By Janet White
Geysers and other thermal features are key attractions for most Yellowstone National Park visitors. But getting to Yellowstone isn’t cheap or easy, so it’s important to keep in mind that a great vacation doesn’t start the day you leave. It really begins with the planning. A little preparation before you go will help you get the most from your geyser experiences in Yellowstone, while also helping to make your trip easier and more fun.
Part of the enjoyment of any vacation comes from looking forward to it, and with so many great resources in print and online, it’s easy to find helpful information to enrich your time taking in geysers. Dozens of hobbyists, enthusiasts, academics and other dedicated “geyser gazers” have already put in the hard work of creating exhaustive collections of information about Yellowstone’s geysers. Why not take advantage of their efforts?
So, here are five simple tips to help you learn more, be prepared and get the most out of your trip to see Yellowstone’s geysers:
1. Get in shape
Honestly, no matter what’s on your itinerary, you will be walking a lot on any visit to the park. The better shape you’re in, the more you’ll enjoy Yellowstone. There are more than 15 miles of boardwalks in Yellowstone, and after a full day of geyser watching, you might feel like you’ve walked every one of those miles. On my last trip, staying mostly in the geyser basins, I logged about 20,000 steps each day on the pedometer I wore. In the past, I’ve easily clocked 30,000-35,000 steps a day. (It varies, but on average, there are roughly 2,000 steps in a mile.) Start preparing for your vacation now by taking some longer walks.
There are a number of great websites that offer in-depth information about the geysers of Yellowstone Park. Here are a few favorites:
- Yellowstone National Park offers an interactive Tour of the Old Faithful area online.
- The National Park Service also gives you a video tour of the Upper Geyser Basin with Ranger Orville Bach.
- Geyser Times: Jake Young is developing this website to receive reports from visitors to the Park. It’s one of the best places to go to find out exactly when Plume Geyser, Riverside Geyser or other relatively obscure features were last known to erupt.
- Geysers.net: This is a place to look for the latest predictions thanks to hard work from geyser gazer Alan Glennon.
- Geyser Watch: This site (disclosure: my own endeavor) is still under development. It is designed as an online field journal with reports sorted by geyser.
3. Watch and learn online
There are three webcam views of the Upper Geyser Basin and one at Mammoth Hot Springs. The webcams are funded largely by the Yellowstone Park Foundation and private partners, and you can find links to all them (and other webcams in the park) on the Yellowstone National Park website. The webcams to check out before you go include:
- Static Cam from the Old Faithful Visitors Center
- Static Cam of the Upper Geyser Basin
- Live Streaming Webcam
- Mammoth Webcam
There another option for those really interested in Yellowstone geysers. Live Cam Chat was created by geyser gazer Paul Thompson. The site allows you to engage in text chats with others while watching geyser webcams, and it’s a great way to ask questions and learn about specific thermal features. Plus, the cam chat even has its own Facebook page.
4. GOSA – The Geyser Observation and Study Association
The Geyser Observation and Study Association website is full of information on Yellowstone’s geysers. They have some wonderful, hard-to-find-anywhere-else books and reference materials in their store. GOSA also publishes a newsletter, The Sput, and a journal, GOSA Transactions, which contains more in-depth study of the geysers.
Many GOSA subscribers also subscribe to an automated email discussion group that has helpful information.
Here are a few great books to get you a familiar with all the other geysers and thermal features beyond Old Faithful to see in Yellowstone:
- The Geysers of Yellowstone by T. Scott Bryan.
- What the Geyser Are and How they Work by T. Scott Bryan.
- Yellowstone Geysers and other Hydrothermal Features: The Story Behind the Scenery by Duncan Foley.
Set an Example
If you’re taking your kids on vacation to Yellowstone, keep in mind that safety is always important around geysers and other thermal features. The Park Service has strict rules about protecting the fragile attractions, as well as keeping visitors safe, so it’s especially important for kids to know about geyser rules and safety before they arrive.
You can also involve the kids in your trip planning and research. That type of learning will not only enhance their enjoyment of the vacation, but you’ll also set an example that learning is a lifelong pursuit, and not just something for the classroom. Besides, you never know, a trip dedicated to Yellowstone’s geysers might spark an interest in your kids that will turn into something much more in years to come.
Janet White is the creator of GeyserWatch.com.