Geyser Watch Report Early June 2020
Now that all five entrances to Yellowstone are open, and I’ve had the opportunity to head in a few times to check on the various geyser basins, here are some of the highlights from my recent trips in to visit the geyser basins.
This post is brought to you by my Etsy Shop where you can purchase a signed copy of my book, The Geyser Watch Guide to Yellowstone’s West Thumb Geyser Basin.
UPPER GEYSER BASIN
This Geyser Basin is where you find Old Faithful. The area is home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world and well worth a visit beyond watching Old Faithful erupt.
Giantess Geyser – Last eruption on 29 Jan 2014. Usually, when I’ve walked by over the past few years, the area around it is dry as a bone. But this year – and at the end of last summer – I’ve seen water. This spring, I was able to report to Geyser Times that there was a small, steady trickle of water flowing from the vent over toward Infant and Teakettle. I’d love to see energy return here.
Ear Spring – I saw boiling from the center of the pool (which is the edge of the vent). It usually splashes from the side of the pool closest to the boardwalk.
Beehive Geyser – This lovely geyser is erupting about once a day.
“Down Basin” is a casual term that includes pretty much everything from Grand to Morning Glory Pool.
Grand Geyser – Seems to like the six-hour interval mark right now. If you haven’t ever seen an eruption of Grand Geyser, it’s something you should make time to see. Grand is not always this regular, so giving it an hour or so of your time will reward you with an eruption like fireworks with bursts that can reach up to 200 feet high.
Grotto Geyser is having marathons. I posted some direct observations of Giant Geyser and its friends on the Giant Platform, all calm. Then Marathon Pool was looking hot and bubbling. Since we know all of those thermal features are connected, what that tells us is that Grotto is having marathon (really long) eruptions. These eruptions lift a tremendous amount of water from the system. When Giant has been active, these long eruptions from Grotto Geyser have been thought in the past to help give an opportunity for Giant Geyser to eruptive. However, without seeing any evidence of hot periods, it’s highly unlikely for us to see Giant Geyser anytime soon. The water on the platform had brown microbes growing in it, indicating the water has sat there for some time and was likely from precipitation.
Zig Zag Spring toward the top of the hillside leading to Daisy Geyser is active. This is the first time I’ve seen it active even though it Geyser Times reported it active last year. Love all the Yellow monkeyflowers growing around it.
Morning Glory Pool is a bit cooler than when seeing it last fall.
Field Journaling is all about asking questions and finding out. It’s not about withholding information until a paper (peer-reviewed or an article) is written, but it’s about pondering, wondering, and looking for connections. This is the fun part of science. So, I want to share my thoughts on what I’ve seen here at Black Sand Basin with that preface.
Black Sand Basin
From the flight, and now from the ground, it seems Rainbow Pool is at least overflowing more strongly these days.
Cliff Geyser erupts as the basin it’s in starts to fill. We’re used to seeing it fill to overflowing with the most significant bursts happening when the basin is full. With many geysers, large bursts occur when enough water has been expelled. Water is heavy – “A cup is a pound the world around,” as the saying goes. With Cliff Geyser, as water fills the basin, the energy doesn’t have to try and overcome that weight.
One day I watched a few cycles of Cliff Geyser. The basin never filled to overflowing. At first, I didn’t realize I had watched an actual cycle. Because rather than watching closely, I allowed my expectations to take priority over unbiased observations and assumed it was only mid-way in the cycle. But then I realized I hadn’t seen it overflow and watched more closely. It wasn’t full before the bursts stopped, and drained. I wondered if this might connect with the heavier overflow from Rainbow Pool.
On another visit, Rainbow Pool was overflowing heavier. By golly, Cliff Geyser filled to overflowing on the cycles I watched. That raised the questions in my mind, “Do higher water levels affect everything here at Black Sand Basin or just some thermal features?”
More time is needed here to learn more about what’s happening. Rainbow Pool has erupted in the past, so I wonder if this is part of a build-up of energy to that or just a push that may not result in activity from Rainbow Pool. With fewer geyser gazers working in the park this year, that’s going to mean that if any of us wants to know, we need to spend some time there. And share what we see – either here (in the comments) or on GeyserTimes, or both.
The thermal features closer to the river have lost some of the energy here with Black Opal Pool now looking decidedly green. That energy seems to be migrating back uphill. Jewel Geyser had more vigorous bursts than I’ve seen in recent years. Also, the Silver Globe Complex of geysers at least has some splashes showing that haven’t been seen in many years.
I also saw splashes coming from three vents sort of in the middle of the boardwalk loop behind Mustard Spring.
And I want to spend more time with Rusty Geyser. Typically, this cheerful little geyser greets you at the entrance of Biscuit Basin by erupting up 3-10 feet every couple of minutes seems to have changed his behavior some. There have been times when I’ve waited five to seven minutes with no eruption seen, and from a distance have seen major eruptions that looked about 15-20 feet tall. I didn’t spend time documenting all the splashing happening but hope to on one of my upcoming visits.
In addition to changes seen at Rusty Geyser, it seems perhaps his brother, Dusty Geyser, may have shown up again. I’m not familiar with the exact location of Dusty Geyser, but there was a vent behind Rusty gurgling away. Maybe one of the veteran geyser gazers has more information on Dusty’s location.
MIDWAY GEYSER BASIN
While there are only four thermal features to see along the boardwalk, I was able to park in the parking lot and walk around. It’s been many years since that’s been possible due to crowds. Opal Pool is a bit hotter but has more heating to do before seeing the possibility of erupting. I’m not sure how Turquoise Pool looked before as I never heard or saw any reports. Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser are still both as lovely as ever.
LOWER GEYSER BASIN
Firehole Lake Drive has opened up again after being closed for bear management early in the spring. No real changes in thermal features seen here. Lemon Spring has cooled a bit with more microbes growing there than last year. Gray Bulger Geyser is still active (near Young Faithful Geyser). Artesia Geyser is spouting high on some trips in and just bubbling on others.
I’ve yet to stop at Fountain Paint Pots area. According to entries on GeyserTimes, Fountain Geyser seems to be erupting every four to five hours.
NORRIS GEYSER BASIN
Steamboat Geyser is still going strong with yet another three-day interval. The fact this geyser can recharge its system that quickly just astounds me.
I’ve also noticed since last year that there are reports of Ledge Geyser being in a steam phase or having small eruptions. I wonder if there’s a connection between the two. More observations are needed to see what’s happening here.
WEST THUMB GEYSER BASIN
The water levels are not great. Abyss Pool is actually below overflow and looking muddy. An ephemeral spring closer to the parking lot shows up each spring and disappears through the summer. It’s located back behind the old road (the top boardwalk) across from “Fake Fumarole.” The water from this spring flows down the hill under the boardwalk and into Abyss Pool and Black Pool. This overflow downhill started after the boardwalk here was replaced a few years ago. Now Abyss is dark and muddy each spring. I wonder if this mud is filling and clogging the vent. I certainly hope it doesn’t end up damaging this lovely pool.
The Mud Puffs are active again this year and a delight to watch puff away. One of these days, I need to sit here for a bit and see if they cycle. I suspect they might as there are times I see them active and others I don’t. One year I did watch the top mud pots behave just like geysers by filling, blurping away, draining, and then hissing with a slight steam phase.
I hope to give regular reports like this throughout the summer. You can find smaller updates on my Instagram account and by signing up for the newsletter below.
Be Outside • Take Notes
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