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Yellowstone: Upper Geyser Basin


Belgian Pool

Since I’d been relieved entirely of responsibility for planning our road trip by my knowledgeable friend and Yellowstone aficionado, Deborah, I confess I didn’t know a thing prior to our arrival in the park. It was sheer ignorant bliss and every day, every hour, was one wonderful surprise after another.

I discovered that Old Faithful is one of many geysers in the part of Yellowstone known as the Upper Geyser Basin and I was astonished to learn from the Yellowstone Park website that “Yellowstone is the largest active geyser field in the world. Home to 60 percent of the world’s geysers…” and that “Upper Geyser Basin is Yellowstone’s largest geyser basin… home to the world’s largest single concentration of hot springs. The whole geyser basin occupies only one square mile.”

Park Service aerial photo of Upper Geyser Basin



Old Tardy Geyser


Spasmodic Geyser


Penta Geyser


Deb had a mission for our first full day in the park, a burning desire to experience Grand Geyser’s eruption and, seeing that it was almost due, we headed off along the boardwalk.

From Montana State University’s Yellowstone research site, “An eruption of Grand Geyser, the tallest predictable geyser in the world, occurs every 7 - 15 hours. A classic fountain geyser, Grand erupts from a large pool with powerful bursts rather than a steady column like Old Faithful. An average eruption lasts 9 - 12 minutes and consists of 1 - 4 bursts, sometimes reaching 200 feet (60m).”

Castle Geyser, left


Heart Spring with Castle Geyser, center distance


Heart Spring with Lion Group


Adding to my geothermal education, when we arrived at Grand Geyser Deb explained that a number of those in the waiting crowd were members of an exclusive club at Yellowstone, the geyser gazers. These are dedicated amateurs in the best sense of the word, who have the time and passion to be on the scene recording thermal activity, adding greatly to the knowledge of  phenomena when often the professionals simply don’t have the time. It was amusing to hear them in action as they waited. Deb also told me that the timing for Grand’s eruption was variable and if I got bored waiting I could continue to walk around the basin, so I did.

Depression Geyser


Anemone Geyser


Beehive Geyser

Referring to my first geyser experience, Old Faithful, I mentioned how difficult they are to photograph, being composed of moving water & steam. Little did I realize the multitude of forms in which geysers and thermal features appear, often with unpredictable spurts and bubbles, also accompanied by pesky vapor. So by the time a hole in the sand suddenly produces something interesting that’s unobscured by steam, it’s too late for the picture. So, readers, I encourage appreciation of any photo that shows action. It means the poor photographer has spent some time and many false exposures to get one that’s even remotely interesting. Pools are much better in this regard, waiting patiently for someone to take a picture.

Firehole River

We spent a leisurely day in the Upper Geyser Basin, the evening and dinner with Deb’s family at the Old Faithful Inn. That night and the next we slept in relative luxury in cabins behind Old Faithful Lodge. The weather was cooling, there’d been a sprinkling of snow where we’d camped the night before. Happiness is a roof, real beds and a heater.


A distant view of Old Faithful



Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service)



Next week, a visit to the quiet charms of Yellowstone Lake.



All chapters of PortMoresby's Yellowstone.




Find more of PortMoresby's contributions here.





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