Venting Off Steam in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Most of the three million visitors who tour this iconic park have the crowded Old Faithful geyser area in mind. Too bad so many skip, and miss out, enjoying the uncrowded charms of the West Thumb geyser basin. Here there is a boardwalk loop-trail only ½ mile long, with an inner loop of another ¼ mile long. This smaller basin is a caldera only 150,000 years old, inside the Greater Yellowstone Caldera, created by volcanic eruption over 640,000 years ago. The quieter hydrothermal features here are mainly vents, springs, boiling pools, and bubbling mud pots. Many are ringed with colorful organisms which actually thrive in hot water. Geologists estimate that over 3,100 gallons of boiling water pours into the adjoining Lake Yellowstone daily. Mornings are best to visit, when the released steam is more visible.