Geyser Hill Observation Report for 26 Sept 2019

The end of the summer season in Yellowstone was cut a bit short last year due to poor weather conditions. Because of this, I wasn’t able to get through all of the Upper Geyser Basin. However, I did do a thorough observational walk around Geyser Hill. In this post, I want to share some of the highlights of the full report I’ve prepared.

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Taking photos and observational notes is a passion of mine – a geeky one, but most certainly a passion. Combine that with my love of mental puzzles and pondering the complexities of the thermal features and field journaling is my happy place. I am not a geologist. I am a teacher by training and a life-long learner. This report is a field journal entry with more of a stream of consciousness writing than anything technical.

The time it takes to create a full report like this turns out to be about 30 hours – including the 6 hours of driving and 2 hours of walking while collecting the photos and notes. Usually, I would put the words down and add the photos afterward in my nature journal system. But this end-of-the-season Geyser Hill documentation turned up some interesting items to note, and I want others to be aware. So, I’m making the full 12-page report available as a downloadable product in my Etsy Store  at a nominal fee of $3.


Before the unusual activity on Geyser Hill in 2018 occurred, I noticed an increase in water levels and Pendant and Ear Springs occasionally having “burps” of hot water that would kill the microbes in the overflow channels. On this round of observations, I noticed something reminiscent of that time. There was an increase of water coming from Giantess, a hot spot below Pump Geyser, and a hot spot near Lion at “The Drinking Fountain.” Sponge Geyser was also having more significant surges of water than I’ve ever seen at it toward the end of the season. And while on this day, no significant surge was seen, the numerous, well-carved overflow channels point to an overall more copious outpouring of water there. Given that “Boardwalk Geyser” erupted toward the end of the season, I could entertain the idea that the energy that caused Ear Spring to erupt may be migrating across Geyser Hill toward Giantess. To me, the most interesting thing noted was at Plume Geyser – where it was softly roaring as a fumarole. No steam rose, but the roar continued on both passes I made there. So, let me start going into some of the details on these highlights.


I’ll go through these details in the order in which I walked around Geyser Hill, starting with the lower portion of the loop.


1044 | Wow! Plume Geyser has a hollow, loud hissing sound. Very loud…for it. It sounds like a fumarole – or maybe a noisy steam phase. No water visible. There’s also much more water coming down around it from above – than I remember. There’s enough for orange microbes to grow.

Plume Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone.


1055 [camera time] | I’ve started to also document the microbe growth at “The Drinking Fountain” below the lion Group. I notice that there’s a chunk that’s entirely white (where microbes have been killed) near the top. I find that something to keep an eye on. Is this a regular occurrence, or will the microbes grow back and then be killed again like at Ear Spring?

A small bubbler known as "The Drinking Fountain" near Lion Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone.


I document the microbe mat below Pump Geyser. It has a central part that’s white and devoid of microbes. The vent marked by the white arrow has shown more strongly in the past, but I don’t recall it heating up quite like this before. Before, I’ve seen water pulsing in it as well as it roaring softly as a small fumarole. I end up taking photos from a variety of angles to document this thoroughly. (You can find more photos in my Flickr Gallery.)

Pump Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone
Pump Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone


Sponge Geyser still overflows in various directions, indicating heavier overflow overall continues here. While I stand here, the boiling only shows on the side by the boardwalk. The wind has slowed some. Grateful for that.

[Note: The bottom photo shows one of the large surges I saw early in September 2019. This photo missed the full height of the surge that reached up another six inches. The surge was sustained for 4-5 seconds.]

Sponge Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone
Sponge Geyser on Gesyer Hill in Yellowstone
A large, surging splash from Sponge Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone.


1157 | I’m pleasantly surprised to find standing water between Giantess Geyser and Vault Geyser as well as a good little puddle next to Vault.

Vault Geyser and Giantess Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone.
Vault Geyser and Giantess Geyser on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone.


I can hardly wait to get back into the park to see what’s happening now and how things have changed over the winter. Pulling together this one day of observations has me wondering more about T. Scott Bryan’s theory about the Geyser Hill wave he was seeing before. As the thermal activity works its way through the rocks, perhaps carving new pathways, are there energy shifts we can better see by looking at the whole of an area in detail?


I do invite you to order the full report to see more of the details seen on Geyser Hill. Perhaps there are connections you might make based on your experience and observations of the thermal features here. The photos are all up at my Flickr gallery. If you are a member of Flickr (it’s free to sign up), you can go to my photostream and sort the images by the time taken and see not only the ones included in the report but also others taken and processed from this walk. They are sorted with the newest first, and I understand that Flickr does not pull the date/time for videos, so those are sorted by the date I posted them there.

If you want to follow along with what I see and learn in the park this year, sign up below for my newsletter. There will be at least one summary post each month as well as smaller ones based on day trips.


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