Old Faithful and Friends ~ Yellowstone National Park, USA (Part 1)

I read a travel article some years ago, defending taking the “more travelled” road occasionally. I quite agree: as much as I like to get off the beaten track and away from “tourist spots”, there is something to be said for seeing iconic places for oneself.

View from Observation Point over the Old Faithful Geyser and Visiter Center

Old Faithful Geyser and Old Faithful Visiter Education Center from Observation Point.

So it was with Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park’s best known geyser. The postcards and travel shows might do it better, but there is nothing quite like being part of the crowd, sitting or standing under a relentless Wyoming sun, waiting for the trusty geyser to erupt.

Old Faithful was named by members of an early exploratory team, the Washburn Expedition of 1870, for its consistency. Today, the park rangers calculate and post the expected time of the next eruption, plus or minus 10 minutes, so visitors know when to gather around the viewing platforms.

Limestone encrusted yellowed grass, steam risiing.

The limestone-encrusted grassy mound that is at the centre of the wooden seats and boardwalk isn’t very impressive…

Crowd of tourists in a circle, Old Faithful

… as people from all over the world and all over the country jockey for a vantage point.

Geyser against pine forest

Boiling water and steam spew into the air.

Intervals between eruptions vary from 50-127 minutes, and eruptions last from one and a half to five minutes. The performance started with what looked like smoke signals, as puffs of steam rose into the air. Then the boiling water followed before it all went quiet again.

“Is that it?” asked a little boy in the crowd.

I confess, I felt a little let-down myself. But that wasn’t it; there was more.

Old Faithful geyser spewing high into the sky.

Eruptions average 30-55 meters; this one was pretty high.

Yellowstone National Park is home to the world’s largest concentration of hydrothermal activity: geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles (steam vents), and travertine terraces – and it was thanks to Old Faithful and these other features that the land was protected in the first place, as we learned from one of the park rangers.

Female US National Parks Ranger

Ranger Darlene, in her uniform modelled on the earliest “rangers”: the US Cavalry, entertains young and old with her telling of Yellowstone Park history.

Ranger Darlene had her audience transfixed as she related the story of the park’s early history, complete with wildlife poaching and the almost-complete-demise of the buffalo. Although over two million acres was set aside as the world’s first National Park on March 1, 1872, the idea of preserving the wildlife that lived in the area came much later.

The Upper Geyser Basin, which includes Old Faithful, has four other geysers as well as examples of hot springs, mudpots and steam vents. Just a short climb to Observation Point and a walk around Geyser Hill gave us easy access to many of these. We couldn’t believe the beauty and variety of natural forms and colours.

Mule Deer Hiding

A male mule deer, hiding in the woods as we walk up to Observation Point.

Man and woman sitting looking over a cliff.

A young couple watches the geyser activity from Observation Point.

View over Castle Geyser.

Castle Geyser through the steam and sulphur haze, from Observation Point.

A small bubbling geyser against lodgepole pine.

Solitary Geyser was small but predictable: every four or five minutes it would burble up.

Colourful geyser pool

The mineral deposites and heat-loving algae and bacteria around Solitary Geyser make beautiful patterns.

Area around Solitary Geyser

Sulphur and steam rises, yet plants grow around the edges of the Solitary Geyser pond.

Ground around Solitary Geyser

Sulphur steam makes the colours softer: Solitary Geyser.

A clump of grass surrounded by yellow, sulphurous water

Plants on the Edge: a clump of grass survives surrounded by mineral deposits and “thermophiles” (heat-loving organisms).

Water bubbling at the sides of Ear Spring

Waters bubble delicately at Ear Spring.

Steaming cone of the Lion Group geysers.

The geysers of the Lion Group steam and “roar” before erupting.

Tourists on boardwalks around Sawmill Geyser.

Sawmill Geyser was one of my favourites because of the delicate streams of water it emitted regularly.

Small geyser against a blue sky.

Sawmill Geyser

Irregularly shaped thermal spring

Scalloped Spring

Deep blue waters of a boiling thermal pond.

The clear blue waters of Crested Pool are the result of constantly boiling temperatures keeping bacterial growth down. You can see the boiling around the edge.

High white geyser cone against a blue sky.

Castle Geyser’s cone is thousands of years old and the platforms are even older.

Silhouettes of people inside a building watching Old Faithful geyser erupt.

The next lot of visitors watches from the Old Faithful Visiter Education Center as, right on cue, Old Faithful erupts yet again.

Old Faithful and the assortment of geysers and hot springs in the immediate area were so much more amazing than we had anticipated. The facilities are beautifully designed and managed, making much of this area accessible to almost anyone. This is one time when the “more travelled” road is well worth following!

Text: Happy TravelsOf course, as I said earlier, the park comprises over two million acres. It is so much more than just Old Faithful – but that will have to wait for another time.

‘Till then – Happy Travels!

Pictures: 13 August 2012

  • Gabe - August 19, 2012 - 2:50 am

    Well done sweetie. A good start. Looking forward to the complete set.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - August 19, 2012 - 5:06 am

    Ursula – can you believe that I have never been to Yosemite? It’s in my own country! You have inspired me. Great images of the park! lisaReplyCancel

    • Ursula - August 19, 2012 - 5:12 am

      Lisa, my pictures don’t begin to do it justice: it is amazing! Well worth the drive. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - August 20, 2012 - 3:32 am

    what a wonderful trip and your photography is amazing, thanks as always for including us in your travels. Looking forward to the next installment 🙂ReplyCancel

  • […] we had only a short visit, we did, of course, visit Old Faithful, taking the time to walk to the overlook, and to visit other geysers in the area. We also walked […]ReplyCancel

  • […] for Fallen RockThe road out of Yellowstone National Park and into the rest of Wyoming lead us through a magnificent rocky […]ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *