The Largest concentration of geysers in the world is in the Upper Geyser Basin. Check at the Old Faithful Visitor Center to find out when some of these wonderful Geysers are predicted to erupt, but remember, these are just guesses. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the park and is located in the Upper Geyser Basin. This geyser erupts more frequently than the other big geysers, erupting every 40 to 126 minutes. Old Faithful’s eruption lasts from 1 ½ minutes to 5 minutes on average, and reaches heights of about 105 – 184 feet, expelling 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water.
Click my Video tab to watch my short video, Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone Park, which will give you a view of a partial eruption of Old Faithful.
Beehive Geyser is another favorite geyser in this basin, I know it is my favorite in the park. Unfortunately this geyser can be dormant for long periods, and we have only been lucky enough to watch it once, and I didn’t happen to have my camera along! The eruption usually lasts for about 4 to 5 minutes. The narrow cone of Beehive acts like a nozzle, projecting a powerful column of water to a height of 130 to 180 feet in the air. This geyser is generally higher than Old Faithful and certainly much noisier as it roars while the water is forcefully shot upwards. It is spectacular!!
When you get to Grand Geyser, if the pool looks full, and people seem to be gathering around it, wait awhile and you might be lucky enough to see this one erupt. This is a fountain geyser, which erupts in bursts rather than a column like Old Faithful and Beehive. This is the tallest predictable geyser in the world, sometimes reaching 200 feet.
There are many more geysers to enjoy in the Upper Geyser Basin, so don’t just watch Old Faithful, then jump in your car and head out again.
If you missed the link to the Old Faithful Web Cam that I had placed on my Yellowstone Introduction Page, check the website below.
Is there a tourist who visits Yellowstone and doesn’t go to watch Old Faithful erupt? It’s the most frequent of the predictable geysers and as such can guarantee even the most hurried of visitors a spectacular show.
But for me this very predictability and the consequent tourist activity meant that this was far from being a highlight of the trip, though of course I’m glad I’ve seen it. The site of the geyser has been “improved” by the placing of a large number of benches angled for the best views, and well before the predicted time of an eruption the tourists gather dutifully in large numbers, complete with snacks and drinks – just as in a cinema, or so it seemed to me. It was almost as if a ranger was waiting somewhere for the right time, and for sufficient numbers to be assembled, before flicking the switch marked “erupt”. Of course I know that isn’t the case, but it all felt so staged it might just have been so! Just the same, of course you must go to see this spectacle and judge for yourself.
Anyway, some facts:
- the average time between eruptions of Old Faithful is currently 90 minutes (signs in the Visitor Center tell you when the next eruption is due)
- Old Faithful can vary in height from 100-180 feet with an average near 130-140 feet
- eruptions normally last between 1.5 to 5 minutes
- eruptions can be predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate within a 10 minute variation
- during an eruption, the water temperature at the vent has been measured at 204°F (95.6°C). The steam temperature has been measured above 350°F
- the amount of water expelled during an eruption ranges from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons
By the time we returned to our original position where several rows of seats are set-up on the boardwalk viewing area, it was already packed with spectators as the eruption time moved closer. We simply found a place on the boardwalk itself, where we sat down with our legs dangling over the edge. It was 3 PM when Old Faithful suddenly began spouting skyward – it was anticlimactic in a way because the geyser made practically no sound with each of its eruptions! A large snow white plume of steam and water would suddenly rise up 150 ft (45 m) or so before collapsing and doing it over and over again for about 15 minutes. If you are in Yellowstone NP, seeing Old Faithful in action is a ‘must do’ activity!
This geyser was first recorded by outsiders in September, 1870 as an exploration team passed through the area. Because it erupted nine times while they were observing it, they decided it should be named Old Faithful. In actual fact, the timing of the spouts can vary between a half-hour to two hours depending on the depth of the water levels below, which can be affected by earthquake activity. The regularity of its spouting is believed to be due to the fact that its thermal pool is not connected to any of the others in Yellowstone.
Naturally, it was a mad dash by hundreds of spectators to get back to their cars once the show was over and there was also quite a jam of vehicles trying to exit the area at the same time. However, it seemed to clear itself without too much delay and we were away and still heading south, hoping to finally find a lunch spot in West Thumb (we did) on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
Old Faithful lies in the Upper Geyser Basin (also referred to as Old Faithful Area). It is one of the most regular and predictable geysers in the world. On average, it erupts every 90 minutes with a margin of 10 minutes earlier or later. The next eruption is indicated in the adjacent visitors centre. An eruption lasts 1 1/2 to 5 minutes and reaches heights of 30 - 55 metres.
The Upper Geyser Basin has the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The eruptions of several other geysers in this area are predicted as well. Again, these predictions can be found in the visitors centre.
Especially Grand Geyser and Castle Geyser are great!
If you have visited Yellowstone National Park, inevitably the question everyone will ask you is "Did you see Old Faithful?". It's the parks most famous feature. You really have to pop over to see it erupt. It goes over fairly regularly, about every 94 (give or take 10) minutes, and lasts from 2-5 minutes. The eruption times are posted in the Old Faithful Vistor Center so it's fairly easy to schedual a visit. You can tour the many other geysers in the upper geyser basin as you wait, or just sit on a bench and relax.
We actually saw it go off twice. The first time we saw it was at about 10pm after we had eaten dinner in the Old Faithful Dining Room at the Inn right near by.( Reservations are necessary to eat here. There are no Old Faithful views unfortunately). While we waited , I picked up some tea and hot cocoa for us, as well as some socks (it was chilly and I had sandals on) in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge gift shop. It was worth the wait, Lou took some great night shots.
The second time was the following day. It was cloudy and rainy at the time. The weather had just changed about an hour before, it had been sunny and what felt like about 90 degrees F.
The geyser is surrounded by a recycled plastic platform with a ton of benches. Old Faithful can shoot into the air up to about 180 feet. The spray does not reach any of the bystanders though.
A webcam is located in the visitor center, so you can take a sneak peak at it erupting before your visit, I certainly did!
The Old Faithful area of Yellowstone NP is really set-up for a major influx of tourists – with large hotels, stores and tons of parking spaces for the hordes of visitors coming to view this world-famous attraction. It was almost 1:30 PM by the time we arrived and just finding a parking spot alone was difficult enough, not to mention the dark rain clouds that absolutely poured down on us for the first time on this trip as we tried to find a vacant spot.
We did succeed in the end and, once the short but violent rain shower had stopped, we headed out front of the major hotels onto a wide boardwalk arrangement that circled Old Faithful at a safe distance. We could see that not much was happening yet, so decided to talk a walk around the geyser while we were waiting for the next eruption, even though many of the available seating spots on the boardwalk were already filling up. Blue Star Spring was small (9 x 10-ft and 6-ft deep) but very impressive. According to Wikipedia “It received its name from the star-like sinter formation around the edge of the pool. Extensive ledges have formed three to four feet over the crater, creating an illusion of a small spring. A bison calf fell into the pool in the mid-1980s and the bones can still be seen on the bottom. No known subterranean connection exists with other thermal features.”
The 2nd photo shows that we were not alone wandering the boardwalk while the 3rd shows one of the large hotels surrounding the area, in this case it was the Old Faithful Inn – a national historic landmark. It is one of the few remaining all wood hotels in the USA, with its central core gabled-roof section built in 1903 and the east and west wings added in 1913-14 and 1927. It is so popular that reservations usually have to be made at least 6-months in advance – we had not called ahead!
Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geyser. It eruptions is about 91 minutes . An eruption may lasts 1 1/2 to 5 minutes and expels at least 3,700 - 8,400 gallons of boiling water and reaches heights of 106 - 184 feet. Named being consistent performance by the 1870 Washburn Expedition. It's average interval has lengthened through the years (due to earthquakes and vandalism), Old Faithful is still as spectacular and predictable as it was a century ago and everyone who comes to see Yellowstone park should seek out Old Faithful:-)
We were lucky because their weren't a lot of people during this visit. I think it was because we visited not soon have the horrendous 1988 fire season and people thought the park hadn't recovered. Nature is amazing and life did return not soon after that.
Of course, no visit to Yellowstone National Park would be complete without seeing Old Faithful sprout, right? This is the park's iconic sight and no one can come here without watching it blow its top at least once. While that is true, it is anticlimactic for most and perhaps the only real attraction is its predictability. It puts on its show about every 90 minutes though that can vary and the length between eruptions has slowly but steadily increased over the years. Hey, it is OLD Faithful, remember? He still blows pretty big, averaging over 140 feet and between 4 and 8 thousand gallons of water!
It's the scene that makes it a bit much. Everyone lining up an hour in advance to get the best “seats,” mingling about, telling stories of what it looked like back in yonder day. It seems everyone has seen it before but cannot help but come back to see it again. Hey, I came back and I don't remember being all that blown away by it when I first saw it in 1994 either. It's the lure of Old Faithful and it has not diminished over the years though I guess it must have been one hell of a sight to the explorers who first happened upon it in the late 1800s and saw all that water gushing into the heavens. Now, that would have been cool to see but what is left is a typical tourist attraction depleted by over-hype. You will undoubtedly come to see Old Faithful and its namesake lodge. It's like the inception of the national park concept right before your eyes. Just don't stop there, walk that loop behind the big famous geyser as there are more impressive sights to be seen out in them there hills.
We had great timing! Just as we walked up , Old Faithful errupted!
This was really the only area that was very crowded. I think most people don't walk any further than about 200 feet from their cars....
We walked around the entire loop trail in this geyser basin and saw a few more small geysers , like the Sawmill one at the bottom, but the larger ones were only smoking.
Lots of pretty pools and springs to look at here too!
The Yellowstone Inn lodge had some rather strange looking but cool architecture. On the inside, the logs look like tree trunks and branches that had been left in their original state.
My kids wanted to touch the water after Old Faithfull errupted, and they did. It was cold by the time it got there and they got an electric shock when they touched it. ( try it!)
Normally when I am on holiday I'm not really that interested in doing the "touristy bits", I am much more interested in finding local bars and having a few beers, getting to meet the people and just generally having a good time.
There are the odd exceptions to my rule and Yellowstone has been one (Though I did catch a couple of bars as well!).
In addition to getting some superb game photos, the visit to Old Faithful was well worth doing, both for the visual spectacular as well as to listen to the comments of my fellow tourists.
For more photos and comments see travelogue on this page.
A lot of people wait for Old Faithful (who isn't always so faithful). It gets to the point where it is more interesting filming all the people waiting than the geyser itself.
She (can I call a geyser a she?) erupts every hour (or so) for 2 to 5 minutes and reaches a height of 100-180 feet. She seems to be late more these days.
There are many geysers and hot springs within a couple mile radius of the visiter centre. The Center posts approximate times and places of which geysers will erupt. There are miles of paths and boardwalks around the geothermal area. We spent most of one day in the area. My picture of Old Faithful actually spouting is on the 'Intro to my Yellowstone Park' page
There are many tour buses that drive up, unload their cargo of tourists. The bus tourists sit, wait for Old Faithful, take their picture and leave. From the picture, you see how close the ranger stations is. We wouldn't want to make the bus-tourists walk too far you know.
Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the world although it's not the most regular or tallest. It erupts every 45 to 80 minutes for 2 to 5 minutes and reaches a height of 100-180 feet. Old Faithful is just the beginning of exploring the geothermal features in the Upper Geyser Basin. There are 100's of geysers and colorful hot springs in a couple mile radius. The Park Service Visitors Center posts approximate times the local geysers will erupt. There are miles of boardwalk around the geothermal area which keeps visitors at a safe distance.
Old Faithful Geyser is the most popular geyser by far. Its eruptions aren't the largest or the longest but it is the most accessible and one of the most predictable. The viewing for this Geyser is made easy by a boardwalk with bench seating that encircles it.
Old Faithful erupts about 20 to 23 times per day. Its average in interval between eruptions is 70 minutes. For information on times for the next eruption, check with the visitors center. The next predicted time is posted every day on a bulletin board as well as many other predictable geysers like: Castle, Grand, Riverside, and Great Fountain in the lower geyser basin.
The eruption of Old Faithful shoots water between 106 and 184 feet (30-55m). The eruptions last anywhere from 1.5 to 5 minutes and expels 3,700 - 8,400 gallons (14,000 - 32,000 liters) of water and steam in each eruption. The temperature of the water being shot out of the geyser has been measured at 204 F (95.6 C) and the steam has been measured at above 350 F (176 C).
Like many of the other geysers in the area it was named by the Washburn expedition for the regularity that it exhibited. On any trip to Yellowstone Old Faithful Geyser is a must see activity for sure.
Since we were staying right at the Old Faithful Inn, the geyser was right outside and easy to run out at the predicted time and photograph. It is perhaps the most studied and predicted geyser in the park if not in the world. Mathematicians, statisticians, and dedicated observers have analyzed it for many years. For example, a direct relationship exists between the duration of Old Faithful's eruption and the length of the following interval. During a short eruption, less water and heat are discharged; thus, they rebuild again in a short time. There were 'clocks' in the Old Faithful Inn which showed when the next eruption was predicted to be.
Interesting facts - it is a cone geyser and was named in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. It was the first geyser in the park to receive a name. The reliability of Old Faithful can be attributed to the fact that it is not connected to any other thermal features of the Upper Geyser Basin.
Although i hate places that attract touris because they are considered a "most see activity " ..... and although this faithfull geyser is one of these places ........
i have to tell u ..... he is the trustwerthy geyser in this park .....and he is quite amazing if i might add ...
give him a chance ...and he wont let you down ....