields for a meal. They are such cute animals and remind me so much of dogs. He didn't seem to mind the attention he was getting and went on about his business of looking for something to eat. He got surprisingly close to us. As we were watching him one of the famous Yellow Buses pulled up. The Yellow buses are a historic part of Yellowstone's history, they were re-introduced back into the park in 1997 after a fifty year absence. They are available for tours of the park. Once the coyote departed we continued on our way south.The next stop was the Firehole Lake drive. The drive is about 3 miles long and just down the road from the Fountain Paint Pot area. It is a one way drive as well. The section houses Great Fountain Geyser and White Dome Geyser as well as 1 spring, 1 pool, 2 more geysers and Firehole Lake. We got there in time to see White Dome Geyser erupt from a distance while looking at Firehole Spring. We drove around and looked at the other geysers but the predictions for Great Fountain Geyser wasn't for hours so we headed out.

Our next stop was at the Midway Geyser Basin. Midway Geyser Basin is a small area but well worth your time since it hosts two of the most beautiful pools in the park, Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser. It has the fewest thermal features in the park and no erupting geysers but very dramatic colors. As with the other areas of the park there is a half mile boardwalk that you must stay on. As you enter you will see scorching hot water draining from Excelsior Geyser into the Firehole River. The fog steams up the boardwalk area. You'll see many interesting colors from the various bacteria that live in the hot waters. Excelsior Geyser is the first you will come to, it was once the largest geyser on earth but an explosive eruption destroyed it and it is now a gorgeous blue simmering pool. You'll walk past alot more various colored bacterial mats and next come to Grand Prismatic Spring. At first Grand Prismatic is hard to see from the steam rising from it, it is very large and its hard to get a handle on what you are looking at. I suggest standing on the benches in the area to take a picture. From further up you can see more of the varied colors that make up Grand Prismatic Spring. The most famous images of the spring are taken from the air. I heard there was trail you could hike and get more of higher view of the spring but we didn't have time for that. Opal and Turquoise pool will be on your way out of the Midway Geyser Basin and are also very pretty. 

Next up was Biscuit Basin. Biscuit Basin is another short hike on a boardwalk. Biscuit Basin was named for biscuit-like formations that surrounded Sapphire Pool but were destroyed due to a violent explosion. The area contains 3 pools, 2 geysers and 2 springs. Its a peaceful area and we saw bison here as well. There are some interesting colored bacterial mats here as well. Sapphire Pool is incredibly beautiful and blue, which gets its color from the deep crater below the pool. Jewel Geyser is named for the diamond white sinter formation around the geyser, and Shell Geyser is very cute.

After we finished at Biscuit Basin we went to our next hotel which was the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The Snow Lodge is one of the most modern accommodations in Yellowstone National Park, it is also open in winter when very few hotels are. It is made to look and feel like a ski chalet. It has wi-fi, several restaurants and is very close to Old Faithful. We stopped here to dump off our luggage, take a quick break and find out what time the dining room was open til.Since it was in the afternoon we decided to go right over to the Upper Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful and the other geysers before we lost daylight. As luck would have it we had a half an hour before Old Faithful was set to go off. We got great seats on the benches and waited for the show to begin. Old Faithful isn't the biggest geyser or the prettiest but atleast you know when its going to erupt. Many of the surrounding geysers grow quiet before Old Faithful is going to erupt. The ground begins to vibrate and a massive hissing sound is your only warning before Old Faithful shoots a jet of water 185 ft into the air. The show really is something else, people Ooh and Ah. It doesn't take very long, maybe 5-10 minutes at the most but is well wort seeing.After Old Faithful erupted we took the boardwalk to see the other geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin. We bypassed the first few geysers since we saw them on our first night and walked across the bridge. As we got to the top the boardwalk section that leads to Giantess, Aurum Geyser and Doublet Pool was closed due to construction. We were forced to take the trail to the left and witnessed Beehive Geyser erupt. There was a group of people sitting by Plume Geyser but they did not know when it would erupt so we continued down the path. There weren't too many people walking on the boardwalk at this late hour so we sort of had the place to ourselves. We would have liked to have gone slower but we had already been hiking for hours and we were losing daylight fast.

We saw many pretty geysers including Heart Spring, the Lion Group, Liberty Pool, Grand Geyser. Two of my favorites were Beauty Pool and Chromatic Pool, the colors are outstanding! Another interesting sight is Grotto Geyser which has the oddest shape, looks like a sculpture. We were a bit disappointed that we did not see Grand or Riverside Geysers erupt while we were there. It was getting later, the sun was starting to set and there weren't very many people on the trail but we decided to go see Morning Glory Pool before turning around.

Morning Glory was once one of the most beautiful pools in Yellowstone but acts of vandalism has clogged some of its thermal features killing off some of the bacteria that had given it its prolific color. It is still quite a sight and a great way to end the 5 mile boardwalk trail through the Upper Geyser Basin.

On our way back towards Old Faithful we watched the sun set and hurried our butts back to civilization for fear of bears finding us on the trail. When we got back to the parking lot there were bison everywhere. The rangers were trying to herd them away rather unsuccessfully.

We went into the gift shop at Old Faithful and I bought a t-shirt and some earrings. Since we had not eaten at all today we decided it was time for dinner. We returned to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and made dinner reservations at the Obsidian Dining Room. The dining room was rather fancy and it took awhile until we were able to be taken. I selected cheese ravioli from the menu and to be honest it was one of the worst meals I ate in the park. It was very dried out and hard and such a tiny portion for the price we paid. I'd recommend going to the grill to eat.

After dinner we returned to the room for the night to pack and rest.

 Things Learned on Day 5:
 1. Hoodoos info:

 2. Rustic Falls info:

 3. Sheepeater Cliffs info:

 4. Roaring Mountain info: 

 5. Norris Geyser Basin info:

 6. Artist Paint Pot info:

 7. Beryl Spring info:

 8. Firehole Canyon Drive info:

 9. Fountain Paint Pot info:

 10. Historic Yellow Bus info:
11. Firehole Lake Drive:

12. Midway Geyser Basin:

13. Biscuit Basin:

14. Old Faithful Snow Lodge:

15. Upper Geyser Basin info:

16. Obsidian Dining Room:
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