Additional time at Yellowstone

The colors of hot springs

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 8

Please excuse my sporadic postings. It is difficult to write while I am trying to watch some beautiful scenery pass by, photograph some of it, write about it and pay sufficient attention to my beautiful traveling companion. And I have realized writing on a train is a challenge; writing on a bus is almost impossible.

It’s still Saturday and we are still in Yosemite. Next up is Hayden Valley with a few more bison and lots of Canada geese. It seems they like it here and want to stay, but maybe they are victims of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closed border with Canada? Either way we appreciated seeing them even though we have plenty at home.

Next we visit the Dragon’s Mouth fumerole. It is claimed in the folklore of the Kiowa and other Native American Tribes to be the birthplace of their people. Over 1,900 archeological sites have been identified and only 3% of the park has been researched by archeologists.

We also learned that there is a specific reason for various colors at hot springs. First if it called a Spring, it is HOT. At home our springs are usually cool mountain springs, but in the Parks they usually mean hot. The various colors are due to the different types of bacteria living in the hot water runoff from the spring. As the water runs across the rock dome of the spring, it starts out very hot and cools. Sometimes within 30 yards the water has cooled enough to progress through 3 distinct colors and is safe to touch. But if it is still colorful there is a bacteria enjoying the warmth and it is enough to burn you. The hottest springs are the bright blue because no bacteria can stand it and the water is clear blue. The saying in the park is “water blue, too hot for you”. The colors we saw were vivid orange, red, florescent yellow and beautiful and deadly blue. The reason for the most injuries in the park is burns from people putting their hands in the water to see how hot it is. Kinda like putting your hand in the pot of water on the stove to see if it is ready to cook the spaghetti…

Some of the hotels in the park drew hot water from a spring for their spas and advertised the medicinal values of bathing in the mineral rich waters. There were at least two problems with this practice; first they did not realize the dangerous concentration of minerals like arsenic were poisoning their customers. And secondly they pulled enough hot water from the spring to permanently change the temp of the spring. How did they know? The color changed, indicating one type of bacteria died and another moved in. The different bacteria only survive in a narrow range of temperatures. The color did not change back to indicate the spring never regained its’ original temp.

In 1988 44 wildfires combined to consume 36% of the park, leading to a change in forestry management in the park. They now actively use controlled burns when it is safe to remove dry fuel from the forest floor. This year smoke from western and Canadian wildfires limited visibility for most of the year. Our guide said this was one of only a few clear days he’s seen since May.

Next on our tour is Lake Yellowstone at 7733 feet above sea level with a 430 foot depth and average summer temperature of 42 degrees in the summer. A frequent cause of death in Yellowstone is hypothermia from swimmers in the Lake. I have attached pics of the Lake and the Yellowstone Lake Hotel. That hotel charges about $600 per night. We saw remnants of snow banks from plowed snow of a few days ago. Then visited Biscuit Basin Spring, the one I described in an earlier post that measured 155 degrees. We then passed in the distance Jewel Geyser that erupts every 7 minutes and Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Geyser, both of whom are no longer erupting. Last summer there was a 6 mile backup for a parking space for those sites.

That’s about it for our Yellowstone stop. I think it might remain on my bucket list for another visit.

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.

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