Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn a small commission of product sales to keep this website going.
Throughout Yellowstone National Park you’ll find themes along the lines of, “while other national parks are meant to preserve that land in its current state, Yellowstone is meant to preserve a changing landscape.” It doesn’t seem to make sense at first, but Yellowstone’s current state is change.
Yellowstone National Park, located in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, sits atop one of the largest active supervolcanoes in the world. It has exploded a few times in the past, each explosion responsible for how we see Yellowstone today. Don’t worry, scientists say that the chances of a volcanic explosion in our lifetime (or our children’s) are as close to zero as you can get.
A geothermic explosion is much more likely, an occurrence that happens every few hundred years. These smaller events can be likened to a clogged pressure cooker. Steam creates enormous pressure, and eventually the pot can no longer contain the pressure and it explodes. This is happening underneath Yellowstone, but on a much larger and slower scale. These explosions can create craters from a few yards to a few hundred yards in diameter, and eject water & rock up to a mile high.
In 1989 a few tourists were injured when Porkchop Geyser exploded, hurtling rocks and boiling water around that area of Norris Geyser Basin. One of those less rare hydrothermal explosions.
Even though a major eruption is unlikely, it’s still very much alive under the surface. This is evident the moment you get into the park.
Yellowstone was very much active in just the few days I was there last, in September 2018. Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world at 300′ high, blew every four to six days throughout September, with some eruptions lasting close to an hour. Sometimes it goes eight to nine years without blowing.
In mid-September, Ear Spring erupted for the first time in 14 years. As of this writing, it’s still boiling over, which is very unusual for this pool. Over on Geyser Hill (where Old Faithful is) the following week, a portion of the boardwalk was closed after a vent opened up underneath it. Other pools & springs at Geyser Hill have been unusually boiling over in the past few weeks. An unnamed geyser started spewing water, while a popular named geyser with multiple daily eruptions has suddenly stopped.
Doomsdayists say it’s a sign of the apocalypse. But it’s really just the status quo for Yellowstone and what makes the park so interesting. It will be different every time you visit the park. I’d love to be a Yellowstone geologist.
On your next trip to Yellowstone, chat with some rangers. Actually read the interpretive signs instead of just looking at them. Imagine what’s going on just inches under your feet. It’s spooky, and beautiful at the same time. I’ll let the rest of the photos speak for themselves.