Contributing from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
THE UPPER AND MIDWAY GEYSER BASINS OF YELLOWSTONE
Insight to one of the park's most visited areas, and some tips for better views
The first day that my room-mate and I had off work after the initial interior roads (Mammoth Hot Springs south to Old Faithful) opened into Yellowstone we were off to explore. The park had only been "open" for Spring for five days so there were virtually no cars on the road which is the best part of being in the park at this time of year. We were shocked at how much snow was piled up on the sides of the road going south toward Norris Junction. The road construction between Willow Park and the junction at Norris was pretty good compared to seasons past where my car was fishtailing in a foot of mud.
As we came up to the Norris-Canyon junction, Mikayla gushed over the steam-phase of Steamboat Geyser (an unpredictable geyser that's the tallest in the world - three times that of Old Faithful and has eruption intervals between 4 and 50 years). It had erupted less than a week before. Just two days after our adventure, we would hear that we missed another eruption. At the time of writing this article, Steamboat has erupted four times in the past 7 weeks. We're not worried.
Steamboat Geyser in "steam phase" post-eruption. Source: NPS.
Passing Madison Junction and the West entrance gate we soon came up to Fountain Paint Pot just across the way from Firehole Lake Drive. Walking the boardwalks, there were a number of thermal features from fumaroles (steam vents) to geysers. One of these features is a geyser in Spring when snowmelt floods it with excess water, and then devolves to a spring, and then again digresses to a steam vent when Fall approaches at it dries out.
Red Spouter in geyser-phase during Spring. Photo credit: author.
A third of the world's geysers (approximately 500 are active) are located in Yellowstone National Park and only the "geyser-gazers" have the determination to remember the features' names.
Geyser seen from boardwalks around Fountain Paint Pot. Photo credit: author.
Between driving and stopping to snap photos, nearly an hour and a half had passed by the time we made it to Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring.
Seeing Grand Prismatic Spring up close is one thing. Seeing it from a higher angle and in its entirety is stunning.
You can do this by passing the main parking lot at the Fairy Falls trailhead is a secondary parking lot that leads to road-width trail with another off-shoot trail to an overlook.
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. Photo credit: author
Finally making it to the Upper Geyser Basin we stopped at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. They have an amazing interpretive display that's interactive and goes over thermal features, wildlife, geology, and ecology and how the super-volcano that makes up the geyser basins contributes to the uniqueness of the area.
The rangers soon made an announcement that Beehive Geyser was erupting.
It erupts about every 13 hours so getting to see it impromptu was pretty exciting. We power-walked to the boardwalk knowing we wouldn't get to see it up close and personal. Beehive is so close to the boardwalk that when she goes you get splashed. The distant view was still pretty neat. I hope you all saw the video on our IG story!
Beehive Geyser in steam phase. Photo credit: author.
Just as Beehive was slowing its eruption, Mikayla excitedly says; "Riverside is going!" She says this one has a more often of an eruption with an interval between 6 and 12 hours. (Have you guessed which one of us is the geyser-gazer?)
Riverside Geyser. Photo credit: author
We still have some time before Old Faithful was to show off for us so we walk a couple miles down-trail to Morning Glory Pool. On the way, we see Giant Geyser (we had missed that eruption by 8 hours - the second tallest geyser second only to Steamboat) and Grotto Geyser.
Giant Geyser. Photo credit: author.
Grotto Geyser erupting. Photo credit: author.
Morning Glory Pool. Photo credit: author.
Many years ago, you could drive up to Morning Glory Pool. But, after so many years of damage from people throwing things into the pool (I even heard a couch was thrown in there!), officials decided to shut down the road and make it a walking trail instead. We slipped and slid around on the boardwalk portions of the trail half-covered in snow and ice while sweating and getting sunburned.
Ah, spring in Yellowstone.
As we wandered back towards the Visitor Center, we realize we are still in the window for Grand Geyser (there's a four-hour time-frame for eruption). So, we find a seat on one of the benches and decide to wait 30 minutes.
While we didn't see Grand go, we saw marmots fighting and a coyote wander by.
Now, on to Old Faithful. Some say it was originally named "Nature's Timepiece" which I am much more partial to. Sounds fancy.
Old Faithful with the Old Faithful Inn in the backround. Photo credit: author.
After several winters in the park I was convinced that it was my favorite season here. Spring may be elbowing its way to the top.