Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is run by the National Park Service of America. It covers parts of the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. You will find vacation lodging inside the park run by the NPS. The lodges inside the park can be found at Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Roosevelt Lodge Cabins, Lake Lodge Cabins, Lake Yellowstone, Grant Village and Yellowstone Canyon. Outside the park in towns like West Yellowstone you will find motel and hotel accommodation. You must book accommodation in the park early.
The road system inside Yellowstone National Park is like a figure of 8. Spend a day touring the geothermal features, such as Old Faithful, of the bottom circle and another day touring the volcanic features of the upper circle. If you are luck you may be able to view wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, bison or buffalo. You may also want to try a hiking, camping, horseback riding, white water river rafting, bird watching, boating, climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, canoeing or join in a ranger-led nature walk
West Thumb Geyser Basin
If you are driving into the park from Jackson Hole and Grand Teton national park the first major Geothermal feature you can visit is just past Grant Village. Look out for the sign posts to West Thumb Geyser Basin. It is on the edge of the Yellowstone Lake in the volcanic caldera. When you get there look around. You are standing in the bottom of a giant volcanic crater. The hills you see are the remains of the edge of volcanos. You will find Pacific cutthroat trout and lake trout in the Yellowstone lake. There is a boadwalk that takes you around the different volcanic thermal features at West Thumb. The Geyser basin exists because of cracks in the earth, volcanic faulting, it which water seeps and gets super hot. You will see hot springs, mud pots and fishing cones in the lake. West Thumb does not have dramatic erupting geysers but does have a complete variety of hot springs, pools, mud pots, fumaroles and lake shore geysers. Earlier explorers used to cook fish and then whilst the fish was still on the line put it into one of the lake shore geysers and cook the fish in the boiling water. This is now banned but these geysers have been given the name of fishing geyser.
Mud Pots, Mud Caldrons & Mud Geysers
I like mud pots and so do children as they make a great plop plop noise as the sulphur gas escapes from the depths of the earth. They may not be as colourful as the hot springs and pools but they are one of the geothermal volcanic features that makes Yellowstone National Park so unique. Mud Caldrons are slightly different as the boiling action you see is caused by carbon dioxide and other gases rising from below and passing though the water in the pool. Mud Geyser occur if the underground steam vents are of small girth. Pressure builds up the mud explodes upwards in a column of muddy water, 7-10 ft in diameter, up to 50 ft in the air and can cover trees.
Hot Springs & Geysers
Cold surface water sinks through the cracks in the Yellowstone volcanic caldera basin for up to 10,000 where it comes into contact with the hot rocks of the shallow magma chamber. The water becomes superheated and less dense than the downward moving colder water. It therefore rises to the surface dissolving some of the silica in the rhyolite rocks making a solution of silica within the rising water water. Some of the silica is deposited as a mineral called geyserite on the walls of the underground ‘plumbing system’ making a pressure-tight seal creating a system of tubes that can withstand the great pressure needed to produce an explosive geyser like Old Faithful. If the underground ‘plumbing system’ has large tubes then the heat is released at a slower speed and produces hot springs. Different colored bacteria microbes and algae thriving at different temperatures cause the bright colours of the volcanic geothermal hot springs like West Thumbs Paint Pots, morning Glory, Grand Prismatic, Abyss, Emerald, and Sapphire. As the hot water spills out of the hot springs it cools down and different bacteria find the place where the temperature is just as they like it and then grow. The Vikings were the first to record finding a geyser. That was on Iceland at a place called Geyser.
Fumarole Steam Vents
Fumaroles, or steam vents can be seen all over Yellowstone National Park. They are hot springs with a lot of heat, but not much water. The water that is there boils away before reaching the surface producing a loud hissing vent of steam and gases.
Mammoth Hot Springs
The geothermal terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in the north of Yellowstone national Park, were formed by heat, water, and limestone. Minerals in the rock are put into solution by the heated water that has gone down deep in the cracks in the rock and then bubble up to the surface. One of the minerals called Travertine is deposited as white rock. The cooling hot water allow micro-organisms and living bacteria to grow and create beautiful shades of oranges, pinks, yellows, greens, and browns. The Mammoth Hot springs terraces are constantly changing. As the white rock formations grow, the water is forced to flow in different directions. The constant changes in water and mineral deposits create a living sculpture.