Geysers, Hot Springs, Fumaroles and Mudpots – Yellowstone’s Thermal Features

Day 14-2 Travel as I Have Envisioned It Could Be

Yellowstone is unique, and this quality can be attributed to the fact that much of the park stretches across the top of a huge, active volcano. This volcano brings super heated rock (lava) to within eight to 10 miles below the surface of the park.

Water that seeps down through the surface collects in cracks and underground caverns and is heated. This is the source of energy for Yellowstone’s Thermal Features.

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Geysers are one of the four different types of four types of thermal structures in the park.

Geysers – The most spectacular and dynamic features of the park, occur when underground constrictions increase the pressure on the heated water. Eventually, the pressure exceed the ability of the constriction to hold the water until it finally erupts. Few geysers erupt on a regular schedule like Old Faithful. Some erupt continuously.

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Hot water enters the spring from the hole in the ground visible in the bottom of the pool. The white around the edge are colonies of bacteria.

Hot Springs – Open pools of very hot water, around 190 degrees F. They are not geysers because the flow of hot water to the surface is not constricted. The water that does not evaporate, flows over the edges of the pool of the spring and seeps back into the soil. These pools are often colored around the edges due to bacteria that thrive in the harsh hot, acid conditions of the spring.

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Fumaroles beside the park road. The steam is more or less continuous, sometimes more intense than others.

Fumaroles – Similar to geysers, except that the water emerges as steam and not hot water. Driving through the park, it is not uncommon to come upon a fumarole in unexpected places. Look for steam rising along the edge of a lake or from cracks in rocks off the shoulder of park roads. It look like someone left the tea kettle boiling.

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A Small Mudpot with Bison Tracks in the Soft Mud.

Mudpots – Hot acidic underground water seeps to the surface through cracks in rocks. The acidic nature of the water breaks down surrounding rocks, turning them into mud. Eventually the heat-and-acid-loving bacteria begin to grow in the hot damp mud, creating a palette of colors, hence some mudpots are also referred to as paint pots.

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A Paint Pot

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