A geyser is a spring that periodically ejects water and steam. The term comes from the Icelandic word geysa, which means “to gush”. Approximately 1,000 geysers exist on Earth, so they are rare and quite a sight to see. Almost half of the geysers and geothermal features in the world are located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Geysers are a vent in the Earth’s surface that exist near active volcano areas due to the proximity of magma. Yellowstone has so many geysers because it is located inside a supervolcano caldera which erupted approximately 640,000 years ago.
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is the most famous and well known geyser in the world. It erupts 106 to 185 feet in the air every 45 to 125 minutes and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. If you can’t make the trip out to see it for yourself, the National Park Service maintains a web camera of Old Faithful which updates every 20 seconds during the daytime. But with 300 geysers and over 10,000 geothermal features, there is a lot more to see at Yellowstone than Old Faithful alone.
Located in the Upper Geyser Basin along with Old Faithful are Cattle Geyser, Lion Geyser, and Beehive Geyser. Cattle Geyser is a cone geyser that erupts twice a day. An impressive geyser to watch, it shoots water and steam 90 feet into the air for 20 minutes, over four times as long as Old Faithful. Though once thought to be over 5,000 years old, geologists have now determined using carbon-14 dating that Cattle Geyser is approximately 1,022 years old.
Lion Geyser was named after the loud roaring sound the steam makes when it erupts. It is the largest geyser in the local Lion Group, which includes Little Cub Geyser, Big Cub Geyser, and Lioness Geyser.
Beehive Geyser was one of the first seven geysers the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition of 1870 observed erupting. About twice a day, Beehive Geyser erupts with a height of 200 feet and duration of 5 minutes. Less than 30 minutes before Beehive Geyser erupts, a small geyser known as Beehive’s Indicator shoots up a 20 foot stream that continues until Beehive Geyser erupts.
Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin is the largest geyser in the world. When it erupts, it shoots water up to 300 feet in the air. This geyser erupts on an irregular schedule ranging from 4 days to 50 years. Steamboat Geyser continues to vent steam for 48 hours after an eruption. The last time Steamboat Geyser erupted was on May 23, 2005.
Rustic Geyser in the Heart Lake Basin was discovered by 1878 Hayden Expedition. Surrounding the geyser was logs that were placed by Native Americans or European explorers. Though this geyser has long periods of unexplained dormancy, when it is active it erupts every 10 to 90 minutes. Water slowly rises to the rim before Rustic Geyser suddenly and very briefly erupts.
Soap Kettle Geyser is a large crater in the Shoshone Geyser Basin that slowly fills with water. Every 10 to 20 minutes, an eruption occurs with some bursts reaching 6 feet, but most of the activity is short splashing springs. After the eruption, the pool drains and begins to refill for the next eruption.
With so many geysers, this article can only provide a glimpse of all that Yellowstone has to offer. Though no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to Old Faithful, take time out of your vacation to visit some of these lesser known geysers. Though you may not be able to see them all erupt, they certainly are an impressive sight nevertheless.