Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide


Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Greater Yellowstone is the last large, nearly intact ecosystem in the northern temperate zone of the Earth and is partly located in Yellowstone National Park. Conflict over management has been controversial, and the area is a flagship site among conservation groups that aggressively promote ecosystem management. The Greater Yellow Ecosystem (GYE) is one of the world's foremost natural laboratories in landscape ecology and geology and is a world-renowned recreational site. It is also home to the animals of Yellowstone.

The Lower Geyser Basin
The Lower Geyser Basin is the largest geyser basin in area, in Yellowstone. It covers approximately 11 square miles. By comparison, the Upper Geyser Basin only covers about one square mile. Because of its large size, the thermal features in the Lower Geyser Basin tend to be clumped in widely spaced groups. The easiest grouping to get to and probably the most interesting to explore is the Fountain Paint Pot area.

Fountain Paint Pot Trail
Along this short walk you will see very good examples of most types of thermal features found in Yellowstone. These features include some very pretty hot pools, steaming fumaroles, erupting geysers and probably the best easily accessed mudpots in the park. The area is highly active and at least one geyser is usually erupting here at all times.

The Upper Geyser Basin
The Upper Geyser Basin is famous for hosting Old Faithful Geyser. But there is much more in the area than just this famous geyser. The Upper Geyser Basin also boasts the largest concentration of geysers in the world, including many of the worlds largest geysers. Five of the largest geysers are predicted by the Park Rangers. All of these geysers, Castle, Daisy, Grand, Old Faithful and Riverside, are worth seeing but if you can only see one, try to see Grand.

Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin is the the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone. The basin is comprised of two distinct sections: The Back Basin is in a forest setting (at least it was before the 1988 fires, now its more of a regenerating forest setting). It contains geysers and hot springs tucked among the trees. The Porcelain Basin is characterized by a lack of vegetation. No plants can live in thr hot, acidic, water emitted from the numerous thermal features in the basin. Porcelain Basin presents a beautiful but desolate visage which is unlike any of the other geyser basins in Yellowstone.

Geysers of Yellowstone - Old Faithful
The Old Faithful Geyser, located in Yellowstone National Park, is perhaps the world's most famous geyser. The geyser was named in 1870. An eruption can shoot ~32,000 L of boiling water to a height of 56.1 m. More than 137,000 eruptions have been recorded, lasting from ~1.5-5.5 minutes, with intervals ranging ~30-120 minutes. Harry M. Woodward first described a mathematical relationship between the duration and intervals of the eruptions (1938).

Over the years, the length of the intervals has increased; possibly the result of earthquakes affecting subterranean water levels. These disruptions have made the earlier mathematical relationship inaccurate, but have in fact made Old Faithful more predictable. With an error of 10 minutes, Old Faithful will erupt 65 minutes after an eruption lasting less than 2.5 minutes or 92 minutes after an eruption lasting more than 2 and a half minutes. 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.

Hot Springs
Hot Springs are similar to geysers, but their underground channels are large enough to allow rapid circulation of water. Rising hot water releases heat energy by evaporation or hot water runoff, while convection currents return the cooler water to the underground system, thus maintaining equilibrium. The microorganisms which live in and around the hot springs often make the pools very colorful.

Fumaroles are holes or vents from which steam rushes into the air. It is like a hot spring, but lacks liquid water. Either there isn't enough water or the underground rock is too hat and boils off all of the water so a pool can't form. The small amount of water that does seep into the area is converted to steam and expelled from the vent, oftentimes creating a hissing noise.

Mudpots are thermal areas where water-saturated sediment (similar to clay) is affected by super-heated steam below. Rising steam forces its way upwards through the mud and ground water, bursting upwards sending showers of mud into the air, as if in a small explosion.

Steam Vents
Steam Vents are cracks in the surface of the ground through which pressurized steam from below escapes to the surface, oftentimes with a hissing sound.

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