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Moving Ground in Yellowstone Country

July 17th, 2015 by Park County Travel Council | Be the first to comment!

We have a lot of thermal activity here in Yellowstone Country.

Old Faithful's eruptions varies from 51 to 120 minutes

Old Faithful’s eruptions varies from 51 to 120 minutes

Inside Yellowstone National Park (around here we just call it “The Park”) is the world’s largest concentration of geysers and other thermal features totaling in the 10,000 neighborhood. Everybody knows about Old Faithful, but many people are surprised to find so many other geysers as well as fumaroles, hot springs and mud pots scattered throughout the park.

Here in Cody we also have our share of thermal features, and I’m not talking about our “hot” cowboy musicians. Back in the early 1800s, John Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition who went on side trips. Colter made his way in what are now Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. He also made it to what is now our humble town of Cody, where he came upon thermal activity that became known as “Colter’s Hell.”

In 1807 John Colter discovered an active geyser district: steam mixed with sulfur fumes and shooting flames escaped through vents in the valley floor. This is now known as Colter's Hell

In 1807 John Colter discovered an active geyser district: steam mixed with sulfur fumes and shooting flames escaped through vents in the valley floor. This is now known as Colter’s Hell

Heat and the smell of sulfur lend themselves to colorful nicknames. That thermal area is located close to our fairgrounds where steam and sulfur escape down by the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

What I find most fascinating about thermal features is their dynamic nature. Old Faithful is certainly the most famous geyser in the world, but it is not necessarily the most reliable even though you are guaranteed to see it erupt if you have the patience to remain there for less than two hours. Thermal features can change in frequency, color, temperature and, in some cases, their definition. A geyser that stops erupting, for example, looks suspiciously like a hot spring, if you ask me.

So, yesterday I received a press release from the National Park Service saying that the Upper Terrace Road at Mammoth Hot Springs inside the park had been temporarily closed because of thermal activity under the pavement. NPS was not surprised as this part of the road was typically bare in the winter while other parts were completely buried in snow. The road is groomed in winter and is popular among village employees.

Mammoth Hot Springs Village, including the Mammoth Hotel, is located inside our very own Park County. This area is the original Fort Yellowstone and is still headquarters for the Park Service, concessioners and other entities.

Mineral-laden hot water builds tier upon tier of terraced stone at Mammoth Hot Springs

Mineral-laden hot water builds tier upon tier of terraced stone at Mammoth Hot Springs

The hot springs themselves create the Minerva Terraces as the water bubbles up and leaves behind travertine mineral deposits in a “stair step” pattern. This area is very dynamic and is constantly changing. You can visit one year and be floored by the activity and colors of one section only to find it quiet with little color a year later. Meanwhile, a section of boardwalk could be closed because new activity has appeared.

The changing landscape is an aspect of our world that I love. I think I might take a drive this weekend to Mammoth.

In the meantime, I am lovin’ life in dynamic Park County, Wyo.

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