Natural Highlights of the Mammoth Area

Mammoth is loaded with Mother Nature’s glory, from rivers to canyons and hot springs to mountains.

Bunsen Peak
Rising 8,564 magnificent feet, Bunsen Peak memorializes the life of famous German physicist, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen. During the 1800s, Bunsen was at the forefront of pioneering geyser research, and many of his theories remain true to this day. Interestingly, the “Bunsen burner” made famous in high school chemistry classes across the world resembles a mini-geyser and also honors the physicist’s brilliant career.

Although Bunsen Peak still shows scars from the disastrous 1880s and 1988 Yellowstone fires, the area still captures the interest of outdoor recreationists. Hikers, mountain bikers, and skiers frequently traverse the old Bunsen Peak Road for close-up views.

Gardner River Canyon
Winding its way from the park’s north entrance at Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs, the Gardner River travels beside area visitors as they navigate their way through the scenic Gardner River Canyon. Layered thick with cottonwood trees, Douglas fir, Rocky Mountain juniper, and willows, the canyon twists its way past old mudslides and rugged sandstone walls. As brilliant as the scenery is, the canyon is most noted for its spectacular wildlife. The canyon is home to a large herd of bighorn sheep, eagles, osprey, and kingfishers, most of which are visible throughout the year. Keep your eyes peeled for the impressive bighorn sheep on the canyon’s steep sandstone ledges.

Mammoth Hot Springs
The famous springs in the Mammoth region are renowned throughout the park and actually provided the district with its name. Travertine wonders formed from the combination of rising hot water and limestone are sprinkled throughout the area’s Upper and Lower Terraces. White mineral deposits characterize much of the area, along with a soft palette of colors situated amidst rising steam from thermal vents. Although the springs occasionally appear to cease activity, visitors should remember that every Yellowstone thermal feature is continually influx. Water volume changes daily, and thus, an apparently inactive spring is likely just inactive for a short period of time. 

Mt. Everts
Comprised of uniquely layered sandstone and shale deposited 70 to 140 million years ago, Mt. Everts draws its name from 1870 Washburn Expedition explorer, Truman Everts. In a freak mishap, Everts became separated from his fellow expedition members and spent thirty-seven days in the wilds of Yellowstone. Possessing no food and clothed inappropriately for the elements, Everts suffered severe hallucinations and was just hours away from death when he was rescued. Although Everts never made it to the mountain that bears his name, officials decided to name the mountain in honor of his courage and perseverance. 

Today, Mt. Everts features a solid lava rock peak dated ninety million years younger than the softer sediments forming the mountain’s base. Interestingly, Everts’ tale of the Yellowstone backcountry remains one of the most historically popular survival stories. Yellowstone archivist Lee Whittlesey edited Everts’ tale into the book Lost in the Yellowstone. The book continues to be a bestseller, and Everts’ harsh wilderness experience transformed him into an American celebrity.  

The Boiling River and 45th Parallel
The Boiling River and 45th Parallel are two Mammoth areas that tourists frequently overlook in their hurry to reach Yellowstone’s more famous hot springs and geysers. However, these two features are unique in their own right and worth further exploration.

The imaginary line known scientifically as the 45th Parallel marks locations lying halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. The same line that passes through Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Japanese Islands also makes its presence known near the Montana/Wyoming border within Yellowstone’s boundaries. A small sign on the road’s edge alerts travelers to this natural highlight.

Nearby, the Boiling River is a regional favorite and one of the only park areas where soaking in the naturally warm water is allowed. In this area, a large hot spring enters the icy cold Gardner River to create an ideal swimming hole. The area requires swimmers to take a half-mile hike up a gentle footpath to the river’s edge. Open mid-summer through winter, the free area is maintained under the Boiling River Trail Project. Swimsuits are required at all times, and alcoholic beverages and glass containers are not allowed. Large clouds of steam and a parking area on the road’s east side mark the must-see Boiling River.

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