9 Geothermal Anomalies You Need to See

Across the west­ern states, geot­her­mal ener­gy is puls­ing through the ground.

While some of these geot­her­mal attrac­tions have gone through var­i­ous stages of com­mer­cial­iza­tion, many of these mag­nif­i­cent resources are left in their nat­ur­al state to be viewed and enjoyed by vis­i­tors. That’s because many of these grandiose geot­her­mal attrac­tions are in Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. And it’s no coin­ci­dence: much of the rea­son Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park became our nation’s first Nation­al Park is because of its geot­her­mal displays.

Fly GeyserFly Geyser—Gerlach, Nevada
When a drilling com­pa­ny first struck what is now Fly Geyser, they dis­cov­ered the water wasn’t hot enough to sup­port their needs, so an attempt to cap the leak was put in place. Even­tu­al­ly the forces of nature pre­vailed and broke the seal, cre­at­ing what is now known as Fly Geyser.

What makes Fly Geyser unique isn’t just its remote loca­tion, but it’s the col­or­ful cone and live­ly shape that real­ly defines this Nevadan geyser. Its large shape and rain­bow-like appear­ance can be attrib­uted to the min­er­al-rich waters it sprays into the air and the ther­mophilic algae that loves the warm envi­ron­ment. For near­ly the entire­ty of its life, Fly Geyser resided on the land of the pri­vate Fly Ranch, but in June 2016, the orga­ni­za­tion behind the near­by Burn­ing Man event made an announce­ment that they were pur­chas­ing the prop­er­ty where Fly Geyser is locat­ed, even­tu­al­ly open­ing its won­ders to thou­sands of more peo­ple each year.

Grand Prismatic SpringGrand Pris­mat­ic Spring—Yellowstone Nation­al Park, Wyoming
Locat­ed in the Mid­way Geyser Basin of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, the Grand Pris­mat­ic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest and per­haps most col­or­ful hot spring. Today, the Grand Pris­mat­ic is a big tourist draw with­in the park, and its influ­ence on the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment, or the envi­ron­men­t’s influ­ence on it, can eas­i­ly be seen with with each vis­it. Sur­round­ed by every col­or of the rain­bow, the pic­turesque hues of Grand Pris­mat­ic Spring are cre­at­ed by the ther­mophiles that thrive in the hot-water envi­ron­ment, cre­at­ing not only a vibrant, eye-catch­ing attrac­tion but also a liv­ing com­mu­ni­ty of extreme microorganisms.

Hot Springs National ParkHot Springs Nation­al Park—Hot Springs, Arkansas
Once known as the “Amer­i­can Spa,” Hot Springs Nation­al Park has a rich his­to­ry sur­round­ing its ther­mal waters, and a del­i­cate, if not com­plex, rela­tion­ship with its pop­u­lar­i­ty among the peo­ple. Native Amer­i­cans were the first doc­u­ment­ed civ­i­liza­tion to uti­lize the ther­mal waters of the area, and when Arkansas was pur­chased with the Louisiana Pur­chase in 1803, the hot springs were dis­cov­ered by the Dun­bar-Hunter Expe­di­tion one year lat­er. Short­ly after the Dun­bar-Hunter dis­cov­ery, the town of hot springs began to flour­ish, and a bathing indus­try was born, attract­ing per­son­al­i­ties and estab­lish­ments like an Army-Navy Hos­pi­tal, Al Capone, and Major League Base­ball Teams. Today, the town of Hot Springs and Hot Springs Nation­al Park share a close bor­der. Upon a vis­it, plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to take tra­di­tion­al baths or soak in a pool are avail­able, and each one pro­vides insight on why Hot Springs has been a pop­u­lar place from the beginning.

hot springs state parkHot Springs State Park—Thermopolis, Wyoming
Locat­ed in the tourist friend­ly town of Ther­mopo­lis, Hot Springs State Park is not only a slight­ly less crowd­ed alter­na­tive to the near­by Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, it also con­tains the world’s largest min­er­al hot spring. Serv­ing as the cen­ter attrac­tion for the park, the Big Spring issues over three mil­lion gal­lons of water per day at a con­stant 127 degrees, and cre­ates the eye-catch­ing and col­or­ful ter­races that line the adja­cent Big Horn Riv­er. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the hot springs at Hot Springs State Park, includ­ing the State Bath House with 104-degree water, which is free and open to the public.

Lone Star Geyser BasinLone Star Geyser Basin, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Wyoming
For a great day hike, and a chance to expe­ri­ence a geyser that doesn’t gen­er­ate such a crowd, the Lone Star Geyser erupts rough­ly every three hours, and blasts water up to 40 feet in the air. Lone Star Geyser is con­sid­ered a back­coun­try geyser, mean­ing you can’t just dri­ve your car up to it. While it’s only a three-mile hike on a for­est ser­vice road to reach the Lone Star Geyser from Old Faith­ful, these extra miles to see the spray result in a more per­son­al view­ing expe­ri­ence of the geot­her­mal activ­i­ty found in Yellowstone.

mammoth hot springsMam­moth Hot Springs, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Wyoming 
Mam­moth Hot Springs is a com­plex col­lec­tion of hot springs found on the north­west­ern bor­der of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. Through thou­sands of years of activ­i­ty, the heat­ed water of Mam­moth Hot Springs has cre­at­ed quite the col­lec­tion of traver­tine ter­races that are rich with cal­ci­um car­bon­ate and pho­to­graph­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties. Often labeled as an “inside-out cave”, the traver­tine ter­races that spring to life in this sec­tion of the park are a pop­u­lar and very acces­si­ble attrac­tion with­in Yel­low­stone, and with camp­grounds and indoor lodg­ing near­by, Mam­moth Hot Springs serves a great base­camp for a mul­ti-day stay in Yellowstone.

Old FaithfulOld Faith­ful, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Wyoming 
Old Faith­ful isn’t only reli­able to erupt every 60–110 min­utes, it also pro­vides a fan­tas­tic show of boil­ing hot water spray­ing over 100 feet into the air every time. Eas­i­ly acces­si­ble via Yellowstone’s West Entrance, Old Faith­ful sits in the Upper Geyser Basin and is adja­cent to the Old Faith­ful Inn, which pro­vides rus­tic accom­mo­da­tions as one of the few remain­ing log hotels in the Unit­ed States. To wit­ness the clock­work geot­her­mal mech­a­nisms at play sprout­ing out of Old Faith­ful is a unique sight you have to see for yourself.

Soda Springs GeyserSoda Springs Geyser, Soda Springs, Idaho 
The Soda Springs Geyser of south­east­ern Ida­ho is the world’s only cap­tive geyser, ensur­ing you see its spray 365 days of the year. Soda Springs Geyser was first dis­cov­ered sev­en decades ago when town res­i­dents were search­ing for a hot water source for a nat­ur­al swim­ming pool. Acci­den­tal­ly cre­at­ing an erup­tion of cold water, and inci­den­tal­ly flood­ing the area, the new­ly formed geyser was capped and put on a timer, set to go off every hour, and which can still be seen in cur­rent times at Geyser Park in Soda Springs. The geyser isn’t the only geot­her­mal attrac­tion to be found in Soda Springs either, and the city itself was named for the abun­dance of hot springs found with­in its bor­ders, includ­ing in present times the tourist friend­ly Lava Hot Springs Min­er­al Pools.

West Thumb GeyserWest Thumb Geyser Basin, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park
Con­sist­ing of a wide range of pools, springs, mud­pots, fumaroles and lakeshore gey­sers, the West Thumb Geyser Basin packs in a lot over its half-mile board­walk trail. With the His­toric West Thumb Ranger Sta­tion locat­ed near­by, a deep­er under­stand­ing about the geot­her­mal activ­i­ty beneath your feet can be eas­i­ly obtained through the many infor­ma­tion­al exhibits and inter­pre­tive walks offered.