|Prominent geysers, beautiful springs, and geyser basins combine to give the Old Faithful Area some of Yellowstone’s most impressive scenery.
Old Faithful erupts for a large crowd. NPS Photo
Old Faithful Geyser
Although other park geysers are larger, taller, and more predictable, Old Faithful continues to reign as Yellowstone’s worldwide favorite. The geyser’s name dates back to the 1870 Washburn Expedition where party members noted the geyser’s regular performances. And regular it is. Old Faithful erupts an average of twenty-one to twenty-three times daily with an average seventy-six minute interval between eruptions. While some eruptions reach just 106 feet, many spew up to 184 feet, and 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water is expelled in each one to five minute eruption. Although eruptions used to occur more frequently, visitor vandalism and seismic activity has altered the famous geyser’s behavior. For the best views, plan on arriving at least fifteen minutes prior to the predicted eruption time.
Solitary Geyser originated as Solitary Spring during Yellowstone’s early years. A docile spring when the park was established, Solitary provided naturally hot water to a nearby swimming pool. However, this artificial diversion of Solitary Geyser’s hot water drastically changed the nature of the thermal feature. When the water level was lowered sufficiently, Solitary Spring built up enough pressure to erupt and become a geyser. Although the water level was restored to its original level in 1940, Solitary Geyser continues to erupt every four to eight minutes with most displays less than six feet tall.
Exploding underground steam announces the arrival of one of Giantess Geyser’s rare, but violent, eruptions. With the earth quaking and shaking, Giantess Geyser bursts at heights of 100 to 200 feet. The fountain type geyser generally erupts just two to six times annually, but the eruptions are extended. Most are sustained for a continuous twelve to forty-three hours.
Doublet Pool’s rich blue water, ornamental borders, and complex ledges make this thermal feature a favorite photography subject. Occasionally, collapsing gas bubbles underneath the pool’s surface create noticeable vibrations that rattle below nearby visitors’ feet.
Situated 250 feet above Old Faithful, Observation Point provides a sweeping overlook of Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin.
Plume Geyser, created when a 1922 steam explosion opened its vent, is one of Yellowstone’s newest geysers. The geyser shoots three to five bursts of water twenty-five feet high. Eruptions occur at twenty-minute intervals.
Beehive Geyser features a narrow, nozzle-shaped cone capable of shooting water 130 to 190 feet. Eruptions generally last four to five minutes and occur twice daily.
The Lion Group
The Lion, Lioness, Big Cub, and Little Cub Geysers come together to form the Lion Group formation. Connected underground, the geysers typically unveil sudden bursts of steam and deep roaring noises prior to an eruption. Of the four, Lion Geyser features the largest cone and longest eruptions; most eruptions last one to seven minutes.
Heart Spring. NPS Photo
Shaped like a human heart, the fifteen-foot deep Heart Spring measures 7 1/2 by 10 feet at the surface. Park Geologist George Marler christened the spring in 1959.
Resembling a rotating circular blade, water in this thermal feature spins in its crater while erupting. As a result, Sawmill Geyser was given its appropriate name. A somewhat unpredictable geyser, Sawmill displays its power every one to three hours with eruptions lasting from nine minutes to four hours!
Grand Geyser erupts from a large pool every seven to fifteen hours and is recognized as the world’s tallest predictable geyser. The geyser displays classic fountain behavior with its powerful bursts of water instead of a continuous spray. Most eruptions last no longer than twelve minutes and include one to four water bursts rising 200 feet.
Extending forty-two feet below Yellowstone’s surface, Crested Pool is a thermal powerhouse. Water temperatures are impressively hot, ranging from a mere simmer to roiling boils raging eight to ten feet tall.
Castle Geyser erupting. NPS Photo
Possessing the largest cone of all other geysers in the Old Faithful Area, Castle Geyser is one of the park’s oldest recorded geysers. Over the course of its long life, Castle’s behavior has changed considerably. Currently, the geyser blows its top every ten to twelve hours with water columns reaching up to ninety feet high. Following the average twenty-minute eruption, Castle Geyser lets off a fury of steam for thirty to forty minutes.
Colored bacteria frame Beauty Pool’s spectacular blue water in a stunning rainbow palette. The pool’s name accurately reflects its beautiful nature and appears to be connected underground to nearby Chromatic Spring.
Chromatic Spring. NPS Photo
Linked to nearby Beauty Pool, Chromatic Spring is one of Yellowstone’s most interesting thermal features. Periodically, energy levels below Chromatic Spring and Beauty Pool shift. As a result, one spring’s water levels descend while the other spring elevates and overflows. These energy shifts occur at intervals ranging from one month to several years. For additional information about Chromatic Spring’s and Beauty Pool’s latest activity, contact a park ranger.
Dormant from 1955 to 1997, Giant Geyser has slowly awakened with crowd-pleasing eruptions lasting up to one hour. The geyser spurts water columns ranging in height from 180 to 250 feet. Since 1997, eruptions have continued to occur sporadically.
Located near the Daisy and Splendid Geysers, Comet Geyser splashes on a nearly continuous basis. The geyser possesses the largest cone of its neighboring geysers, but Comet’s eruptions are less remarkable and rarely tower more than six feet.
Although Splendid Geyser’s eruptions are infrequent and generally hard to predict, those who witness its wonder are in for a memorable treat. Splendid Geyser is noted as one of Yellowstone’s tallest active geysers with eruptions over 200 feet tall.
Punch Bowl Spring. NPS Photo
Punch Bowl Spring
Punch Bowl Spring draws its name from a sinter deposit that has raised the thermal feature above the geyser basin floor. As a result of this elevation, the intermittently boiling spring features a punch bowl shape.
Usually an easily predictable thermal feature, Daisy Geyser erupts approximately every ninety minutes. The angled eruptions generally last three to five minutes and shoot water over seventy-five feet away. The only disruption to this natural cycle is when nearby Splendid Geyser decides to erupt.
Grotto Geyser is one of the park’s most unusually shaped geysers. Researchers believe geyserite deposits piled up over tree trunks and shaped the unique formation. Erupting at intervals of eight hours, the geyser spews water ten feet high for as little as one hour to more than ten hours!
Morning Glory Pool. NPS Photo
Morning Glory Pool
Originally showcasing an uncanny resemblance to its flowering namesake, Morning Glory Pool was named in the 1880s. The pool has been a favorite visitor destination for years, but vandalism has started to take its toll. Coins, trash, rocks, and logs have thoughtlessly been thrown into the pool. As a result, natural vents are now blocked, water circulation has been affected, and the pool’s natural coloring is now altered.
Riverside Geyser. NPS Photo
Touted as one of Yellowstone’s most picturesque geysers, Riverside Geyser gracefully sprays a seventy-five foot arch of water over the Firehole River during its regular twenty-minute eruptions. As a result, rainbows dance off the water column under Yellowstone’s brilliant sunlight. Eruptions generally occur every 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours.
Fan & Mortar Geysers
Fan and Mortar Geysers are located so close to one another that an eruption in one geyser generally triggers a simultaneous spouting in the other. While Fan’s outbursts reach up to 125 feet, Mortar’s eruptions are much tamer at an average of forty to eighty feet. Both geysers average eruptions lasting forty-five minutes or longer, but predicting the event can be difficult. The timing between eruptions can vary from one day to several months.
Situated in Biscuit Basin three miles north of Old Faithful, Sapphire Pool once featured biscuit-shaped deposits around its base. However, in the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake, the deposits were blown to pieces when Sapphire became a short-lived geyser. In addition to Sapphire Pool, the area features other colorful wonders like Mustard Spring, Jewel Geyser, and Shell Geyser.