Our last stop was lower Geyser Basin. My grandson went all around the Fountain Paint Pot trail with the guide and was able to see all five kinds of thermal features - bubbling mud pots, hot springs, fumaroles, and steam vents - and of course geysers. I sat at the beginning of the trail and people watched and bird watched.
Note: I picked this date to go to Yellowstone because it was the beginning of the season with less visitors than in the middle of the summer.
At the end of the first day, I went out on the Upper Geyser Basin trail around the Old Faithful Inn and photographed thermal features until it got too dark an I got too cold. I saw many thermal pools, geysers and hot springs including Beauty Pool. Several hundred geysers are found within the basin, together with numerous hot pools.
Unfortunately at the time I did this, I didn't think to photograph the names of all the things I saw (except for Beauty Pool and Chromatic Pool), so now I don't know exactly what all of them are.
We got lost when we left the lodge and ended up at Black Sand Basin. We had a hard time finding a parking place because the place was full of fishermen. I just walked up to the end of the bridge by Cliff Geyser, and then used the bathroom (non-flush and with no interior light). My grandson walked all the way up to Emerald Pool and took pictures of the various thermal features
According to the NPS website, this was the location of Handkerchief Pool and it was not Morning Glory Pool as I remembered.
We stopped at the Mud Volcano area because it looked like rain and the driver decided to put in an extra stop that wasn't on the original schedule, just in case. Although most of the time I didn't do a lot of the trails, in this case, I went up to the Mud Volcano and Dragon's mouth because that short bit of the trail wasn't too long and was reportedly - handicapped accessible. (See map - photo 3). My grandson did the half-mile upper loop trail via Sour Lake and the Black Dragon's Caldron is with the guide. Also in the area was the Sulphur Caldron which can be viewed from a staging area just north of Mud Volcano. The Sulphur Caldron is among the most acidic springs in the park with a pH of 1.3. Its yellow, turbulent splashing waters also there is a large, active mudpot.
We took the Ring of Fire tour, so I could see lots of thermal features and my grandmother wouldn't have to drive. We didn't get front seats on the bus, but I sat on one side and she sat on the other. We drove down Firehole Canyon drive and our last stop was Lower Geyser Basin. I went all around the Fountain Paint Pot trail with the guide and was able to see all four kinds of thermal features - mud pots, hot springs, fumaroles, and steam vents - and of course geysers. My grandmother sat and waited for us.
The other thing I did where I saw lots of thermal stuff was to take the trail from the Old Faithful Inn to Black Sand Basin, but I'll make that into another tip
It may seem ridiculous, but many people go to Old Faithful and are unaware that there are trails behind it that lead to many of Yellowstone's most beautiful hot springs, as well as other geysers. If you go to see Old Faithful, do not forget to take a walk on the trails to see the hot springs. Although some of them smell bad, the colors are gorgeous, and Yellowstone has more hot springs and geysers than any other region in the world, so it would be a shame to miss them!
By far my favorite geyser I saw during my visit was Riverside Geyser. Its distinguishing characteristic is its location mainly. Only a few feet above the bank of the Firehole River this geyser is one of the most predictable in the park. An hour or two prior to each eruption the pool in the cone begins running over the edge into the river. The bubbling becomes more visible and when it erupts water is shot to heights of 75 foot (23m).
The move interesting thing about this geyser though is that the water from its eruption almost entirely lands in the river. The geyser erupts at an angle which causes the flow to arch over the river and create an image of rain falling on the surface of the river. The dispersion of water from its angled eruption allows water vapor to cover a large area and that creates a great habitat for rainbows.
The regularity of the Geyser, every 5 to 7 hours, allows you a much better chance to see it erupt. For eruption times check at the Old Faithful Visitors Center or hike to the geyser and read the prediction sign which is updated daily. Each eruption lasts about 20 minutes.
Grotto Geyser is just a short walk along the paved path from Old Faithful. First Passing the Castle-Grand Group then the Daisy Group you will end up at the Grotto Group next. There are actually a few different Geysers that are commonly erupting in the same area. Like many other attractions in the park, Grotto Geyser was one of the points made in the 1870 report to congress to make Yellowstone a national park.
The main thing that sets Grotto Geyser apart from many of the others in the park is its peculiar shape. It has a semicircular wall that surrounds a single spire in the middle. When it erupts the water is shot into that spire and splashes. One of the other drawing properties of this geyser is its activity. The eruption of this geyser is only 7-29 hours between eruptions, but the eruptions last from 1 to up to 17 hours. The extremely long duration of its eruptions make the chance of you seeing this geyser erupting pretty good. Its nearly constant activity shoots water up to 15 feet in the air consistently and may reach 40 feet (12 m).
Giant Geyser is the second largest active geyser in the world. Only Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin is larger. By active they mean that it has erupted somewhat recently and is likely to erupt again. Both of these Geysers have not erupted in a predictable manner in recent times. As recently as 1997 the geyser had somewhat regular eruptions of every 3-10 days. Since then its regularity has become more sporadic. It may go several months with no eruption and could even go years without.
The beauty of this Geyser is that if you are lucky enough to witness an eruption you will join a very small group of people who have also seen it. Of course their would be no big deal if the geyser was small. This is however, one Giant Geyser. Its eruptions may be shot in excess of 180 - 250 feet (55 - 76m) high. The first minute is usually where the maximum height is reached and it wanes down later in its eruption cycle to 90 feet or less. The eruptions are last a very long time and can go for over an hour. Since it is a cone type geyser like Old Faithful its eruption is fairly constant without spurts like Grand Geyser.
With the long duration and height of the water being erupted it’s no surprise that this geyser amount of water erupted out of this geyser is 100 times that of old faithful. 1,000,000 gallons of water can be shot into the air in one single eruption.
Visually Giant Geyser’s cone looks like a petrified tree stump. Its cone is approximately 10 feet tall and even if it is not erupting you may hear it gurgling and witness water cycling through the center of its cone.
Castle Geyser has the largest cone of any in the park. Along with Grand Geyser and Sawmill Geyser as well as several others it makes up the Castle-Grand Geyser Group. The name was given to this Geyser by the Washburn Expedition. They believed that it looked like "an old feudal tower partially in ruins." The Eruptions of Castle Geyser can be shot up to 100 feet in the air and it erupts approximately every 10-12 hours with 15 to 20 minute durations. For eruption times check at the Old Faithful Visitors Center or hike to the geyser and read the prediction sign which is updated daily.
Near the geyser is Crested Pool at 42 feet to the bottom before the vent. It has a rim which encircles its edge and has a beautiful blue/green color. This pool is very hot and in 1970 a young boy died from burns suffered while trying to swim in this very pool.
Sawmill Geyser is not one of the well known geysers in the park. Its eruptions are only 3 to 40 feet high. The interesting factors that make this geyser one worth seeing are its duration and its peculiar eruption. The geyser erupts every 1 to 3 hours and typically last 30 to 50 minutes that translates to it erupting about 30% of the time.
The form of its eruption is also something that makes it unique. The water erupts in a spinning motion in its crater because it erupts from one end in an arc to the other then is circulated to the vent again. The Spinning motions along with the whistling sound are what inspired a topographer named Antoine Schoenborn to name the geyser.
Sawmill Geyser is connected in a group with several other geysers nearby. The other geysers: Tardy, Churn, Spasmodic, Penta, Old Tardy and several other small geysers also can erupt at the same time or in alternating eruptions.
Grand Geyser is the tallest predictable geyser in the world. Its eruptions occur every 7-15 hours. For eruption times check at the Old Faithful Visitors Center or hike to the geyser and read the prediction sign which is updated daily. It is a fountain type geyser unlike Old Faithful its eruption is more fan-like than column-like. The eruption comes in spurts rather than a constant flow.
Each eruption lasts from 9-12 minutes and can have multiple bursts where the flow will stop entirely and then suddenly start again, sometimes having 4 or more of these stagnant periods. The main drawing card here is the height that the water is thrown into the air. It consistently reaches heights of 160 feet (48m) and has been known to reach 200 feet (60m).
There are two other geysers that share the same subterranean plumbing in the Grand Group, Turban and Vent Geysers. The more active Turban Geyser erupts every 15 to 22 minutes. Each eruption of Grand Geyser occurs at the onset of one of Turban's eruptions. Geyser hunters will undoubtedly be scouting out this monster and when each eruption of Turban Geyser begins they will become frantic hoping it's the one that will begin Grand's eruption. Upon the eruption of Grand Geyser the third geyser will come to life. It shoots water to 75 feet (23 m) and will sometimes continue to erupt for an hour after Grand has stopped.
There will likely be many of the hardcore Geyser hunters that I was speaking about. They scout out the geysers and intend to see every erruption. If you happen to be waiting for an eruption for any length of time these very knowledgeable people will likely start telling stories of the best eruptions they have seen and when a certain irregular geyser last erupted. Listen in on their conversations for more info and ask them for tips on what other geysers may be erupting soon. They will have the most recent information on current trends and they may even suggest what ones you would be likely to see during your visit.
We really enjoyed taking these one way roads. Getting off the loop road for a little exploring with a bit less of a crowd was wonderful. Firehole Lake Drive was probably the busiest of the one way roads we took. There are many pulloffs on this little road so you can stop and walk the boardwalks and hopefully see a geyser erupt. White Dome Geyser is a good bet at anytime. It goes off about every 15 minutes. (at least that was what I was told by another visitor, the website seems to disagree) It was the first eruption we saw. Also along this drive is the pink cone geyser, great fountain geyser, one of the tallest in the park (for which predictions are posted, it goes off about every 12 hours or so) among other attractions. Firehole lake is worth getting out of your car to have a look around. All of the colors from the bacteria are really intense.
You could spend almost an entire day just exploring Norris Geyser Basin. Norris is the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone. It is rather large basin with two loop trails passing by tons of thermal features. Unfortunately we did not have time to see them all. We visited Norris on two occasions. The first time it started to hail and thunderstorm so we cut our visit short, and the second we just didn't have enough time to see everything. We did manage to get through the Back Basin Loop. There we were able to see such beautiful and interesting features such as Echinus Geyser, one of the most regular geysers in the park with a beautiful rust color along it's edges, Steamboat Geyser, the tallest in the world, but it has no regularity, Emerald Spring, and the green Dragon Spring, amongst others. Next time we will be sure to see the Porcelain basin, which is supposed to be otherworldly.
UPDATE! We have been back to Norris and were able to explore the porcelain basin! more desciptions to come!
There is also a small Museum and Book Store at this stop. Midday, the bathroom lines can be brutally long.
We managed to squeeze in a little visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin just before a big thunderstorm came through. This basin sits just along the edge of the West Thumb section of Yellowstone Lake. Some of the Geysers such as Big Cone and Fishing Cone, so named for the fisherman who would catch a fish then immediately dunk their catch into the boiling water of the geyser to cook it, (this practice is now strictly forbidden of course) are actually in the lake . Their cones protude up from the waters surface. It's very interesting to see. Besides these features, the basin is also home to a few gorgeous, deep turquoise pools such as Blue Funnel Spring. When we visited their were a few elk wandering through the spring areas. Two does and an immature male (only 4 little points!) It made a picturesque area even more so. There are also a few glopping mudpots, but they are a bit watered down.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is a short stroll though on boardwalks. I would highly recommend a visit.