Having spent significant time at Lassen Volcanic National Park, hydrothermal features don’t hold the same awe for me as they once did. However, the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs were a geological marvel that blew my mind and kept my camera busy. I’d never seen anything like this. I was WOWED!
The colors are created by thermophiles, heat-loving microorganisms. According to the Yellowstone Association Trail Guide brochure, “Colorless and yellow thermophiles grow in the hottest water; orange, brown and green thermophiles thrive in cooler waters. Colors change during with the seasons due to differing amounts of sunlight.”
“The terraces are living sculptures, shaped by the volume of water, the slope of the ground, and object’s in the water’s path. Travertine is created when the hot water perculates up from underground through limestone dissolving calcium carbonate and depositing it on the surface, causing the features to change quickly and constantly. Geology isn’t just history, it’s an active process.” Source: Yellowstone Association Trail Guide
On my hike along Lava Creek to Undine Falls, it was great to gain this perspective of the terraces perched under the watchful eye of Mt Everts. The whitish/grayish lump in the middle of the photo is Terrace Mountain, a mere 406,000 years old.
There are three primary areas in the park to observe the hot springs, geysers, mudpots, fumaroles and travertine – Mammoth, Norris, Old Faithful and West Thumb. The trail system makes for a nice workout with benefits!
Timing the geyser action took some practice, but I found if I set my camera to shoot a series of 5 photos I’d capture the eruption at peak height.
By the time I got to Norris Geyser Basin, I decided I’d seen enough hydrothermal features. This photo gives you an idea of how the trails wind through the basins of Yellowstone, where geology is alive.
Date(s) Hiked: April 17-19, 2016
Road Trip Day(s) #59-61 out of 88
- The only campground in the park open during the winter/early spring season is Mammoth
- Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
- Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yellowstone NP – Day Hike Guide
- Yellowstone NP – App
- Yellowstone Association – excellent Trail Guide brochures for $1 donation
- National Geographic Map – Yellowstone National Park