As a child, I was told “there’s nothing to see at Mammoth,” so we never stopped. But this assessment is only true if you’re unwilling to get out of your car!
Mammoth Hot Springs does not have hot pools where you can soak, but there’s a lot to see. The Albright Visitor Center is a good place to start for its exhibits, books, and free movies. There you can also ask the rangers where the current and most interesting thermal activity is in this dynamic place.
One year you’ll want to see Palette Spring, another time it’ll be Opal Terrace, seen here when active in 1996. One hundred years ago you’d probably have wanted to visit Jupiter Terrace, here in a postcard from circa 1920.
The Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth is short enough to walk around, but several parking areas are scattered along the drive for those in cars. This is where you’ll find Canary Spring’s terrace, covered with colorful microbial mats—at least, it’s colorful in its more active years.
Orange Spring Mound is just one of the huge mounds of travertine along this drive. This feature has been so active recently its formation has almost overtaken the road.
Since Mammoth Hot Springs has always been the headquarters of the park, this is where U.S. Cavalry units were stationed, beginning with Company M in 1886 and continuing for more than 30 years. You can take a walk around former Fort Yellowstone, guided by a pamphlet available at the visitor center. The buildings now serve as housing, offices, and shops for people who work for the park.
CREDITS: Jupiter Terrace postcard by Detroit Publishing Co.; Canary Spring photo by Bruno Giletti; Palette Spring, Opal Terrace, and Orange Spring Mound photos by Janet Chapple.
IN THE GUIDEBOOK:
Near Mammoth Hot Springs is a place where you are allowed to soak in refreshing hot water, described on pages 255–56 of Yellowstone Treasures, fifth edition.
Revised March 28, 2011. All Rights Reserved.