An Explosive Subject… The Geysers of Yellowstone

It’s only right that I start this post featuring Peggy photographing Old Faithful. She worked at a restaurant in Yellowstone in the summer of 1969 as a college student. Its large picture windows opened out on Old Faithful, meaning that she got to see it erupt several times a day.
The family dining room that Peggy worked at has now become a cafeteria, but it’s large picture windows still give diners a great view of Old Faithful erupting.

Erupting geysers are one of Yellowstones best known features. In fact, half of the world’s active geysers are located in the National Park. Peggy and I photographed lots of them when we visited last fall on our four month trip around the US.

Have a few geysers and fumaroles! Including the small ones, I counted over 30 in this photo.

The reason behind Yellowstones record breaking number of geysers is that much of the park is located in a giant caldera, a collapsed volcano. Semi-molten rock exists in some areas as close as 2-5 miles below the surface. This extremely hot rock heats ground water flowing near it and creates Yellowstone’s hydro-thermal features including geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. We featured hot springs two weeks ago. Today is the geysers’ turn. They erupt when the super hot boiling water creates pressure in channels leading to the surface that erupts as steam out of a vent. As the pressure is released the geyser subsides until the process is repeated. They come in all sizes. The most famous is Old Faithful, given its name due to the regularity of its eruptions.

Photos of geysers erupting in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy and I arrived just as Old Faithful was beginning to erupt. She jumped out of our truck and began snapping photos.
I was a bit farther away. Can you imagine how many photos of Old Faithful have been taken? They have to be in the hundreds of millions if not billions. In other words, we aren’t the first. Grin.
As the pressure inside the vent subsided, Old Faithful lost its steam, so to speak.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the geysers come in all sizes. From this little fellow…
To larger…
We had a sense of ‘dancing water.’
Each geyser had its own personality.
These geysers combined to be tall and skinny.
I conclude today with this pair of more hefty twin geysers. Next up, Peggy and I will return to Heidelberg, variety being the spice of life. 🙂

32 thoughts on “An Explosive Subject… The Geysers of Yellowstone

  1. Always like to see Yellowstone pictures even if a billion have been taken before. On our 2018 visit, it was crowded, we were lazy, so we sat on the second floor porch of the Lodge to watch Old Faithful [which seems to be less faithful each year].

    • Iceland, Like Yellowstone is filled with hydrothermal activity. You can get closer to other geysers in Yellowstone than you can to Old Faithful. The park service wisely maintains some distance though. Otherwise there would always be a tourist who insisted on sticking his hand in the scalding hot water to see how hot it is and then, probably, suing the park service for not stopping him or her.

  2. Here’s a question: have Old Faithful’s eruptions changed in frequency over the years? Are they more or less frequent, or have the intervals changed? I suppose fifty years or so isn’t a long enough time to judge such things, geologically, so I wouldn’t expect much change from Peggy’s first time there, but I wondered if there are records from farther back that indicate some change.

    ‘Fumarole’ was a new word for me. The ‘fum–‘ part suggests its nature, but I decided to wait for your post to learn more about them. It did remind me of some lyrics from one of my favorite Pink Martini songs, Sympathique:

    Je ne veux pas travailler,
    Je ne veux pas déjeuner,
    Je veux seulement l’oublier,
    Et puis je fume.

    Yes, there’s always a song!

    • Here’s what I found, Linda: “In the 1870s, explorers noted that the time between eruptions was 60-70 minutes. This remained the case through the 1950s, but then began to lengthen to the average today, which is 94 +/- 10 minutes between eruptions.” There is a sign next to the geyser that states when the next eruption is expected, give or take 10 minutes. There is a lot of seating on one side of the geyser to accommodate several hundred people. We were off to the side.
      And yes, there is always a song. Grin.

      • That was the question I had too. I’ve only seen it once, back in 77, and at that time it was still rated at 60-70 minutes and was pretty faithful about it.

        PS to Linda: Pink Martini is a local band for us, probably one of the most successful to come out of Portland. Interesting that they’re so popular in foreign countries (which may include Texas 😉 )

  3. We’ll probably get there next summer (2024), Curt, and combine it with a trip to the Tetons. I’m fascinated by geology and Yellowstone is the place for it. Thanks for the photos of the geysers. I didn’t realize there were so many! It sounds like you two had a great time. 🙂

  4. Curt, I love the thought of the gysers having their own personalities – a stunning natural phenomen and no wonder The Old Faithful has been so well-photographed over the years! Yeah, what a wonderful place for a restaurant job as young, lucky Peggy and I bet the visit brought back some lovely memories for her!

    • The visit did indeed bring back some memories for Peggy, including summer romance. 🙂 I have two more posts coming on Yellowstone, one featuring the Mammoth Hot Springs area with their travertine terraces and the other the scenic beauty of the park. It is truly a special place.

  5. What great pictures and memories of Peggy’s working days getting to witness old faithful daily Curt. I bet you have thousands of pictures yourself.
    It’s truly fascinating that it has been erupting every 10 minutes for so long. Nature is an incredible mystery, no matter how I try to understand it. You had a clear beautiful day and I love how each picture is different and reflects different images whether they are dancing, tall, skinny or short and narrow. Safe travels until we meet again my friend! 😎🥰

  6. It’s so neat that Peggy used to work in Yellowstone. What a wonderful early life experience. Your photos are wonderful. I especially like the first little fellow you highlighted, and how the blue of the water stands out against the backdrop. I also love the image of all the water and steam venting, where you counted 30 geysers. It definitely helps show a viewer how much is going on there. At the site of Old Faithful, I so enjoyed taking my time, wandering around the trails, and being surprised and delighted (also startled) to spot geysers going off at random and unexpected times.

    • I was fascinated by the fact that micro-organisms are responsible for the colors, Crystal. Different species have different heat tolerances and are found in different parts of the hot springs. The pigments of color they have depends upon their exposure to the sun. The deep blue can tolerate substantial heat and are found in the deeper pools, the browns, less heat and are found around the edges. You may have already known that but it was news to me.
      Peggy loved her Yellowstone experience that included considerable wandering around with her friends and first serious boy friend. She even won second prize in a talent contest singing folk songs and got into a bar using a fake ID. LOL.

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