After driving through Bighorn National Forest the day before (which was a beauty all it's own), we finally reached the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was the first National Park in the U.S. and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world. The park is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, which we got to see while visiting. After seeing a strolling fox on the side of the road, we drove 1 mile up to the Lake Butte Overlook, which yielded an amazing panoramic view of Yellowstone Lake.
We drove through the winding road of Yellowstone until we reached Old Faithful. Named in 1870, it was the first geyser in the park to receive a name. Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water for 1.5 to 5 minutes. The average height of an eruption is 145 feet. Unfortunately our time at Yellowstone was very limited, as it was only a quick stop along our route to Glacier National Park in Montana, so we had just missed the geyser eruption and we didn't have 90 minutes to wait until it went off again. So we walked around part of the boardwalk admiring the smoke that rose from the hole then headed down the street the Grand Prismatic Spring.
The parking for the Grand Prisma is much smaller than the parking lot for Old Faithful. We had to wait to get a parking spot for about 20 minutes. After walking across the bridge which hovers over Firehole River, we reached the boardwalk. There are four springs that can be view from the 20 minute walk around the boardwalk in Yellowstone's Midway Geyser Basin. To the right, the first you come across is Turquoise Pool. The pool is 142 and 160 °F and has a beautiful blue coloration. Next is the Opal Pool, which is actually considered a fountain-type geyser. Eruptions are unpredictable and typically under 30 feet, but can be up to 80 feet. This makes Opal Pool the largest active geyser at Midway Geyser Basin, and you cannot beat the arctic blue color! Finally you reach the main attraction...the Grand Prismatic Spring. It is the largest hot spring in the United States and is deeper than 10 stories. The football field size spring is most recognized by its vivid colors. The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green which ring the deep blue waters in the middle. The colors in the spring are the result of microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich water. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat. The deep blue color of the water in the center is due to the lack of archaea that live in the center and to the depth of the water. The Grand Prisma is definitely something to see. The colors and blue smoke that steams from it is quite incredible. Excelsior Geyser Crater is the last spring on the boardwalk. It pours 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of 199 °F water per minute directly into the Firehole River. While we were there, it was very steamy, but we did get glimpses of the crystal clear water below. After admiring the beauitful, otherworldly springs, we headed back to the car to allow another waiting visitor a chance to see these beautiful geothermal features.