Many places in the world lay claim to being unique or awe-inspiring, but when it comes to hydrothermal attractions, nothing in the world compares to Yellowstone. The most famous hydrothermal attraction in Yellowstone (and perhaps even the most famous in the whole world) is Old Faithful - it even has its own countdown clock.
Yellowstone is special not only for its hydrothermal attractions but also for its dizzying array of wildlife. If one is planning to go to Yellowstone, then consider planning the trip around the migration, behavioral, and mating patterns of the wild animals. Yellowstone is much more than just another national park - it is a majestic feat of nature.
Why Yellowstone Is So Unique
Yellowstone has long been acclaimed for its hydrothermal wonderland and was set aside as the world's first national park (but not the first protected area). It is home to the world's greatest concentration of geysers and the greatest concentration of hot springs. Wildlife thrives in the national park and it is the best place in the Lower 48 to see grey wolves.
Yellowstone boasts mud pots, steam vents, and over 10,000 thermal features.
- Thermal Features: Over 10,000 Thermal Features
- Features: Hot Springs, Geysers, Mud Pots, Fumaroles
- Greatest: Concentration of Geysers and Hot Springs In The World
- Wolves: The Best Place To See Grey Wolves in The Lower 48
It is at the center of some of the world's research into heat-resistant microbes - some of that research has benefited the medical, forensic, and commercial sectors.
Due to the Yellowstone Plateau's high elevation, the average boiling temperature at Yellowstone's geyser basins is 199 °F (93 °C).
Nothing compares to actually visiting Yellowstone in person, but if one can't go, then one can also take a virtual tour on the National Park Service's website.
What Drives The Hydrothermal Activity Of Yellowstone
When one sees the many hydrothermal features of the park, one is seeing the visible expressive of the immense Yellowstone volcano. The national park is situated on the Yellowstone hotspot. The hydrothermal activity is driven by partially molten magma under the surface. As water seeps underground from the mountains surrounding the Yellowstone Plateau, it is subjected to tremendous heat.
- Volcano: Under Yellowstone Is The Immense Yellowstone Volcano
- Magma: The Yellowstone Hotspot Means That There Is Shallow Magma
Sometimes fresh cold water seeps through the layers of permeable rock and meets hot brine that's been heated by the shallow magma. The water temperature rises well above boiling point but remains in a liquid state because of the pressure underground and the weight of water above it.
- Superheated: Water Underground Becomes Superheated
The water can get superheated to temperatures exceeding 400°F. The heated water expands and becomes lighter (and less dense) than the colder, heavier water sinking around it. It then shoots up through the cracks in the rocks and comes to the surface in the form of hot water springs and geysers.
Many of the thermal features in Yellowstone are made even more visually stunning by the build-up of sinter, geyserite, or travertine deposits around them.
Geysers Of Yellowstone National Park
There are several geyser basins in the national springs. In total it is thought there are a total of 1,283 geysers in Yellowstone, 465 of which are active during an average year. There are nine geyser basins in the park with another 33 geysers scattered around in other areas:
- Upper Geyser Basin: 410 Geysers
- Midway Geyser Basin: 59 Geysers
- Lower Geyser Basin: 283 Geysers
- Norris Geyser Basin: 193 Geysers
- West Thumb Geyser Basin: 84 Geysers
- Gibbon Geyser Basin: 24 Geysers
- Lone Star Geyser Basin: 21 Geysers
- Shoshone Geyser Basin: 107 Geysers
- Heart Lake Geyser Basin: 69 Geysers
While famous geysers like Old Faithful claim the limelight, most geysers are small and only erupt a foot or two into the air.
When these geysers erupt, the jet of erupting water can reach up to 390 feet (120 meters) into the air. The highest geyser is not Old Faithful, it's Steamboat Geyser. Steamboat Geyser is located in the Norris Geyser Basin and has two vents (the northern one is the higher one).
- Highest Geyser: Steamboat Geyser
Prior to 1904, the tallest geyser in the world was Waimangu Geyser, in New Zealand, which had some taller eruptions capable of reaching 1,600 feet (490 meters). But, unfortunately, after the 1904 landslide which changed the water table, it hasn't erupted.
Mammoth Hot Springs
It's not all geysers, one of the most famous attractions in the park is Mammoth Hot Springs. These are a large complex of hot springs with a hill of travertine that has formed over thousands of years from the high calcium carbonate in the water.
They are fed by water from the Norris Geyser Basin after it travels underground via a fault line.