Yellowstone National Park
Fishing Bridge, Wyoming
Fishing Bridge RV Park
July 11, 2009
Today we woke to another sunny day, temp around 65 degrees. The temp runs in the mid to high 60’s around here during the day but the hot sun makes up for the lower temps. In the car you need the AC but outside sometimes a jacket is necessary. Despite the variations in temps we can’t complain – so far - no rain or snow!!
We headed out to Mammoth Hot Springs with the plan to not stop on the way to see things but to do that on the way back home. On the way we got caught up in another traffic stop for a Buffalo in the road. There are signs everywhere telling you to stay at least one-hundred feet away, buffalo are dangerous, etc., etc. Well, there is always a dumb one in the crowd. Sure enough some guy gets out of his car (6-7 cars back) and decides he needs a real close-up picture of that buffalo. Well, Mr. Buffalo was not happy and decided to charge that guy. Ron got a picture of the buffalo making his move before the guy turned and ran. The buffalo gave up and snorting walked back in our direction looking a little – shall we say – “pissed.” The guy’s wife didn’t look much happier. She looked like she was going to kill her husband for the buffalo. In the end the guy was OK the buffalo wandered into the field and it only took us two hours to get to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs is another hydrothermal area but unlike other areas of the park whose underlying rock formation is rhyolite. At Mammoth it is limestone. The area is one of the world’s best examples of travertine-depositing hot springs. Mammoth is the most dynamic hydrothermal area in Yellowstone with its features constantly changing. There are many inactive terraces that underlie most of the area including the hotel and the Albright Visitor Center.
Although Mammoth is another hydrothermal area it looks entirely different then West Thumb and Old Faithful. The heat and water are the same two ingredients making up the thermal area but the final ingredient is the limestone deposited millions of years ago when a vast sea covered the area. The hot water with dissolved carbon dioxide makes a weak solution of carbonic acid. As the solution rises through the rocks, it dissolves calcium carbonate, the primary compound in limestone. On the surface the calcium carbonate is deposited in the form of travertine, the rock that forms the terraces of Mammoth.
The terraces are beautiful and are like living sculptures, shaped by the water, the slope of the land and the objects in the water’s path. The colors are vibrant to sedate all the result of thermophiles.
The terraces display circles of activity typically found in Mammoth Hot Springs. Liberty Cap stands 37 feet tall created by a hot spring that was active for a long time. It is estimated to be 2500 years old and is now dormant.
The boardwalk around the trail was loaded with stairs, at one count 750, then I gave up counting. The overlooks gave way to beautiful and different landscape so different and hard to explain. The terraces far out class those we saw in Thermopolis. It was both eerie and spectacular at the same time. We can’t wait to see what other surprises the park has in store for us.
After lunch we walked to the visitor center and on the way we saw a baby elk crying for its mother. It was crying and the mother was calling back. Finally the baby ran to its’ mom. A happy ending.
We watched a short movie on National Parks at the Visitor Center then headed back to the car. On the walk back, we were greeted by another Elk eating the grass near the crosswalk. It’s amazing to see the wildlife co-existing so closely with humans.
Before leaving Mammoth we drove the Upper Terrace Drive with overlooks offering views of the Main, Minerva and Cleopatra Terraces. Mammoth Hot Springs is a must see for anyone in the area. It is so different with its unusual formations and crystalline landscapes.
On the road back we stopped at Norris Geyser Basin another beautiful but different type of hydrothermal area. It is the most acidic hydrothermal area in Yellowstone and has many acidic geysers, which are rare in the rest of the world. Norris is also one of the most active earthquake areas in the park. YIKES!!!
Norris is the hottest and most volatile sitting on the intersection of three major faults. Each year new hot springs and geysers appear, while other become dormant. The Cistern creates changes within itself, rapidly dissolving underground rock and will eventually choke off its supply of water to the surface leaving it dormant.
There are a variety of colors within Norris all representing thermophiles and their activity. The yellow deposits are typically sulfur and have a rotten egg odor. (Ron likes that smell? YUK!) The dark brown and rust colors are from varying amounts of iron. There are what the scientist call mats throughout the area that contain bacteria. There are signs everywhere forbidding disturbing the mats. The green mats are a run –off of hot springs and geysers with algae the dominant life form. The dark green-blackish mats form in cooler water.
The geysers in Norris are spectacular. Constant Geyser erupts 20-30 feet high every few minutes. Whirligig Geyser has a rhythmic sound and can be heard from anywhere on the boardwalk The geysers, steam vents and hot springs provide an endless display of activity and beauty that is hard to catch in photos or short video clips.
Emerald Spring is a magnificent shade of emerald green. The pool is 27 feet deep and water temperature close to boiling.
Along the roadside home are many pullouts. One stop was at the Roaring Mountain. There are multiple steam vents in the mountainside and when you listen it does sound like the mountain is roaring. At Roaring Mountain there was a buffalo that was sitting in a hot springs area for the entire day. We saw it in the morning when we passed and then again on the return trip.
We made many more stops along the route back home, far too many to mention. On average we have been covering about one –hundred miles a day and walking another 5-7 miles. Our days are long and filled with spectacular scenery and activity.