It was windy on our third, and final, day at Yellowstone but wind doesn’t stop true adventurers, especially when it is still fairly warm. We started off the day by taking down camp. It rained the night before, which made everything a little wet and messier to take down. We had also discovered, during the beginning of the rainstorm that our tent was too old and no longer waterproof. Luckily, we had a tarp with us and Tye and I were able to use the nearby trees and suspend the tarp over our tent. Aspen’s sleeping bag and some blankets had already been already doused but Aspen was still small enough to sleep with me in my sleeping bag so everything worked out okay.
Black Sand Basin
After taking down camp and a little breakfast, we headed for Black Sand Basin. Tourists began calling this area the Black Sand Basin because of the small fragments of black obsidian sand which cover portions of the basin. The basin has a good collection of geysers and got springs.
Emerald Pool is the most famous, and colorful, hot spring in the Black Sand Basin. It has a temperature of 154.6 degrees and is 25 feet deep. It got its name from the emerald green color of the interior of the pool. This color is the result of lower temperatures that allow yellow bacteria and algae to grow in the lining of the pool. The clear water of the pool reflects the blues but also absorbs the yellow color of the bacteria and algae, which then produces green. resulting in a change of bacteria and algae growth and thus a change of color. The edge of the pool is orange and brown because as objects are thrown into the pool (or natural debris gets in) they cause a further decrease in temperature. There’s a lot of science and chemistry that goes into Emerald Pool, but personally, I just think it’s beautiful.
There are also a bunch of other cool features at the Black Sand Basin like the Opalescent Pool, Spouter Geyser, Cliff Geyser, Rainbow Pool, and Sunset Lake.
The Spouter Geyser is almost always spouting and is a boiling 199.9 degrees. Luckily it is only 5-7 feet high. I would hate to get splashed by that geyser. The Cliff Geyser is a little cooler (191.8 degrees) but it shoots up to 40 feet. This one only erupts 1-2 times a day when it’s active but it can be dormant for weeks or even years at a time.
We loved seeing all of the cool features in this area and goofing around a bit too.
After Black Sand Basin we drove up to Biscuit Basin. You might wonder why this place is called Biscuit Basin, and so did I, so I looked it up. Apparently, biscuit-like sinter deposits once lined the edge of Sapphire’s crater and in the 1880s it received its name for the biscuit-like, knobby formations. You can’t see these biscuit-like deposits anymore because an earthquake in 1959 caused Sapphire to erupt which destroyed the formations.
Biscuit Basin only contains a few thermal features but they are some of the best in the park. My personal favorite is the Sapphire Pool. The Sapphire Pool is a blistering 200-202 degrees and used to be an active geyser. Now it just violently boils and surges on occasion. Sapphire Pool lives up to its name and has the most beautiful crystal-clear water. I just wish that it wasn’t so incredibly hot because I would love to swim in it.
The Biscuit Basin also has the Rusty Geyser, a 202 degree rust-colored geyser that shoots up 4-6 feet every 2-3 minutes; the Jewel Geyser, a 199 degree geyser that shoots up 10-30 feet every 5-10 minutes with pearl-like sinter beads around its vent; the Shell Geyser, a 200 degree golden-lined geyser that shoots up 5-8 feet every few hours; the Avoca Spring, a 199 degree geyser that shoots up 10-20 feet every 1-18 minutes; and, last but not least, Mustard Springs, two springs that range in temperature from 172-198 degrees with the east spring being a true geyser that shoots up 4-6 feet every 5-10 minutes and the west spring being inactive.
At Biscuit Basin we also had an awesome buffalo sighting. The big bull (male buffalo) was taking a lovely nap the whole time we were in the basin. We got some great pictures of him and even got someone to take our picture with him. We were sure to still keep our distance. After all, buffalo are the most dangerous animals in the park.
Midway Geyser Basin
Rudyard Kipling once visiting the Midway Geyser Basin and immortalized it by calling it “Hell’s Half Acre.” I’m not sure I would agree with him, but I do see where he’s coming from. The Midway Geyser Basin contains two of the largest hot springs in the world. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot springs in the United States and the third largest in the world. It is 250 x 380 feet and discharges an estimated 560 gallons of 188 degree water per minute! It is crazy and colorful and beautiful.
The Excelsior Geyser is also massive at 276 x 328 feet and, in the past, it erupted nearly 300 feet high. It is now dormant and considered a geyser but it still discharges more than 4,050 gallons of boiling, 199 degree water per minute. It was really windy so it was hard to get a good picture of the geyser without a bunch of steam. You can’t see it from this picture, but the Excelsior Geyser was HUGE!
I also really loved the Turquoise Pool in this area. The Grand Prismatic Spring and the Excelsior Geyser may dwarf this pool, but the Turquoise Pool can definitely compete in the beauty department. The crystal blue water is highlighted by the bright orange around it and, if you look closely, you can see a small sliver of purple lining. It’s so pretty!
The Midway Geyser Basin was our last stop at Yellowstone. After that, we headed out the West Entrance into Montana. But before we left, we had to stop to take one last picture.