Tag Archives: Hot Springs

Hot Springs of Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is known for many things but after Old Faithful, probably the best known are the colorful hot springs scattered throughout this beautiful park. Most popular among these springs is Grand Prismatic but there are many others also displaying the amazing colors created by calcium and bacteria. I’m sure, like many others, that seeing photos of these pools of incredible shapes and colors seems a little too enhanced in this age of easy photo manipulation. I was certainly among those. There is no way these colors can be that vibrant. I was wrong. They are that colorful and vibrant. Of course this does depend on the time of year you visit as the bacteria responsible for some of these colors are not as vigorous during colder temperatures.

Interesting shapes and colors of some of the Yellowstone hot springs

Peering deep into many of these pools reminded me of the amazing turquoise Caribbean salt water. I kept waiting for fish to come from under a ledge or to see an urchin waving in the steam but no such thing happened. Still trying to find the source of water filling these pools kept me entertained. No matter how I turned and twisted I could not see far enough down to witness any sign of moving water filtering up through cracks continually maintaining the very warm temperatures causing steam to roll off the surface. I guess I’ll have to trust those experts where the information comes from which is scribed into permanent signs in different areas of Yellowstone.

Hot springs constantly produce steam even in the middle of summer

One of the other challenges in viewing some of these colorful bodies of hot water is the steam rising into the air hiding their secrets only providing a quick glimpse into the pool for only a moment as a breeze uncovers its blue water. It almost became a game between me and the pool to capture a photo showing this amazing blue tinted liquid. Many attempts were won by the pool but eventually a stronger wind allowed for a relatively clear picture.

Black Pool near Yellowstone Lake

Many of the hot springs contained only the Caribbean turquoise waters but a few are surrounded by the vibrant oranges and organic browns contrasting incredibly with these blue pools seen in what appears as unrealistic photos. The Black Pool hot spring picture both above and below steals your attention all by itself but as you look out across it, Yellowstone lake with it’s deep blue water and mountain backdrop makes it an amazing landscape. It’s almost too much to take in with only a short time but that may be all there is as others are waiting to witness this same view so we must yield to those around and hope pictures will capture for the future.

Some of the remarkable colors produced by bacteria in these hot springs

After looking at the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park for hours or even days, the smell of sulfur rising into the air can become a little overwhelming but there is still one spring that will cause you to forget the miles walked peering at pools of blue and the sulfur smell – Grand Prismatic Spring. There’s a reason this is one of the best known attractions of this large park. In order to enter the boardwalk built to view it you must first climb up a small hill. Along side this hill begins the contrasting orange and brown colors from water continually flowing towards a nearby river making you move more enthusiastically towards the source of this water. During the summer months there are constantly moving crowds of people blocking any early view of Grand Prismatic so you must weave back and forth around others stopping for a photo or waiting for someone else in order to move closer to that first look. Eventually there it is – a blue steam rising from a large pool making you more eager to see what can cause steam to appear this amazing turquoise color. Finally arriving within view of the entire hot spring it is still difficult to put together a full panoramic scene bringing it all together as found in some photos taking from higher vantage points such as an airplane or the summit of nearby mountains. Yet the sight does not disappoint to spite all of the built up expectations from pictures and stories shared by others. Well worth a trip!


Grand Prismatic hot springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs National Park was a little surprising to me. I know that there are hot springs there and heard a little about bath house row but expected that much of the park consisted of natural areas with hiking trails through it. Usually there are entrances to the park with signs near the boundaries indicating your arrival.

Spring flowers blooming in abundance

In Hot Springs you drive into town and come upon bath house row which includes the visitor’s center and park sign.  As we drove towards this park following our GPS navigation system it announced we had arrived. I looked up and there was bath house row immediately in front of us. Where were the hiking trails? As we continued to explore this National Park we found a scenic drive with overlooks, that we’ve become accustom to, since these bath houses were closed for the day.

Looking out over Hot Springs

During our exploration we discovered a couple of hot springs running out of the ground. It was surprising how hot the water is trickling from these springs as they steam in the cooling evening air. Even though we knew the water was warm we were unprepared for how warm – hot the water is.  It averages 143 degrees Fahrenheit which is warmer than I thought it would be. A nice, unexpected treat as we wondered through the National Park on our first evening in the area.

Two of the hot springs emerging from the ground

The next morning we returned to bath house row just before they began opening for the day and wandered around looking at all these magnificent buildings built to provide hot, soothing baths before hot baths were commonplace. To be honest, when I first heard of bath house row I imagined more of a brothel type situation but learned that these bath houses where for relaxation and healing which was confirmed by the acknowledgement of the US Park Service maintaining this area. They probably wouldn’t do that if they were in fact brothels. My perception of the bath houses of Hot Springs was changed.

Looking down Bath House Row

Once these buildings began opening we entered the Fordyce Bath House which is now the park visitor’s center and used to explain how bath houses operated and the services they provided. We began by learning about bath house row and some of the history of the bath houses lined up next to each other. Then we moved on to a changing and waiting area for use of the showers and bathtubs.

Waiting and Shower lounge

While walking around exploring the Fordyce Bath House we were able to see some of the showers and tubs people would pay to use for the hot water flowing from their faucets to soothe their aching muscles and sore joints. These were the first “hot tubs” and provided the basis for using hot water to relax and recover in.

One of the bath tubs used to soak in the natural warm water

It is interesting to see how many pipes and shut off handles were used in these bath house showers.  Probably the basis for today’s more extravagant showers. It’s difficult for me to imagine what baths and showers would have been like without hot water heaters. Not very pleasant I would guess especially in the winter months.

Hot Springs shower

Other people would opt for a steam bath so they would climb into these steam boxes where they would sit and have steam from these hot springs pumped into the boxes helping to heal sore muscles and joints. Any piece of these hot springs were considered beneficial and having healing properties. Today these types of therapy are in most house holds all thanks to water heaters.

Steam chambers

Once their time in hot showers, warm baths, or steam chambers was complete they would take time to just sit and relax enjoying their reprieve from aches and pains. There were spaces created for doing just that with comfortable seating, soothing music playing, pool tables, fireplaces, or places in the warming sun to sit.  For many people, these life recharging waters would be an all day event. Athletes began to visit these houses to help their recovery speed up because of the healing benefits of Hot Springs.

One of the areas to relax after a hot springs bath or shower