Today we visited more thermal areas of Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs, the Norris Geyser Basin, and Artist Paint Pots. We also had wildlife sightings and checked out the beautiful Gibbon River Falls. Another great day in America's first National Park.
Yesterday we moved from south of the park to the north end of Yellowstone. We took our time this morning, but eventually packed up and headed out to explore around 10:00 a.m. It was a gorgeous day.
Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace
We made the short drive to the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.
One of the first features you notice is the Liberty Cap, a dormant hot springs cone below the Lower Terrace.
The Mammoth Hot Springs are the most popular attraction in the Mammoth area and they are a bit different than the other thermal features in Yellowstone. There is a Lower Terrace that you can access from various parking areas and walk through on a series of boardwalks and steps.
Then there is the Upper Terrace which you can drive through and park along the way to get out and view features.
We started with the Lower Terrace and a single boardwalk at the bottom. This boardwalk now dead ends at Palette Spring, but used to connect to the rest of the trails.
After going through both terraces, Palette Spring was our favorite feature.
The colors, the levels, the steaming water flowing over the top and down the slick surfaces - all that made this our favorite.
Palette Spring is like a fantastic cave formation that is out in the open where the colors pop against a bright blue sky.
Moving on to other parts of the boardwalk, we found several dormant springs that look like this.
The park website and brochures say that these hot springs are constantly changing and what visitors may have seen years ago may no longer be the vibrant springs in the locations they remembered. They say returning visitors are often disappointed to find the changes. However, the total spring water production stays fairly constant in the overall Mammoth Hot Springs complex, so that production simply shifts from formation to formation and new ones develop.
The springs sit right on the edge of the village of Mammoth Hot Springs, and here is a view down there. This is our favorite village of those we have visited in Yellowstone so far.
This village is clean, organized, historic, and sits in beautiful surroundings.
There were a couple of other nice features in the Lower Terrace, ....
but most of the springs seemed to be dormant or partially dormant.
We then drove up to the Upper Terrace Drive. The drive entrance is sort of hidden and easy to miss. Many people simply park in the large parking area and walk in, but the loop is fairly long so it's a long walk and there is a lot of distance between features.
We parked along the drive, and walked the boardwalk down toward Canary Spring. Along the way, we found this lovely display of colors.
The colors around the springs throughout the park are from a combination of minerals and bacteria.
And as the producing spring becomes dormant, the colors disappear as below.
Notice the dead trees in the photo above. When hot springs are flowing, the trees soak up the mineral-filled water and their "veins" calcify therefore preventing them from being able to get the nutrients they need.
The colors and patterns created by the interaction of the various bacteria and minerals and growth of the springs make for some interesting viewing.
We continued on down to Canary Spring, which is technically part of the Lower Terrace but more easily accessed from the Upper. It has a series of powder blue cascading pools ...
that lead to orange colors at the bottom.
It's a large spring that is pretty impressive from the roadside pull-off on the main road at the bottom.
There were some other features in the Upper Terrace, most notably Orange Mound Spring.
Again, there were quite a few dormant springs or springs that had lost their prior beauty. I get the feeling from looking at the structures that remain, that Mammoth Hot Springs were even more magnificent in the past. But the Terraces are certainly still worth a stop.
Mammoth To Norris
We proceeded up through a small canyon (photos on the return trip) to a wide open plains area. We immediately encountered another "Bison Jam". However, there was only one bull Bison anywhere in sight, and he was causing the back-up.
For some reason, he was intent on walking down the centerline of the road. We tried to give him space to cross, but he simply didn't care - the middle of the road was where he wanted to be. If you wanted to get by, you had to pass on one side or the other and he never flinched when anyone went around.
It was hilarious.
Moving on, we passed the roadside feature known as Roaring Mountain, a rocky hill with numerous steam vents.
And we passed several pretty lakes including Twin Lakes. This next shot is of North Twin Lake.
And this is Nymph Lake with a small roadside hot spring.
In addition, this drive included the blue waters of Indian Creek and Gibbon River snaking through the golden meadows. And we could see mountains that we couldn't see through the smoke from wildfires yesterday. Very nice.
Norris Geyser Basin
We arrived in Norris and drove into the Norris Geyser Basin parking lot. We had some lunch and then explored the two-plus miles of trails.
We started with the mile and a half Back Basin loop. The first feature we came to was Emerald Spring.
I just love those steaming, colorful, clear-water springs.
Next was Steamboat Geyser. This unpredictable geyser is the tallest in the world at 200 - 300 feet when it has a major eruption. The last major eruption was in 2005, so we were content to settle for a minor eruption.
This is Echinus Geyser, also an unpredictable geyser. But it was different with the blue water surrounded by the red edges.
This is Crater Spring - small but pretty.
With this shot we got a spring, some steam vents, mountains, blue sky, and puffy clouds.
There were more features like Puff N Stuff, Porkchop Geyser, Green Dragon Spring, and others.
This is cute little Pearl Spring.
And this is the even smaller Corporal Spring.
Here is another spring with Minute Geyser doing its thing in the background.
Minute Geyser used to be a large geyser, but early visitors threw rocks in and they calcified clogging the vent. Now there are signs everywhere asking people not to throw anything into the geysers. Apparently visitors also used to throw coins in ... using the geysers as wishing wells.
Finishing up Back Basin, we paused at the top of the very scenic Porcelain Basin.
We slowly descended - slowly because I couldn't stop snapping pictures - into the basin.
On the boardwalk, the bacteria in the flowing water provided more fabulous colors. I named this "Melon Creek" because of the combination of honeydew and cantaloupe colors.
Nearby was a geyser called "Constant Geyser". The trail guide said it could sit still for twenty minutes or a couple hours, but Linda has started getting a feel for these geysers.
We sat down on a bench with no one around, but folks seemed to think we knew something, so a crowd quickly grew. Sure enough, in a few minutes, Constant Geyser erupted.
The guide said it only lasts about ten seconds, so we had to be ready. And the guide was right.
Continuing on around the boardwalk was Crackling Lake. On the edge of one side of these pools was a sizzling area that looked and sounded like bacon frying.
We continued our walk (more pictures I didn't post) until we came to a dead end and this great view with a tiny geyser spouting.
We didn't see any major geyser eruptions, but Norris Geyser Basin was fun and quite beautiful.
Norris to Halfway to Madison
From Norris we decided to hit few more features to the south that we skipped on our prior tour of the Lower Loop.
We stopped at Artist Paint Pots and walked the 1/3 of a mile into the thermal area.
This first white mud pot really did look like someone was stirring a can of paint.
When thinking of "Artist" Paint Pots, I was thinking color, and we had some of that as well.
But Linda's favorite part of this whole area wasn't very colorful at all. This bubbling mud pot had her quite enthralled.
We watched as this pot blooped and mesmerized us like a '70s lava lamp.
Linda would have sat and watched for hours. I've spoken of her campfire trances - same thing here. I could have gone and showed up tomorrow and she would have still been there watching plopping mud.
More beautiful colors as we looked down from the upper boardwalk on a combination of springs, geysers, and fumaroles.
The Artist Paint Pots was another worthwhile little stop.
Then we moved on. The next goal was Gibbon River Falls, but first we stopped to take a photo of the Gibbon River before it got to the falls.
Once we reached the roadside parking area, the Gibbon River Falls did not disappoint. Beautiful.
I can't come up with enough synonyms for "beautiful" and that word will just have to do several times in this entry.
After watching the falls for a few minutes, we were starting to get tired. We had walked up and down for a few miles on lots of boardwalks and trails to that point, so it was ready to drive home.
Back past Norris and the lakes, streams, and meadows, we came to the canyon five or six miles outside of Mammoth that I mentioned earlier in this entry.
After that "hanging" bit of road, there is this brief section of white rocks which Linda thought was fabulous.
Then there was a turnout where you can view a couple of blue ponds as part of the scenery.
What a great drive we had today.
As we passed through Mammoth Hot Springs, we stopped at the park visitors center. In Yellowstone, you have to have a license to fish. You don't have to have a state license, but you do have to have a Yellowstone fishing license.
You can get a three-day for $18, a seven-day for $25, or an annual for $40. I went with the seven-day.
After getting the license, we watched a twenty-minute park movie.
Then we continued on. In the village and the campground are numerous signs saying "Do Not Approach Elk". Well, as we looked over to our left, there was a small herd lying on the cushy green grass lawns of one of the buildings.
Back home, I was too tired to do any "hike-in" fishing, but I threw my equipment in the Jeep and drove toward Gardiner to fish for an hour or so on the Gardner River.
But, before I could settle on a spot, I saw a herd of Bighorn Sheep on the side of the mountain near the road. I hadn't brought my camera, so I rushed back to the campground to grab the camera and pick up Linda.
Fortunately, they were in feeding mode and not moving too quickly.
Most of the herd was in the sun, but this adorable youngster was in the shade down closer to the road.
And this one was on the river side of the road before deciding to stop traffic and cross back over.
Well, that was a nice finishing touch to another wonderful day. That pretty much leaves bears and wolves that we haven't yet seen, and we're going to try to find them in Lamar Valley in the next few days.
Oh, we've seen four or five snakes I haven't yet mentioned including a good-sized Bull Snake I saw on the way out of the campground ... without the camera.
After counting sheep, I was really tired .... and decided to bag fishing for tonight.
We'll be back exploring tomorrow.
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