YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK–If there’s any doubt that more visitors to this treasure of nature check out Old Faithful than anything else, all you need to do is compare the size of the world-famous geyser’s parking lot to that of any other place in the park.
But while Old Faithful may be synonymous with Yellowstone geothermal activity in most visitors’ minds, it is, in fact, just one of hundreds of geysers, hot pools, mud pots, hot springs, and steam vents scattered throughout the park. And on Road Trip 2009, I set out to explore the lesser-known members of the geothermal club in order to give them a little much-deserved exposure.
Even with that goal in mind, I had no idea just how many different geothermal features Yellowstone has. For me, it was education on the fly, and, it turned out, I didn’t have nearly enough time to see, and experience it all. In fact, while I did–how could I not?–save some time to watch Old Faithful do its thing (see video below), I ran out of time before getting to visit some of the more incredible hot pools on the list.
But I did get to see dozens of the beautiful pools, springs, pots and vents, and it was well worth the time I spent doing so, even though that time came at the expense of any opportunity to explore wildlife, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, or any of Yellowstone’s myriad other attractions. For me, my visit was all geothermal, all the time.
In fact, Yellowstone has the largest geothermal area in the world, fully half of the planet’s entire collection, according to the National Park Service.
“Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles,” according to the National Park Service. “Its more than 300 geysers make up two-thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mud pots and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other…Yellowstone’s vast collection of thermal features provides a constant reminder of the park’s recent volcanic past. Indeed, the caldera provides the setting that allows such features as Old Faithful to exist and to exist in such great concentrations.”
Clearly, as a marketing vehicle, Old Faithful is as good as gold. But it’s just one geyser, albeit a dependable, and large, one. To me, given that you have to stay well back from it, unlike many other geothermal features in the park, there’s something very Disneyland about it. The real substance is elsewhere.