2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1009 Artists Paintpots is one of the more popular viewing sites in Yellowstone, and with its typical small parking lot, we thought we’d get ahead of the crowds by arriving early.  The concept was good, and we did get a good parking spot, but the combination of cool morning air and heated ground made so much steamy fog, that we were unable to see the famous colors of the area.

Yellowstone is one of those places that is different each time you visit, and even with the lessened visibility, it still has charm.  The boardwalk surrounding the area climbs to an overlook.   

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The Paintpots (or mudpots) are acidic thermal features with a limited water supply.  Various gases escape upward through the hot clay mud, causing bubbles to continually rise to the surface and pot.   Artists Paintpots was given its name due to the many colors from the presence of agents such as sulfur, iron and chlorophyll.  2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1044

Although visibility was clearing by the time we finished the mile long walk, we’ll still have to return another time to witness all the colors of Artists Paintpots.

Norris Geyser Basin, is the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone.  Many of the springs and fumeroles (steam vents) have temperatures above the boiling point. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1061

It’s hard to imagine a setting more volatile, as it is part of one of the world’s largest active volcanoes, and sits on the intersection of three major faults. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1065

It is so volatile, in fact, that this area has been closed occasionally to tourists in times of extreme activity.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1058

All of Yellowstone’s thermal features are fueled by magma (molten rock) beneath the park.  Geysers form when an underground channel contains a constriction.  Between eruptions, temperatures in the pressurized water builds up, creating steam, which eventually has to erupt from the gro2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1076

Steamboat Geyser is the world’s largest active geyser.  Its eruptions occur on an irregular basis, from as little as a few days to as far apart as 50 years.  When it does, water shoots as high as 300 – 400 feet or more, and often showers down on any watchers on the boardwalk.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1055

Today, it was quite steamy and was sending shoots of water up several feet.

Porcelain Basin is another section of the Norris Basin.  A short walk on the encircling boardwalk lets one view several of its colorful features.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1082

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Leaving Norris Basin, we headed southwest again, taking a short side trip through Firehole Canyon drive, and came upon this beautiful waterfall next to the road, Firehole Falls.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1133

It’s hard to say which of Yellowstone’s many features are the most impressive, but our last stop of the day has to rank toward the top of the list.

Midway Basin contains Excelsior Geyser Crater, a hot springs. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1149

Until 1890, it was an active geyser that often erupted to 300 feet high. It is believed that powerful eruptions damaged its internal plumbing system, and it now boils as a hot spring most of the time.  The Excelsior Geyser pool discharges 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of 199 °F  water per minute directly into the Firehole river. In the first photo below, the hot water is streaming over the colorful mineral beds.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1146  In the next 2 pictures, it is seen falling over the steep bank in to the river. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1141 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1144 As you continue around the boardwalk, the striations in the stone have an artistic quality to them, similar to a marble slab. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1154

Then you round the corner and your sight is arrested by one of the most colorful scenes in the park, Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot springs in the U. S. and the third largest in the world. 2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1163

Seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring is like seeing a rainbow on the ground.  A photo cannot do the colors justice.  The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats  that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water, and vary in color with the season, more oranges and reds in the summer, greens in the winter.  The water in the spring is a vivid blue.   I couldn’t resist showing this aerial view of the spring I found on the web which really shows the color of the water well.grand prismatic spring from air

While in the park these past 2 days, we’ve seen several elk and bison.  As we left today, we had one last close encounter.2010-09-24 MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park - Day 2 -1189

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