This has been a strange year at Yellowstone National Park, which indeed sits atop a supervolcano. Two months ago, extreme heat from the thermal features below caused oil to bubble on a road surface and damage a 3.3-mile loop road that takes visitors past White Dome Geyser, Great Fountain Geyser and Firehole Lake.
A couple months before that, some yahoo posted a video on YouTube purportedly showing bison in the park supposedly evacuating themselves in anticipation of an eruption at the park. Park officials patiently explained that it was not unusual to see bison running – indeed, everytime we go we see lots of running bison – and that the bison in the video were actually heading deeper into the park, not away.
But that video went viral. Over 1.5 million people have watched it and there are dozens of copycat re-posted clips. It really appealed to the conspiracy nut jobs.
Add to that the fact that the park experiences frequent earthquakes including one that measured 4.8 in March – the biggest in more than 20 years – and you can see why its been a very busy year for park officials who have finally posted a whole web page debunking the hoaxes and foolishness.
Here’s the official statement:
“There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park is imminent. Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years.”
So there you go.
For Jennifer and me, the thermal activity at Yellowstone is as big of a draw as the wildlife. We keep going back year after year and visiting thermal features.
“Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles,” according to the National Park Service. “Its more than 300 geysers make up two-thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mud pots and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other…Yellowstone’s vast collection of thermal features provides a constant reminder of the park’s recent volcanic past. Indeed, the caldera provides the setting that allows such features as Old Faithful to exist and to exist in such great concentrations.”
If you go, be sure to pick up the newspaper that the park service gives you. Or download the free Yellowstone trip planner.
Pets are not allowed anywhere near the thermal activity. There have been incidents where they have broken away and plunged into what they thought was just a pretty pool of water. The outcome is too gory to print.
And I shouldn’t have to say this but do resist the urge to touch the water. You will be scalded.
I say all this because the park service makes it very easy to get very close to the geysers and boiling pools. And it should go without saying that you should not go over one of the barricades. The signs about unstable ground are accurate.
Fortunately, most of the spectators are respectful and cautious. And come away absolutely delighted by this awesome park.
We always do the lower loop first, past Old Faithful and Biscuit Basin. We budget a full a day for visiting the thermal features, camping overnight in one of the park campgrounds. Then we head out the second day for the northern and eastern loops, saving at least half a day to see the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Here are some of our favorite pictures of Yellostone’s thermal features. Maybe I’ll do a post in the future about our favorite hikes and our favorite places to see animals at Yellowstone.
But after our third visit in three years, we continue to love the place. I really want to visit the park in the winter.
Hope you enjoy these photos.
Look at the boiling mud. It looks like an artist’s paint pot.
This beautiful sapphire pool is about 200 degrees F.
Small geysers like this one erupt by the hundreds every day.
The color at Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone’s far northwestern Upper Geyser Basin is a photographer’s delight.
There are numerous geysers that have dramatic daily, even hourly eruptions, besides Old Faithful.
The landscape is like nowhere else on earth.
Boiling. bubbling mud that emits a strong sulfur smell.