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Why not take your frogs and tadpoles and plan a special trip to the Bathtub or the Flounder together? Geyser gazing definitely has it’s own jargon!
Geyser gazing is growing in popularity and web presence. But, what is a ‘geyser gazer’? Geyser Gazers are people that study and appreciate the geysers. Most are park visitors but a few are park rangers and park employees. Geyser Gazers keep track of many 500 geyser features within Yellowstone.
With Yellowstone containing the majority of the world’s geysers, many people can easily become geyser gazers with a drive and a little planning.
Geysers are like ice cream flavors; everyone has a favorite and is passionate about it. Here are a few:
Upper Geyser Basin
Grand Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin (the Old Faithful Area) is taller than Old Faithful Geyser, lasts longer and is one of the prettiest in the park. Sometimes you have to wait, but it is well worth it. Grand explodes in a series of powerful bursts, towering above the surrounding trees.
Daisy Geyser is often predicted with good accuracy at the Visitor Center. It erupts about 75 feet high at a slight angle about every 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Make sure you stay for the end of the 3 minute eruption to hear the "chugs" that sound like a steam locomotive!
Riverside Geyser lies right at the edge of the Firehole River at an angle across the river with a flow reminiscent of a fireman’s hose. It is highly predictable with a consistent 80’ eruption every 5.5 to 6.5 hours. If you wait until late afternoon, and the wind and mist are just right, you can capture a spectacular rainbow with a backdrop of woods and river.
Norris Geyser Basin
One of the best geyser views is from the Porcelain Basin overlook trail of the Norris Geyser Basin area. To get to this trail go through the museum, start down the hill and take the loop trail to the right. Norris boasts the hottest thermals in the park along with acidic water versus the alkaline waters found in other thermals in the park.
The Back Basin trail in the Norris area is also a must with Cistern spring and Echinus. Echinus is a fountain-type geyser that spouts up and out to all sides like a fireworks display of water. Its maximum height is about 80-125 feet. Its duration ranges from a minute to over an hour, but most eruptions last between 5 and 15 minutes. Plus, it usually erupts every 20-80 minutes. (Great for the not-so-patient gazers.)
Of course, it would be a dream-come-true to one day to be there and hear Steamboat erupt. Steamboat boasts the tallest eruptions in the world reaching heights of 300 to 400 feet. It pulsates like a massive steam engine and the sound of it is like standing in front of one of the engines on a 747.
Lone Star Geyser Basin
Lone Star Geyser Basin can be reached by hiking or biking along the trail that follows the Firehole River. The Lone Star is a cone geyser which eruptions reaching 45 feet and lasting up to 30 minutes. Lone Star is a very regular geyser, having major eruptions about every three hours. (Warning, the major eruption is usually preceded by a minor one 30 minutes before.)
Buried Geyser lies near the base of a hill about 1/2 mile east-southeast of Lone Star Geyser. With no trail leading to it, Buried Geyser can be accessed by fording the river near Lone Star, or by crossing the river on the Shoshone Lake Trail bridge about 1/2 mile west of Lone Star, then backtracking. Buried Geyser is a fountain-type with frequent and powerful eruptions.
Many geyser gazers carry FRS TWO WAY RADIOS chan 4.5 , a copy of T. Scott Bryan’s, The Geysers of Yellowstone, and join the Geyser Observation and Study Association (GOSA). GOSA is a non-profit scientific and educational corporation whose purpose is the ‘collection and dissemination of information about geysers and other geothermal phenomena’ in Yellowstone. A subscription includes the bi-monthly newsletter, The Geyser Gazer Sput. More information is available at www.geyserstudy.org
And by the way…’tadpoles’ are geyser kids, ‘Frogs’ are a friend of the geysers, ‘Bathtub’ results when water in Mastiff rises to near-full and then drops, and the ‘Flounder’ is a common pejorative for Great Fountain Geyser.
Good luck with your own geyser gazing.