Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thermal wonders at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We finally made it to Yellowstone National Park. And we were in for a big surprise. In spite of all the reading I had done about this park, we didn't learn until we arrived that most of the park was a caldera, a collapsed volcano.

The park is full of geysers (of which, Old Faithful is the most famous), hot springs, bubbling mud pots and thermal terraces. As we drove through the western part of the park, we could see that a good portion of it is thermal, with steam rising from vents in the ground.

Upon arriving at Old Faithful, we went into the lodge to check out the time for the next eruption. The cycle is 75-90 minutes. There are benches around the geyser and we headed out early as we wanted a front row seat. We were not disappointed by the show Old Faithful put on. (And even went back the next day and saw a totally different eruption.) Afterwards, if you like, you can walk around the boardwalks that take you through the thermal area. If you have the time, do this. However, if you don't have a lot of time in the park, skip this. We discovered other, less well known areas, that were, in our opinion, more spectacular.

Check out the Upper Terrace loop by the Mammoth Hot Springs. This is a one way drive that takes you through an area of remarkable formations and colors. Plan to drive slowly to really enjoy it and it should take about half an hour.

Tops on our list turned out to be the Midway Geyser Basin and its Grand Prismatic Spring (see photo). Definitely walk the boardwalk. It will first take you past a deep pool of incredibly blue water. At the furthest point, you'll arrive at the Grand Prismatic Spring. We were lucky and the sun was out. The sunlight brought out the beautiful oranges and blues within the steam as it rose and moved across the lake. It was hypnotizing and a wonderful experience.

see also:
Yellowstone caldera, geysers and more