GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts in Geysers

Reports about Yellowstone’s erupting thermal features, their prediction, and how they work.

What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

Categories: Geysers, Trip Reports, Wildlife
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Entering Yellowstone from the North Entrance may be a little tough going and not aesthetically pleasing for most of this year [2015], since there’s a humongous construction project going on to completely revamp the entrance area at the little town of Gardiner. But five miles and a thousand feet up the road to the south is Mammoth Hot Springs, and, in addition to seeing the springs along the Upper Terrace Road, I recommend spending an hour or so at the redone Albright Visitor Center. It has excellent hands-on dioramas of all of the park’s bigger mammals and kiosks for park orientation on the first floor. In the basement level, completely accessible with a new elevator, are great historical displays and the restrooms. For more about this see the Yellowstone Insider’s recent article.

One of Upper Geyser Basin’s most popular sites is the wonderfully regular Riverside Geyser. It almost always erupts every six to six-and-one-half hours. Here is the eruption I caught on my all-too-short visit to the park in mid June.


You can hear (1) a geyser gazer transmit by FRS radio the time of eruption to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, (2) the excited crowd,(3) the swishing of the main eruption, and (4) the rumbling of the side spouter that always accompanies Riverside’s eruptions. It always erupts quite a bit longer than this little video, which was edited for Granite Peak Publications by Jens Paape.

You can reach Artemisia Geyser’s beautiful pool and formation in one of two ways.Artemisia Geyser One is by walking beyond Riverside Geyser about half a mile up what used to be the main road and is now a rather rough trail past Morning Glory Pool (page 95 in Yellowstone Treasures) or by parking at Biscuit Basin and crossing the road to reach the other end of the trail from Morning Glory Pool. Up the hill in the distance in my picture is Hillside Springs, which old-time stagecoach drivers called Tomato Soup Springs.

I did not see any grizzly bears on this trip, but there are now enough of them in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so that visitors are seeing them quite frequently. The national media covered the recent very unusual event where a grizzly climbed on the hood and sides of an occupied car, leaving some scratches but giving the occupants of the car the thrill of their lifetime and their own video.

One thrill of this visit for me was being assigned for three nights to what has to be the best room in the Old House of Old Faithful Inn (Room 229). It was inside the farthest east of the five dormer windows that span the third floor front of the inn. Two mornings I awoke to a swishing sound, opened the side window, and there was Old Faithful Geyser erupting for my private enjoyment!

For fishermen and others interested in what is happening with the fish in Yellowstone Lake these days, take a look at the Great Falls Tribune’s story about the good news regarding the struggle against illegally introduced lake trout.

Summer sale on Visiting Geyserland ebook!

Categories: Geysers
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Yellowstone Treasures geyser walks ebook We recently improved Visiting Geyserland, adding more direct links to the geyser routes and maps. Visiting Geyserland is our guide to the geysers and hot springs in the ten Yellowstone geyser basins and other hydrothermal areas convenient to the roads. It’s handy to have the geyser walks at your fingertips on your phone or tablet when you are in Yellowstone. You can zoom in close to the maps and use the hyperlinks to jump to the correct section of the trails as you choose to follow them.

All summer we are offering this short ebook at $4.99, discounted from the list price of $8.49. The Buy now button on the Visiting Geyserland page takes you to our distributor IPG, where you can choose the format that works for you: ePub, Kindle, or PDF. Might be a good way to introduce a friend to Yellowstone Treasures!

—Editor Beth

Enjoying Geyser Eruptions, 1939 to Today

Categories: Bio, Geysers
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The countdown to my getting back to Yellowstone is down to seven days now, and the excitement grows! Anticipating seeing my favorite geysers and places and visiting with friends while I do it, I can hardly wait. So there’s lots to be done before I leave, and maybe you’ll forgive me if I go back eight years to a blog post I wrote when I was still blogging on Amazon.

In those blog posts I was reminiscing about my unforgettable four childhood summers (beginning in 1939) at Old Faithful, where my father was working in the Inn as Transportation Agent, and my mother took my sister and me to wonderful places, always driving, since she didn’t like to walk. So, from 2007, here goes. . . .

Two geysers we saw quite often when I got to live at Old Faithful were Great Fountain and Lone Star, both accessible by road in those days. We would take a lunch and a book or our game of Parcheesi and drive out north or south to wait for these geysers to erupt. It seems to me we would often have them to ourselves. LoneStarG_B.LasseterTo the left is Lone Star Geyser by Barbara Lasseter, from Yellowstone Treasures, page 106.

The most thrilling geyser viewing experience I can remember was being roused in the night to drive over to see Giant erupt. Daddy took me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. Somehow, the group excitement made more of an impression than the actual eruption! According to George Marler’s Inventory of Thermal Features, the first half of the 1940s was a relatively quiet time for Giant, so I was privileged to be there at an eruption. And the next time I got to see one was on July 3rd, 2006—again with a lot of excited viewers. Recently Giant has been erupting quite reliably every few days and thrilling hundreds of us. [Oops! Not these years. Giant hasn’t erupted since 2008.] You can sometimes even see the huge steam cloud from its eruptions on the Old Faithful Webcam.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned there are actually hundreds of active geysers in Yellowstone, maybe 500 of them, but changing all the time. Each one has its own shape, size, and personality. There are many “geyser gazers” who go to the park only to watch and study the geysers.

Let’s celebrate March, Women’s History Month, with an excerpt from a Yellowstone story written by Margaret Andrews Allen. In 1885 her family visited Upper Geyser Basin in a horse-driven wagon. Camping near Castle Geyser, they all set out the morning after arrival to see the geysers.

“First, of course, we visit Old Faithful, the Clock of the Valley, hardly varying five minutes in its hourly eruptions. Its low, broad cone of scale-like layers is firm as the solid rock. No thought of danger here. Everything gives us the idea of regularity and order. We are in position, the curtain rises, and the play begins. The eruption is fine, the geyser sending up a solid column of water, with clouds of hot steam, for over a hundred feet. But it is soon over, and we add to our experience by drinking of the hot sulphur water it has left in all the little hollows of the crust. This is merely to add to our experience, for the taste is far from agreeable. This geyser is the great resource of hurried tourists, from its regularity. We met many parties who had seen only this one—and that one alone is well worth seeing. But what one is sure of seldom fascinates. The freaky ones are most sought after and admired.

“We cross the rushing Firehole, and I shall leave it for the guide-book to tell the variety of craters and pools, extinct and active geysers and formations, all the way from Cauliflower to Coral. We come back to our tent already feeling like old residents, ready to initiate ignorant new-comers.

“We have seen various men pass with mysterious bags on long poles, and, on questioning one of our neighbors (a very old resident, for she has been here a month) we find it is merely the family washing. The bag contains soap and clothes, and is to be hung in a boiling spring, when, in a few hours, the dirt will be boiled out. We follow suit, and immediately our bag of clothes is hanging in a lovely little blue pool not far from our tent.

“But we have a ham in our wagon; why should not that be cooked in the same way? The Devil’s Well [Crested Pool] is near, and soon our ham, in a strong sack fastened to a pole, is cheerfully bubbling away. In about two hours it is well done, and lasts us the rest of the journey. Our potatoes are not so successful, for our bag breaks, and down they go to whoever the owner of the well may be, for a perpetual potato-soup.

“At dinner, our neighbor, the Castle, starts an eruption, and immediately the whole valley is in turmoil, rushing hither and thither for a good view. But the geyser changes its mind, the clouds drift up, a drizzling rain begins, and we are settling down for a quiet afternoon in our tent when suddenly, with rumble and roar, the deceitful Castle shoots a column of water into the air and everything is dropped for the show.

Castle Geyser black-and-white photo

“Our neighboring campers are already climbing the sides of the cone, about twenty feet above the road, to have a look inside, and we follow their example. Then stones are thrown in and shot out instantly. I bethink me of our dish-towels, and in they go. In another minute they are fifty feet in the air, and dashed down far on the other side; for a strong wind has risen and driven the water and steam in a great curve to the south. After three such baths they are clean. We have seen the only poetical washing-day in our lives. We wish all were like it. It is not turning the geyser to a base use: it is merely idealizing washing.”

Of course, the thousands of visitors to geyserland today do not use the pools and geysers to wash their clothes and dishes. But think how it must have lightened the load of “woman’s work” for the few days Ms. Allen was in Yellowstone. Times have changed!

Ms. Allen’s entire story will be reproduced in Granite Peak Publications’ upcoming collection, with the working title of Magnificent Playground.

Castle Geyser photo from 1996 by Leslie Kilduff, appears on page 99 of Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition.

Knowing that lots of people would like to learn how geysers work, I’ll take a stab at explaining the requirements and the mechanism as simply as possible.

What is required to create a geyser and what’s happening when it erupts? All geysers have four requirements: water, heat, the right kind of rock, and a system of conduits and reservoirs (plumbing) that includes one or more constrictions to keep water and steam from flowing freely to the surface. The water pooled above such constrictions acts like a lid to maintain pressure on water below. Such constrictions differentiate geysers from the much more common hot springs. Although no one has yet been able to see exactly what this plumbing looks like, it must be something like this diagramGeyser Mechanism Figure drawn by my husband Bruno Giletti for Yellowstone Treasures. The countless different shapes the underground plumbing may take must account for the great variety in the patterns and timing of Yellowstone’s geyser eruptions—what I call their personalities.

Whether the water comes from the vent in the distinctive cone of Beehive Geyser2004_BeehiveG. or from the beautiful geyserite-ringed pool of Great Fountain Geyser, 2008_GreatFtnG the mechanism is the same.

Deep below the geyser’s vent or pool seen at the surface is a kind of rock that is rich in silica. In Yellowstone this rock, called rhyolite, was deposited in huge amounts when the caldera erupted. Silica is the primary element in the hydrous silicon dioxide (technical name for geyserite) that is deposited both along the conduits of the geyser’s water passages and all around its surface vent.

Also deep below a geyser are (1) a source of heat—in Yellowstone it is the still extremely hot volcanic rocks more than two miles below the surface—and (2) the water that has seeped into the earth from snowmelt and rain (meteoric water), and voila!—the geyser erupts.

As water gradually fills the reservoirs and is heated from below, it becomes superheated and forms steam bubbles, and the water pressure increases. Eventually, the steam pushes some water out of the vent, and steam—which requires something like a thousand times more space than water—is also released. When the pressure is thus sufficiently reduced, the steam in the conduit can blow the water column out of the vent. In many geysers, when the water supply is exhausted, the remaining steam continues for the steam phase of the eruption.

I have gleaned some ideas for this post from the sidebar my husband Bruno Giletti, a geochemist, wrote in Yellowstone Treasures (pages 88 and 89) and from T. Scott Bryan, a former ranger and also a geologist and author of books about geysers, including his Geysers: What They Are and How They Work. But as early as the mid 19th century, German scientist Eberhard von Bunsen and others already had it pretty well figured out. You can find out more about the study of the geyser mechanisms here in my September 2013 post.

Navigating around yellowstonetreasures.com

Categories: Geysers, On the Web, Wildlife
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You might like to know how to make the most of your visits to yellowstonetreasures.com, so I’ve decided to provide you with a sort of navigational post.

First, on the home page, by clicking on the white bar below the row of pictures at the top, you can move across the page and find seven different pictures. Then, clicking on any one of the pictures or on the descriptions below them takes you to a page related in one way or another to the home page picture. For instance, clicking on the elk gives you a detailed article about the resident elk herd at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Also on the home page, moving your cursor across the top yellow strip to click on Author Blog, you will find the page with our current posts (most written by Author Janet, but some by Editor and Publisher Beth). At the top right of this page is a search box where you can enter a word and come up with all the blog posts and pages (or nuggets) covering that subject here since May of 2009. I just put in the word “bears” and found 18 posts and 8 nuggets discussing grizzlies and black bears. A search for “geysers” brought up 28 posts and 24 nuggets.

On every single page of the website, you can find things another way by scrolling down and entering your search word in the Search box at the bottom right.

One further search aid you might find helpful while you are on either the main Nuggets or Author Blog pages, is the Categories and Archives boxes at the lower right.

Happy navigating in 2015!

Announcing the Visiting Geyserland e-book

Categories: Geysers, Thermal features, Trip planning
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Janet Chapple’s new e-book of geyser basin walking tours of Yellowstone National Park is now available from Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, eBooks.com, and more . . .

More about my geyser day

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riverside geyser firehole river

Riverside Geyser (2004)

While I waited for Grand on August 12, 2014, several geyser gazers mentioned that Riverside Geyser was due around 1:30 pm, so I thought (although I hadn’t brought a lunch)—why not stay out in the basin? So on I went to relax in the shade at Riverside and catch its 1:55 pm eruption—a little less rewarding than sometimes, because the wind was blowing the water and steam back at the geyser cone. It couldn’t create a beautiful drape across the river, as I’ve seen many other times. [This ten-year-old photo shows a faint rainbow, something else to look for when you visit. –Ed.]

Just as I approached on the long walk back up the paved road (the former Grand Loop Road), Castle obliged me with my fourth major eruption of the day at about 2:25 pm.

But that was not all! After some sustenance and a rest, I took off again for the early evening eruption of Great Fountain. A few minutes after establishing myself with a book on the viewing bench, my neighbors on the bench and I struck up a conversation. Nine-year-old Emma from Portland wanted to tell me all about her many trips to the park and environs and to pick my brains about what I knew, so the book was put away.

I timed the first overflow of Great Fountain at 6:38 and knew we still had at least 45 minutes to wait, so I asked Emma if she’d like to walk back along the road to see Surprise Pool and Firehole Spring. She asked her father’s permission, and off we went. Like me, she was mesmerized watching the big white bubble of steam rise over and over in Firehole Spring and sometimes burst at the surface. And I had to scold her father for never stopping there on the way to Great Fountain.

Nevertheless, Emma had a one-up on me, when she said she’d been to Oblique Geyser—and I haven’t. I’m more inclined to call it Avalanche Geyser (see “A Yellowstone rock in the Smithsonian, Part II“—but I’ve never been there.

Great Fountain began its significant bursts at 7:21. Never having seen it erupt on the same day as Grand, I had never noted the contrast in their eruptions. Grand pushes up its water higher and higher and continues with constant jetting until it all disappears down its big hole. But it’s always worth waiting a few minutes, because as on this day, it can return with one (or sometimes more) great spoutings; on this day, the second was higher than the first, as I caught on my second video:

In contrast, Great Fountain begins rather tentatively (and may have a blue bubble at its base, but not this time). It seems to die back, then surges up again numerous times. I watched for only 20 minutes but suspect it went on longer.

And so to rest, with visions of spouting waters to last me another year.

CREDIT: The photo of Riverside Geyser was taken by my son-in-law Niklas Dellby on August 5, 2004.

Geyser Day 2014

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Since I never tire of watching Yellowstone’s geysers, this year I gave myself all of one day, August twelfth, for chasing the best eruptions. I was richly rewarded.

Starting early, before the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened and posted its predictions, I took a chance that there might be an early morning eruption of Great Fountain Geyser that I could catch, but sitting at its shapely formation for 45 minutes, I saw only small bursts and had to conclude that I had missed it.

Still, delighted to find that my FRS radio worked even nine miles from Old Faithful, I heard that Fountain Geyser (in the Fountain Paint Pot area) had started erupting at 9:12, so I got there as quickly as exceeding the speed limit (just a little) would allow. I was in time to witness the latter part of Fountain’s eruption, which continued until 9:48. Jet Geyser was spouting in all directions, and little Twig Geyser contributed, too.

Red Spouter’s northern vent was acting as a very loud fumarole, and the southern vent was boiling vigorously, showing that the water table is relatively high for this late in the summer, thanks to ample rainfall. A clever new sign at the Paint Pot gives us the “Recipe for Mudpots.”

Fortunately, I had arrived at the parking lot before the 10:00 am crush, when tour buses and the majority of private vehicles make parking next to impossible. (The same was true this August at Norris Geyser Basin.)

Being able to phone the Old Faithful V.E.C. for geyser predictions this year proved its value: I learned from calling (307) 344-2751 (x2) that I might get back to Upper Geyser Basin in time for Grand Geyser, whose four-hour window was given as 9:15 am to 1:15 pm. Sure enough, arriving at Grand at 11:23, I had only a half-hour wait. Just after the second Turban Geyser eruption that I witnessed, Grand began and gloriously lived up to its name. Its two bursts spanned about fourteen minutes, and I was able to record some of the high points on my iPhone. This was one of the highest and most exciting Grand eruptions I’ve seen in recent memory.