Our Second Day at Yellowstone

Old Faithful and The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

These travels occurred in late September/early October 2021. The posts are gathered under the ‘Travel’ category (top right of page) and numbered to indicate the order in which they should be read.

Post 7

Backing up a bit for a Yellowstone primer, Yellowstone is a volcano; an active volcano. It last had a super eruption about 631,000 years ago. A super eruption is defined as a volcano erupting at least 1000 cubic kilometers of material (240 cubic miles!). The largest super eruption of Yellowstone was about 2.1 million years ago and erupted 2450 cubic kilometers. That left a large bowl shape atop the volcano called a caldera. If a super eruption happens again, human life could be eliminated at least in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming with incredible damage worldwide. The anticipated time between super eruptions is 600,000 to 900,000 years at Yellowstone. The last super eruption in the world was in New Zealand over 21,000 years ago. Scientist monitor Yellowstone’s more than 1,000 earthquakes a year for changes in trends indicating a potential eruption. We can’t feel most of those earthquakes.

There are around 900 geysers in the world and 500 of them are in Yellowstone. Glaciers and lava flows have changed the landscape over the millennia. The magma chamber is the molten lava under Yellowstone. The magma from the chamber would fill Lake Michigan twice or the Grand Canyon 11 times. Some geysers share their water sources with each other making their eruptions unpredictable. Old Faithful does not share her water source, so is therefore predictable to 90 minutes +/- 10 minutes. The locals call the tourists Geyser Gazers. (I surmise some of us might be called Geezer Geyser Gazers…). Steamboat Geyser produces a water eruption lasting about 1-1/2 hours and produces one of the highest eruptions in the park, but it’s schedule didn’t match our tour schedule, so no pics of that one. All of this is the kind of info Jesse was sharing conversationally while driving and pointing out wildlife.

A Picture of Old Faithful
Old Faithful

I have attached a picture of an Old Faithful eruption. For about 20 minutes she would bubble and gurgle a bit to tease us as the audience oohed and aaahed before she really showed her stuff. We estimate about 2,000 people were on hand to appreciate such a beautiful display of Mother Nature’s power. And yes, they applauded the performance to let Old Faithful know we appreciate her performance.

A Picture of Old Faithful erupting
Old Faithful in action

The primary geologic feature of Yellowstone is surprisingly not Old Faithful Geyser but the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It is absolutely stunning. We are not talking about The Grand Canyon here – that is a different national park. Here we are talking about The Grand Canyon Of Yellowstone. At 500,000 years old it was formed primarily by erosion, not glaciation. A V-shaped canyon was formed by erosion while a U-shaped canyon was formed by glaciers. A series of lava flows and the doming of the caldera probably contributed to the beauty of the feature. The Canyon is 800 to 1200 feet deep and 1500 to 4000 feet wide and was carved by the Yellowstone River.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The canyon was featured in a painting by Thomas Moran who described it as “beyond the reach of human art”. I believe our guide said the painting was purchased by Congress and is on display in the Smithsonian in Washington.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

There are four primary hydrodynamic features; fumaroles (steam vents), geysers, hot springs and mudpots. A fumarole is a break in the earth’s crust where steam and hot gases can escape often with sound. Mudpots contain no underground water source but use mostly rain and runoff water. It bubbles and percolates what looks like soupy mud. There seems to be any number of these hydrodynamic features around practically every corner.

With such astounding features all over the park it is difficult to write humorous comments, so please excuse all the facts and figures. I’ll try to post more pictures to compensate. In my opinion Yellowstone National Park should be on most bucket lists – just check on the next super eruption schedule before putting down your deposit.

Published by barnberry

Well over aged 60 (well, OK, a lot more than that...) father of one outstanding young woman, unworthy husband of the most patient and talented woman in the world, retired small business owner, lover of all the wrong foods, political junkie and resident of NH. A conservative with a libertarian streak, and a thoughtful, impish, dedicated curmudgeon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: