Thursday, September 20, 2007


“Danger! Scalding water, beautiful but deadly, hydrothermal features can kill you, toxic gasses, if you feel sick leave the location immediately". The official newspaper of Yellowstone does not make the park sound too inviting. Of course, if you use common sense these warnings are not so fearsome. Yellowstone contains the majority of the worlds geysers and hot springs, as well as thousands of tourists who don’t always use common sense, so these warnings are everywhere.

This is a far different atmosphere than the majestic mountains and vistas we have been traveling through so far. The scene here is somewhat eerie, with steam and bubbling water visible in almost every direction you look, it is easy to believe you are on unstable volcanic ground.

Almost in the middle of the park is Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake in the U.S. at such a high altitude (7,733 feet). I was amazed to learn that the park itself was created by three major volcanic explosions, each about a million years apart. Viewing the park today, it looks like the next one might be any time. Everywhere you look the ground is steaming with bubbling pools that can shoot water skyward at any time.

In West Thumb, which is actually part of Yellowstone Lake and a small volcanic caldera inside another huge caldera, I counted 19 geysers, pools or boiling springs at a single viewpoint. The pools have many different colors, depending on which microorganism happens to be growing within the supper heated water. Signs also tell you that much of the ground in certain areas is unsafe to walk on because a very thin crust covers scalding mud and water. Extensive boardwalks are provided by the park service so visitors are able to get reasonably close to many of the more prominent features.

Old Faithful is, of course, the best known geyser, mostly because of its regularity and height of its water spout. It has an average time span of 63 minutes, give or take 10 minutes, with an average height of 130 feet. From the ring of benches that surround Old Faithful, you can see at least 6 or 8 smaller geysers spouting off in the background. The day we stopped to watch, the clouds decided to open up minutes before Old Faithful began her show. Wish we had known there was a perfect view from the visitors center windows, right next to the fireplace

There are many wild animals to be easily seen along the roads of Yellowstone. Herds of buffalo wander across or graze on the sides of roads everywhere. Elk, which are beginning their mating season, fill the meadows, antelope appear in clearings, and one evening we caught sight of a wolf just as he crossed in front of our headlights. There was a family of coyotes located close to the campground. Their howling was a nightly serenade and coming in just after dark, we spotted one trotting right next to the registration office.

Marlin got to do some fishing in the famous Fire Hole and Gibbon Rivers. At many places on the Fire Hole, gallons of water from hot springs run into this river, yet it remains a premiere fishing location. Hiking along the banks, you can sometimes see the fish squirting past the fisherman’s offered flys, headed for some destination of their own choice.

Warnings everywhere

Bubbling mud pots

A small boiling hot spring

A hot spring and boardwalk beside the West Thumb section of Yellowstone Lake

Waiting for the eruption of Old Faithful

Taking off

At its highest

Old Faithful boardwalk and viewers

Marlin suiting up for fishing

The famous Yellowstone Lower falls

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Yellowstone Upper falls

Geysers and hot springs everywhere you look

Boiling water flowing from a geyser into the Fire Hole River

Boardwalks surrounding a geyser field

Buffalo giving us the eye

I took this just as we took off. This big fella just kept walking closer and closer to our truck. We were in his intended path and he wasn't about to change course.

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