Mammoth Hot Springs is in the Northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, near the city of Gardiner, Montana. Previously, we discussed how Yellowstone contains the largest hydrothermal features in the world. This area, as the name implies, contains hot springs. There are no geysers in the area. With hot springs, hot water travels underground through limestone, and dissolves carbonate materials. Water can easily flow to the surface where the heat escapes from runoff or evaporation. The water coats the surface with the carbonate materials, which hardens into travertine rock. Travertine is too soft to create enough pressure to form a geyser.
The drive up to the area is very pretty, and gives you an idea of how expansive this park is.
As you get closer to the area, you can see how the landscape changes, as a result of the hydrothermal features. The white colored rock is from the limestone deposits.
The park service has put in extensive board walks around the travertine terraces in the area, so you can spend an hour or two taking a leisurely stroll to admire the beauty of these features. The colors in the springs are from thermophiles, an organism (think bacteria) that can survive extremely high temperatures. The hot springs area is constantly changing, as it is a living, breathing eco-system.
Liberty Cap, a hot spring cone, where the “plumbing” system remained open in one place for a long time, allowing mineral deposits to build up to a height of 37 feet.
Palette Springs is a beautiful display of the hydrothermal features of this area, created over thousands of years.
Hot Springs can have a life cycle as this example of Jupiter Terrace demonstrates. In 1923, it was documented that water was flowing extensively in the area. The calcium carbonate materials choked off the roots of the trees, and they died off. Since 1998, this area has been dormant. If it continues to remain dormant, new trees and grass will start to grow in the area. As you can see by this picture, a small amount of vegetation has grown over the past few years.
Minerva Terrace is an area that alternates between abundant water flow, and minimal flow. This changes over several years. The area of color, is where the water was flowing when we were visiting.
Here are some additional views along our walk
This is an overview of the Mammoth Hot Springs visitors center, shops and hotels.
The original entrance to the park, in Gardiner, has the Theodore Roosevelt arch, which was constructed in 1903. President Roosevelt himself placed the cornerstone during construction of the arch by the U.S. Army which was stationed in the park. Dan and I remembered driving through this arch in 2004 on our brief visit to the park, and since we were so close, we decided to drive through it again. Only to discover it currently looks like this:
The park service and the town of Gardiner are re-doing the entrance into the park and making the road through the arch one-way, with pedestrian access as well. There is a doorway in the arch, and people will be permitted to walk through the door. The town is also putting a bypass around the arch, to improve traffic flow. This construction should be completed later this year.
After a brief stop in the town of Gardiner, we headed back into the park, and down towards home, with a brief stop to check out the Golden Gate Canyon bridge and waterfall. The first bridge in this area was built in 1885 after blasting out 14,000 cubic yards of rock, and hauling them off via horse and wagons. By 1900, the bridge was too unstable and stagecoaches were falling off. The bridge has been rebuilt 3 times since, most recently in 1977.
A highlight of our trip today was a brief visit with Christine and Herb, who were busy working at the Mammoth Hot Springs gift store. We worked with them last year at Crazy Horse. It was great catching up with them, and we hope to try to get together this summer, although our off days do not coincide with theirs.
Quote for the day: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu