Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

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  • Elk takes its time crossing the street
    Elk takes its time crossing the street
    by Bwana_Brown
  • View of Mammoth Hot Springs from Upper Terrace
    View of Mammoth Hot Springs from Upper...
    by Bwana_Brown
  • Mammoth Hot Springs view from the terraces
    Mammoth Hot Springs view from the...
    by Bwana_Brown
  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Lower Terraces area

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 10, 2010

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    Liberty Cap invites you
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    We had only scratched the surface at Mammoth Hot Springs the day before, so this time we tried to give it our best shot in the limited time available. Starting out in the Lower Terrace area, it was impossible not to be impressed by the 45-foot tall Liberty Cap! Named after a type of soldier’s hat worn at the time of the French Revolution, this hunk of rock was formed by caldera pressurized hot water flowing to the surface from deep below. The minerals in the water leached out at the surface and gradually built this cone as long as the water continued to flow. Eventually a geological change of some sort cut off the water flow, leaving this mineralized core as its legacy to the world.

    Turning around and looking the other way, we were standing beside the still active Palette Hot Springs (2nd photo) with its very nice looking combination of flowing water, limestone and heat – just like a great landscape painting. There are things to see everywhere you look, including a trickle of hot water flowing over another geological formation still building itself (3rd photo).

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth Hot Springs

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Oct 29, 2010

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    Orange Spring Mound

    Upper Terrace Drive is a one way scenic drive that winds for one and a half miles past a number of hot springs and terraces. This is a narrow, winding road, so trailers, buses, and motor homes are not allowed to drive this Upper Terrace route. There are a number of small turn offs along the way for you to park and take short walks to various formations on the upper level. Some of these springs can also be walked to from the Lower Terrace, but other terraces and spring mounds can only be seen along the drive. For this reason I recommend doing both. I especially love the Orange Spring Mound, which is only seen from the drive.

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  • JanPeter74's Profile Photo

    Mammoth Hot Springs

    by JanPeter74 Updated Sep 8, 2004

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    Canary Spring (Mammoth Hot Springs)

    If you enter Yellowstone NP from the north, the first major geothermal area you will pass is Mammoth Hot Springs.

    This area consists of numerous mineral terraces created by water filled with sulphur and other minerals. Activity changes throughout the area, leaving some past active areas completely dry for years and creating new terraces at other places. Right now, the most active area was Canary Spring. Palette Spring is also a very nice spot.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    An overview of Mammoth

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 29, 2006

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    Mammoth Terraces

    Mammoth Hot Springs area is the place to visit if you want to get a good sense of the way in which the geological formations of Yellowstone are being continuously created and shaped by the power of the forces below. Here the travertine formations create a series of white terraces and ledges, as seen on many images of Yellowstone. Apparently these formations change much more rapidly than others in the park and consequently the experience can be different for each visitor. As the park website warns:
    "the location of springs and the rate of flow changes daily, "on-again-off-again" is the rule, and the overall volume of water discharged by all of the springs fluctuates little."

    I confess I was a little disappointed in the terraces' overall appearance as on our visit so few had water in them or running through, so they looked fairly lifeless – an impression strengthened by the gloomy weather that day. Nevertheless this area is still a must on any tour of Yellowstone precisely because it is so different. And our day was made by the sighting of a bull elk posing patiently for those tourists who’d braved the showers.

    There are two areas of Mammoth to be explored: the Upper Terraces which you can tour on a one-way loop road, with several good stopping places, and the Lower Terraces, best seen on foot. As there is so much to see I’ve written separate tips on each of these.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Mammoth Hot Springs Lower Terrace

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Oct 29, 2010

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    Mammoth Hot Springs

    In Mammoth the primary rock is limestone. You will see both active and inactive travertine terraces. These terraces are in continual change, old ones become inactive, and inactive ones may once again become active. Changes can even happen over night. Thermophiles, which are heat loving microorganisms live in the hot water that flows down the active terraces, giving them beautiful colors of orange, brown, green, and yellow. Because it is these living organisms that create the beautiful colors, when a terrace become inactive, the organisms die, and only gray, crumbling terraces remain. If they once again become active, the organisms return, and the color once again returns. The Lower Terrace is seen on foot, by walking paths and boardwalks. You will see Liberty Cap, a 37 foot (11 m) formation that was created by a hot spring that is estimated to be 2500 years old, but is now dormant. You will see terraces, and overlooks. Look at the dormant, gray terraces and examine their shapes. Sometimes you may even be surprised to see elk lying on these dry terraces. Admire the beautiful active terraces, and have fun photographing them.

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  • JanPeter74's Profile Photo

    Mammoth Hot Springs - Colours

    by JanPeter74 Written Sep 8, 2004

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    Main Terrace (Mammoth Hot Springs)

    The colours of the terraces indicate the activity. So traces of brown are a good sign in this area. The picture show the Main Terrace, which shows some activity. However the Minerva terraces, which used to be active in the past and can be found in many postcards have been inactive for a couple of years already.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Upper Terrace Drive

    by toonsarah Written Oct 29, 2006

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    Orange Spring Mound
    1 more image

    The Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth is a one-way loop road about 2 miles in length. It’s very winding and only cars are allowed (i.e. no RVs or buses). It provides access to a number of viewing points overlooking the travertine terraces below, some short boardwalks, and a number of features otherwise hidden from view by the trees.

    I particularly liked the short stroll to Canary Spring which is great for capturing those bleak landscape photos (dead trees, haunting colours), and offers a glimpse of how the terraces are being constantly created. More fantastic colours can be seen on Orange Spring Mound, one of the features on the back road.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Lower Terraces

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 29, 2006

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    Elk on Opal Terrace (photo by Chris)

    The Lower Terraces at Mammoth can be seen from the viewpoints on the Upper Terrace drive but are best explored on foot, either from there or from the parking lots on the main loop road below. The main features are the terraces themselves (Mound, Jupiter and Minerva, plus Opal on the other side of the road); a number of springs including the colourful Palette Spring; and the weird Liberty Cap formation, a 37 foot high outcrop said to resemble the knitted caps worn by freedom fighters in the French Revolution – though it looked like something rather different to me ;)

    The highlight of our visit to Mammoth was the patient posing of a bull elk on Opal Terrace who allowed us to take loads of photos while he (I suspect) warmed his back-side on what was a rather miserable, damp day.

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Mammoth Hot Springs

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 23, 2010

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    Huge hot springs area really stands out!
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    After backtracking to the highway across the top of Yellowstone that leads to Mammoth Hot Springs, we were cruising along when I saw this strange sight ahead of us. It took me a few minutes to realize that this is what hydro-thermal pools and the minerals they deposit at the surface look like – we had arrived! Reaching the community itself only a few minutes later, a female Elk (2nd photo) quickly showed us who has the right-of-way in Yellowstone. There were quite a number of Elk either lying on the grass or munching away at various downtown locations and none of them seemed the least bit concerned. After our long day of driving, we decided to just make a quick tour of colourful Palette Hot Springs, the thermal vent closest to town. While standing beside the Spring, we had a good view of the community of Mammoth Hots Springs and the surrounding countryside (3rd photo). It was already 5 PM and we still had to make a short drive to exit Yellowstone by the North Entrance so we could get ourselves booked into our accommodations there in the little town of Gardiner, Montana (nothing available inside the NP when we tried to book a month earlier). We had really enjoyed both getting to Yellowstone and what we had seen so far!

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Upper Terrace Road

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 10, 2010

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    New Highland Spring beside the terrace road
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    We had already done some exploring of the lower sections of Mammoth Hot Springs the day before, so decided to take a little drive around Upper Terrace Road to see what surprises it had in store for us. The first thing we came across was New Highland Spring in an area of intermittent geo-thermal activity. This one turned out to be relatively modern, with hot flows of 160°F bursting into activity in the early 1950s and explaining why there are still dead trees held in the grasp of this growing travertine hill. This one-way drive on Upper Terrace Road also provided a good view back toward Mammoth Hot Springs nestled below in its valley (2nd photo).

    Just around the next turn we came to Orange Spring Mound (3rd photo), thought to be a much older formation based on the amount of minerals deposited there. It was found to be a much cooler spring than most at Mammoth Hot Springs and we found it to be a very nice attraction. We got out for a closer look and even managed to capture its small eruption of hot water (4th photo).

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  • Dymphna1's Profile Photo

    Prettiest of all the spots.

    by Dymphna1 Updated Aug 27, 2009

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    Just gets prettier
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    Mammoth is always changing. The amount of water and where it is flowing changes all the time. Some start and some end with each earthquake. Even though the ones that have stopped are not pretty, those that are running are the most spectacular in the park.

    This is an easy walk and a great deal of this can be done in the car.

    Picture #3 was amazing to see in real life. The first time I was by there - without my camera - go figure - this spot was dry, right in the middle of the running water. It was like there was a tiny forest of rock built up in that little spot. Amazing is all I can say.

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  • kazander's Profile Photo

    Upper Mammoth Drive

    by kazander Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Orange Mound Mammoth Hot Springs

    After hiking around the boardwalks of the Lower Terraces of Mammoth, we took the one way road around upper Mammoth Drive. It's just a little ways down the road from where you park for the lower terraces. This little loop of a road takes you past a few diffrent features such as Orange Mound, Elephants Back and White Angel Terrace. There are pulloffs so that you can stop and take a longer look. The Lower Terrace trail meets up with this road, so you can start down at the bottom and check out both sections of Mammoth on foot if you so choose.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Lower Terrace Trail

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    Minerva Terrace
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    Mammoth Hot Springs is one of Yellowstone's most popular areas due to accessibility and its colorful travertine formations. If arriving from the north, this is likely your first stop and its terraces are high on most visitors lists of things to see. Travertine deposits are initially white but change color due to bacteria and are in constant state of flux. The walk through the Lower Terrace is mostly on a boardwalk to protect the formations and visitors from potential injury due to negligence in keeping a proper distance from the fragile landscape. It can be disappointing for return visitors to find personal favorites no longer looking quite as impressive but that is part of this ever changing ecosystem. The Upper Terrace is a one-way short drive. You can walk from the Lower Terrace to the overlook generally visited while driving the Upper Terrace Loop.

    The Lower Terrace Trail is predominately a boardwalk stroll that does involve a few steps to climb if you want to get all the way to the Lower Terrace Overlook but along the way you will pass quite a few colorful formations along its approximate one mile length. Unfortunately, it is not entirely wheel-chair accessible which I found odd considering all the work put into laying all the boardwalk. While the Liberty Cap, a 37 foot hot spring cone, and Opal Terrace are a disappointing start to the walk, things heat up literally once you get into the meat of the walk. Both the Minerva Terrace and Palette Spring were particularly colorful with great hues of orange, green, and brown which result from bacteria reacting to the hot temperatures of the springs.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Upper Terrace Loop Drive

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    Lower Terrace Overlook
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    The Upper Terrace Loop Drive is a 1.5 mile one way road which gives easy access to the Lower Terrace Overlook as well as a few other formations. I found this a bit of an overkill with regard to accessibility, especially considering the Lower Terrace was not wheel-chair accessible. We walked up to the Lower Terrace Overlook and would have liked to continue on walking the Upper Terrace Loop but did not want to walk on the road. The entire walk would be 2.5 miles and if it was all wheel-chair accessible it would be great. It would get people out of their cars and walking, one of the things I feel national parks should encourage. We did not even do the Upper Terrace as I did not want to have to start and stop the car every tenth of a mile, get in and out of my car, and basically see a few more of similar formations as I just saw in the Lower Terrace. If I was walking, I would have gladly done it.

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  • kazander's Profile Photo

    Mammoth in the Morning....

    by kazander Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Mammoth Hot Springs
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    The Lower Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs was our first stop of the day. We arrived early morning, just as the big tour groups were hurrying people back into the buses. It was a nice time to explore, it is a fairly large area with lots of boardwalks and stairs, it wasn't too hot out that it would slow us down.
    The Springs themselves are travertine terraces made up of mineral deposits. Some of them are active, with water flowing down the terraces. Some of them are dormant, making them look like snow covered steps. The different types of bacteria and organisms in the hot water account for the different colors in the springs.

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