Where Yellowstone National Park Geysers Blow

Perhaps the best known natural landmark in the United States is Yellowstone National Park. Within the “gates” of the park, certainly the most known feature is Old Faithful Geyser. The geothermal blast gets its name because it is one of the most predictable natural eruptions on earth. Since the US National Park system is turning 100 this year, we thought we’d take a look at Old Faithful and the many other geothermal features of Yellowstone.

View Geysers of Yellowstone in a full screen map

Old Faithful eruption in 1948. Photo from the National Park Service.
Old Faithful eruption in 1948. Photo from the National Park Service.

To start, Yellowstone is estimated to have 10,000 geothermal features. Since that’s just an estimate, nobody has actually tabulated each of those geysers, hot springs, and pools. While BatchGeo can certainly map thousands and thousands of locations (notably, it would only take a couple minutes), we decided to focus on the named and notable. How did we choose them? If they have a page or photo on Wikipedia, they’re in.

The map above has 123 geothermal features, which includes 87 are geysers. The easiest way to explore them is by areas, most of which are Geyser Basins. BatchGeo’s grouping feature makes that super easy by color coding the markers by these basins, and letting you click the one or more basins you want to see. For example, the Upper Geyser Basin has the most geothermal features. If you click that, you’ll be zoomed into the 51 geysers and other features within the basin.

Old Faithful is amongst the bubbling, blasting brethren of Upper Geyser Basin. While it may be the most predictable, there are several geysers that spew their hot water higher into the air. Old Faithful’s 106 feet (32 m) to 185 feet (56 m) certainly makes it amongst the highest. Others in the 100+ foot club include Giantess Geyser (100), Fan Geyser (125), Splendid Geyser (200), Grand Geyser (200), Beehive Geyser (200), and Giant Geyser (200). The highest geyser in Yellowstone history is the aptly-named Excelsior Geyser, which reached heights of 300 feet. Excelsior is believed to have blasted so hard its plumbing no longer can focus it as a geyser. Now called Excelsior Crater, it spends most of its time as a large, boiling pool, splashing up far below its previous heights.

Upper Geyser Basin includes all of the above 100+ foot geysers. If we include those between 50 and 100 feet, one other basin stands out. The Lower Geyser Basin contains the second-most geothermal features amongst those mapped, with 27. Two similarly-named 75 foot geysers are the sights to see in Lower Geyser Basin: Fountain Geyser and Great Fountain Geyser are both near the center of the basin. Though about the same height, Great Fountain Geyser lasts at least an hour (versus Fountain Geyser’s 30 minutes).

The durations of the geysers are widely varied. At least seven are more predictable than Old Faithful, but only because they are constant. The highest of these is Clepsydra Geyser, which is always spewing water 45 feet into the air. Interestingly, prior to a 1959 earthquake, Clepsydra (derived from Greek “water clock”) erupted every three minutes. The other constant blowers are Bijou Geyser (15 feet), Comet Geyser (5), Artesia Geyser (5), Spasm Geyser (3), Pump Geyser (2), and Beryl Spring (1).

Bijou Geyser constantly spews 15 feet high. Photo by Richard Ellis.
Bijou Geyser constantly spews 15 feet high. Photo by Richard Ellis.

Like Old Faithful and Clepsydra, other geysers seem to be named for their frequency, but not their predictability. Occasional Geyser in the West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of many that don’t erupt on any schedule. In fact, some are dormant, which seems to be nearly the case for the Semi-Centennial Geyser. And what do you call a gaseous body that always seems to erupt late? That would be Tardy Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin.

In addition to filtering markers by the area of the park, you can also explore geyser height, frequency, and duration. Further, most of these features are filterable by temperature, and a handful of the pools can be filtered by depth. All this data began as a spreadsheet culled from this Wikipedia page.

Do you like to explore the natural world this way? Yellowstone is also one of 23 World Heritage Sites in the United States, and they’re all mapped.