Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs

Old Faithful, Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park and the area around it, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, is a geothermal system like nowhere else in the world. Situated primarily in the state of Wyoming, this 2.2-million acre expanse is a roiling hotspot.

 

It has at least 10,000 geothermal features. Geysers are the most commonly known geothermal form, like Old Faithful, but there are several different kinds.

 

Travertine Terraces, Mammoth

On the northernmost  border of Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs. Different from erupting geysers, Mammmoth stands out for its travertine terraces.

 

These terraces were formed from hot springs and carbonate deposits over thousands of years.

Terraces and steamy hot springs

 

Beneath the earth, thermal water from the hot springs travels via a fault line that runs through limestone. The water interacts with hot gases and forms a hot, acidic solution; the limestone dissolves into calcium carbonate.

 

Once this water reaches earth’s surface, carbon dioxide is released and the acidic solution forms a mineral called travertine, a chalky white substance.

 

Travertine Terrace

 

The terraces are ever-changing. Over two tons of the acidic solution are deposited here every day.

 

The different colors are a result of algae and bacteria.

 

There are boardwalk paths for visitors to observe the travertine terraces. Between the upper and lower terrace boardwalks are approximately 50 hot springs.

 

Live webcam: Travertine Terraces at Yellowstone

 

Mammoth Hot Springs

 

On the lower flats are the village, slightly left of center in the above photograph; a hotel and cabins, basic park services, Albright Visitor Center.

 

Located about a 1.5 hour’s drive north from the popular spots of the park, like Old Faithful, Mammoth is an isolated and lesser-known area of the park, close to the Montana border. Maps below.

 

Mound Terrace

 

In addition to the terraces, there are also a few formations, like Orange Spring Mound which occurred from a slow water flow and mineral deposits.

 

Orange Spring Mound

 

Inhabitants of the valley include elk, often seen grazing.

 

Elk herd

 

Fort Yellowstone is also here. It was once an Army fort created for establishing order in America’s first national park; the birthplace of the U.S. National Park Service.

 

Mammoth Village

 

In Yellowstone’s fiery and magma-driven corner of the world, Mammoth Hot Springs is a unique landscape well worth exploring.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos by Athena Alexander.

More info: Geothermal Areas of Yellowstone.

 

 

 

Map showing location of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. Courtesy yellowstonepark.com

 

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91 thoughts on “Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs

    • Hi Craig, yes, Mammoth is out of the way and fewer visitors venture here. I’m glad you’ve been to Yellowstone many times–so much to see, one visit is not enough. There’s a lot to take in and it’s always changing, too. Many thanks.

  1. What a place! We’ve skirted around the edges of the park on many summer road trips but never had it on our itinerary – too many crowds in the summer – but it’s on our list. Perhaps down towards Mammoth in a shoulder season…
    I read a mystery by CJ Box recently, and much of the action took place in the park. Between that, and your post today, a visit has moved up on our list!
    Thanks, Jet, and have a wonderful weekend.

    • Sounds like Yellowstone is weaving its way into your thoughts, PC, with this post and the mystery too. I’ve heard the dead of winter has less visitors, and you being a snow person might like it. Mammoth is open all year round, unlike many parts of Yellowstone. Truly a place you should visit, astounding features and endless beauty. So glad to see you, my friend, and my best wishes to you and Mrs. PC for a terrific weekend.

    • bingo. I appreciate your comment, Michael Stephen, because I was aiming to inform Yellowstone visitors who may not have had a chance to visit Mammoth, or were thinking about bypassing it…just as you said. There is so much to see and do in this huge park, we cannot see it all. Many thanks.

    • I’m happy to have shared Mammoth with you, Jill, and Yellowstone in general. I did another two-part series about the geothermals in Yellowstone, so when this magnificent place inches up on your bucket list, you know where you can go to see more photos. Always a joy to have you visit, Jill, thank you.

    • I’m laughing, David, happy with your comment. The heat and fervor and fire of Yellowstone is always alive, makes for a unique place. Yes, a lot like Geyserville on steroids…I’m laughing again. Many thanks for your delightful visit, my friend.

    • I enjoyed the research and composition of this Mammoth Springs essay, Dina, and I’m delighted you enjoyed it too. I agree with you, it is truly fascinating. Thank you.

  2. Oh gosh You bought back 50+ year memories from our 3 visits there in the ’60’s. The first time was before the Anchorage 9.4 that changed the timing of ‘Old Faithful’ eruptions 😉

      • There are so many people and cars in Yellowstone now, that the bears are not seen too much; they stay far away from the roads. But there were often traffic jams especially with the bison, but also elk and deer as well. I liked this wonderment of yours, thank you, washekoda. (Let me know if you ever want me to call you something else.)

    • I enjoyed hearing about your visits to Yellowstone in the ’60’s, washekoda. The dependable timing of Old Faithful is a pretty big thing there, so I loved hearing the Anchorage EQ changed the timing. I find this fascinating. Thanks so much for your contribution and visit, my friend.

  3. Pingback: Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs — Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

    • Yes, Yellowstone, in all its grandness, does attract millions of visitors, and due to the harsh winters, they mostly come in the summer months. We stayed away for a long time for this reason too, Eliza. Then when we did go, it was the second week of Sept. There were still a lot of people, plus the park system was repairing the roads and there were often long waits and closed-off areas. If you don’t mind snow, winter might work best. Glad I could bring the beauty to you, my friend. Thank you.

  4. You sure have seen and done some amazing things! Thanks for sharing them. These land formations are something out of the ordinary and we don’t often think about them – tending to go for forests, mountains, and water systems, but – this is really interesting and different.

    • I’m the same way, anneli, tending toward forests, mountains, and/or water. These geothermals in Yellowstone are fascinating, unusual, and so abundant; I’m so glad we made it a priority. I’m happy I could share it with you, thank you for your visit, always appreciated.

  5. Looking at the map, Mammoth seems relatively close to us. Well other than the state of Montana in between. I confess I had never heard of it before.
    Also incredible about the amount of travertine deposited every day. Hard to even fathom that amount flying into the air and splashing back down.

    • I was surprised to read so much travertine is deposited daily, too, Sue. Two tons!! I consulted several sources and they all concurred. I’m glad I could bring Mammoth to the radar for you. My warmest thanks and wishes to both you and Dave.

  6. Fascinating! I don’t think we ever visited this area and am sorry we missed it. Sounds as if it’s worth a return trip! Thanks!

    • Yes, Mammoth is kind of hidden away on the northern side of the park, and indeed, fascinating. So glad to bring Mammoth to you, Nan, thanks so much for your visit.

  7. Great post my friend. I was there a few years back, I loved every minute that I was there, what a gorgeous Park. I saw wild life such as bisons, deers, bear, wolves, small mammals and wading birds. The environment is fantastic . For many years I’ve been talking to everyone about visiting the Park. It’s a must see! Thank you, Jet for giving me the chance to evoke my memories. 🙂

    • Yellowstone is a wonderful park, so much to see and enjoy. I am really glad you have been here, HJ, and that you enjoyed it. I am honored to have brought back pleasant memories of this very special place in the world. Many thanks, my friend, for your wonderful comment.

    • There are so many places to see in the world, and sometimes a virtual tour is just the ticket. I am delighted to have brought you the wonders of Yellowstone, Sheryl. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Oh yes, you and Ben would really like Yellowstone, Peta. It is a lot like another planet, you are right about that. It is really cool to look across the landscape in the mornings when the air is still cool, and see all the steam rising in numerous places. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and appreciate your comment.

    • You have a great point, Sherry. The summer crowds are now summer and autumn crowds, and it is the one thing about Yellowstone that I had a difficult time with. Many people who visit here are not quiet hikers and lovers of wilderness, either, so the outdoor experience is actually quite urban in essence. Cell phones, loud voices, etc. With all this commotion, the wildlife is very far away and difficult to find. We saw one moose in two weeks, for example; and all of sudden with that spotting, there were 50 people, all of us huddled under one tree stepping on each other in an effort to see him. So I’m glad I could bring you a tour via the blog, my friend, and wishing you the very best.

    • Oh I am so glad to hear that Yellowstone is one of your favorite places, Sylvia. And I am really pleased that I could bring it to you this weekend. My warmest thanks for your visit.

    • The brother who is the recipient of the excellent birthday cards you make for him. I think of him as The Lucky Brother. lol. I’m glad you’ll be visiting Yellowstone with a resident, Sharon, he’ll know all the places to take you where there are less tourists. So glad to have brought you along to Yellowstone this weekend, my friend.

  8. Finally, somewhere I have been that you have, Jet! That’s just in gest, I love your travels, shared stories, and Athena’s captures of the world I’ll never see myself.

    The springs and geysers of Yellowstone were amazing, if we do get back to traveling, we will revisit this park to spend more time there to revisit longer. I do remember reading and hearing at Old Faithful’s eruption about the earthquake tremors that occur constantly at the park, but we of course never felt them. (thank goodness!)

    • A delight to know that you and I were both in Yellowstone, no doubt on our endless stalking of birds. lol. I so enjoyed your lovely comment, thanks so much, Donna.

  9. Thanks as always for the delightful tour. The one time I got to visit Yellowstone (1979), I was pushing it to make it back to work in Placerville from visiting family in Boston. I didn’t get to see a whole lot so I truly enjoyed this vicarious visit you and Athena provided! I covered quite a few miles between the east and west coasts. Sometimes I didn’t take as much time as I might have preferred. But at least I had a taste.

    • I think we’ve all been in situations where we didn’t get to stay somewhere as long as we would have liked to, but as you say, Gunta, at least we get “a taste.” I know I haven’t seen nearly as much of the Pacific Northwest as I would like, but I sure enjoy all your posts and the scenic adventures you provide. I am glad you had a chance to see a bit of Yellowstone, and really glad I could provide you with a vicarious visit. Always a joy to connect with you, Gunta, thank you.

    • I’m happy I could share Yellowstone with you, Matti. It’s a long way from Finland, so this was a convenient way for your to visit. My warmest thanks for stopping by.

  10. Great post Jet. Yellowstone Park is such an amazing part of the world. Hard to imagine the sheer size of the magma chamber below the park when you see how widespread the hot spring activities are!

    Dave (Hubby)

    • I’m happy you enjoyed Yellowstone, Dave. You offer a good point, the magma chamber below and its size, given the immensity of the terraces. The travelers that you and Sue are, I imagine you have been to this lovely hotspot. Hot for so many reasons. Many thanks and cheers to you both.

    • There’s always so much to see in Yellowstone, I think we could go back and back and back and still not see enough. I’m glad you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Yellowstone, Dave. Thanks very much.

    • I enjoyed your comment, ACI, thank you, as always. I thought that was a fun photo to end the post with, that elegant elk cow looking straight at Athena, giving attitude. Glad you liked it. I hope your week is going well, my friend.

  11. This all looks amazing! I’ve been on / at a small volcano in Italy – exciting – but I’ve never seen a geyser. I think Iceland would be my nearest… now you’ve made me want to do this, Jet.

    • Iceland is another land of great geothermal activity, being a volcanic island. Although I have never been there, I’ve seen photos and it looks incredible. I hope you are able to swing by there someday, RH. Thanks so much.

  12. Thanks for all the info. My husband & I are heading to Yellowstone & Grand Tetons for 10 days in September. It is a first for both of us & will definitely check off some bucket list items.

    • I’m so glad the Yellowstone post was helpful, Lisa. I’ve done other Yellowstone posts too, might be equally as helpful, you just have to do a search on my site for Yellowstone. Also Grand Tetons. We went in Sept. of 2014 and had a wonderful visit. I did a two-part series on the geothermals that you might find interesting. Thanks so much for your visit and comment. And have fun!

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