Friday, April 24, 2015

Yellowstone National Park

Since the fish were not biting in the Yellowstone River this week, we opted to give them a break and visit Yellowstone National Park for the day.  The park is only 80 miles south from Livingstone, Montana, where we were staying, so before moving further west for more fishing, we went sightseeing.  How could we pass it up when we were so close to the park.

Livingston sits right at the mouth of a valley that leads directly into the north gate of Yellowstone, then on a short distance to Mammoth Hot Springs .  As we pulled into the Visitors Center, a small herd of Buffalo wandered through the parking lot. 


Great start for wild-life viewing.

The buildings that house the Visitor’s Center and Administration offices were constructed by the U.S. Army during their tenure here from 1886 until around 1916.  Although the park was established in 1872, animal poaching, and vandalism of park features were difficult for the initial limited park personnel with limited funds to control.  In a successful effort to stabilize these problems the Army's First Calvary Unit  was posted here for 30 years until management of the park was stable.

This view is from the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, which overshadow the entire complex, including the Visitor’s Center, a General Store, a Restaurant and CafĂ©, as well as extensive staff housing.

Terraces is an accurate description of how these hot springs have created such a huge mountain of silica.

The water flows out at the top, pools is places, leaving the silica contained in the water behind, as miniature terraces.  Colors are created by different types of organisms that thrive in the hot water.

On one of the flatter sections water collects forming the “Pallete Spring”, so named from the various colored bacteria living in this hot tub. 

Surface water that seeps underground, is super-heated by magma, then rises through un-constricted cracks in the porous rock to create this type of spring.  When the water channels change to a different location, all the organisms living in the hot water dye off and only the gray silica remains.

As amazing as Mammoth Hot Springs were, there was much more to see today.  The road to Old Faithful had recently opened for the season, so we headed that way.

The journey included many stops with scenic and wildlife views.

Several herds of Buffalo were seen in fields bordering the road

As well as great mountain views.

and spring shedding elk.

Further along, there was a hold up in both lanes of traffic!

After about 10 minutes of walking down the center of the road, they wandered over to one edge of the road, then, at their own pace, wandered into a field.

Eventually we made it to Old Faithful.  Great timing, it was almost time for the geyser to spout.

A few other hardy folks here to watch the spectacle. 

A few splashes appear before the main event

full force, with lots of steam

back down!

The new visitors center

Here is a great web site get a virtual view of the geological wonders that are here.

The new visitors center has some great interactive displays.  One great one explains the difference between the hot springs, like the one at Mammoth, and geysers that spout super heated hot water high into the air.  They both are created by surface water filtering down through porous rock, until they reach a level where the water is super heated by hot magma.  At a hot spring, the water has a smooth, unobstructed path toward the surface and pours out where the fissure reaches ground level.  A geyser is created when the path to the surface is blocked, allowing more and more pressure to build, until steam and water create enough pressure to push past the obstruction. By then the extreme amount of pressure shoots the water vapor skyward.  The geyser stops erupting as soon as most of the pressure is releaved, only to build again.  Old Faithful erupts approximately every 50 minutes, give or take 10 minutes one way or the other.  The many other geysers are less predictable, and erupt at erratic time intervals.

On the return trip we stopped at the fire hole river.  From the road you can see steam flowing down the river bank in multiple places.

As you get closer, the view is of super heated water flowing from hot springs, over the banks and into the river water.

Again, the colors in the water are organisms that thrive in this super heated water.

Continuing on the extensive boardwalks above the Fire Hole River, you can view the Excelsior geyser.  This giant crater was once a geyser  that has exploded twice in the past 100 years, creating the crater that is now filled with bubbling water.  When do you think it might decide to explode again?

On days when the air is cool steam is most of what you can see.

After leaving the Fire Hole River we made one more stop on the return to Livingston.  Gibbon Falls is a magnificient sight right at the side of the road.  

Unfortunately, it was beginning to get dark and we still had a long drive back to our camper.  Wishing we had more time to explore.  One day is only a teaser to come back soon when all the roads are open for the season.


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