Sunday, June 2, 2013

Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs

After spending another long, rewarding day in the park I can say I have learned a valuable lesson from Mother Nature.  Not all mothers would agree, but Mother Nature says it is OK to spit, burp and fart - at least around here - based on the example set by all of the thermal activity.

Canary Spring
Our focus on Saturday was Mammoth Hot Springs. It was a long drive from West Yellowstone but the drive through the park is beautiful so it is a pleasure. The unique element about Mammoth Hot Springs is the huge flows that have built up travertine terraces over of the years. The underlying rock in the area is limestone rather than rhyolite like the other areas of the park. This limestone dissolves easier and deposits more rapidly on the surface as the water cools. There are a lot of small earthquakes in the park each year, most not noticeable to people. These earthquakes cause springs to open and close regularly so you never know what will be flowing when you visit even though the overall activity in the entire area remains relatively constant. The terraces have ever-changing shapes depending on the volume of water, the slope of the ground, and objects in the path of the water. Like other areas of the park many of the flows are very colorful due the varying water temperature being ideal for different microorganisms (thermophiles).
Mound Terrace
For the most part, there were three major flow areas that were the most interesting during our visit. Canary Spring, Mound Terrace and the Lower Terrace. In addition to the major terrace features, there were other minor flow areas that we really enjoyed for color and textures like you never could imagine.

Lower Terrace
Since Mammoth Hot Springs is only 5 miles from the North entrance to the park we drove up there to see the arch dedicating the opening in 1872 with the infamous phrase "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People". We appreciate and are awed by the vision of the park founders!
View from road pullout
As I said earlier, the drive through the park is sensational. I took a lot of pictures on the day but can't post many in this blog. The time of year is special too as the mountain peaks all around are still snow covered. Along the road between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs are a number of interesting stops like Roaring Mountain where steam vents make an eerie sound in the distance, and  those of a more historic nature like Sheepeater Cliffs and Obsidian Cliff.

We had some time to stop at the Norris geyser area on our way back. Although there were a couple of small unique features here, as a whole it was fairly unremarkable. For those that have not been to the park and will come with limited time, this area would be one to skip. There is a geyser here called Steamboat that is advertised as the highest in the world. The problem is, it hasn't erupted since 2005 and it obviously is unknown if, or when, it will erupt again. Stopping in hopes of seeing it, well, you have better odds in Vegas.
Roaring Mountain

Electric Peak across Swan Lake

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