Yellowstone – The Lower And Middle Basins

Through the long deep canyon of the Gibbon River, and up over the mountain top giving a distant view of the Gibbon Falls, a cataract of eighty feet far down in the valley, the road crosses another divide to a stream in the worst portion of this Satanic domain, which has not been inappropriately named the Firehole River. This unites with the Gibbon to form the Madison River, one of the sources of the Missouri. Miles ahead, the, steam from the Firehole Geyser Basins can be seen rising in clouds among the distant hills. Beyond, the view is closed by the Teton Mountains, far to the southwest, rising fourteen thousand feet, the Continental divide and backbone of North America, the highest Rocky Mountain range, on the other side of which is the Snake River, whose waters go off to the Pacific. The Firehole River is a stream of ample current, with beautifully transparent blue water bubbling over a bed of discolored stones and lava. Its waters are all the outflow of geysers and hot springs, impregnated with everything this forbidding region pro duces; pretty to look at, but bitter as the waters of Marah. Along this river, geysers are liberally distributed at intervals for ten miles, being, for convenience of description, divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Geyser Basins. The Lower Basin, the first reached, has myriads of steam jets rising from a surface of some three square miles of desolate geyserite deposits. There are about seven hundred springs and geysers here, most of them small. The ! Fountain Geyser throws a broad low stream of many interlacing jets every two to three hours, lasting about fifteen minutes. The “Thud” Geyser has a crater one hundred and fifty feet in diameter, having a smaller rim inside, within which the geyser operates, throwing a column of sixty feet with a heavy and regular “thud” underground, though it has no fixed period, and is irregular in action. This basin has a generous supply of mud geysers, known as the “paint pots,” which eject brilliantly colored muds with the consistency and look of paint, the prevailing hues being red, white, yellow and pink.

About three miles to the southwest, farther up the Firehole River, is the Middle Geyser Basin. It is a locality covering some fifty acres, close to the river, and contains the greatest geyser in the world. – The name of Hell’s Half Acre was given this place in the early explorations, and still sticks. The surface is composed mainly of hot ashes, with streams of boil ing water running over it. The whole basin is filled with hot springs, and surrounded by timbered hills, at the foot of which is the Prismatic Lake, its beautiful green and blue waters shading off into a deposit of bright red paint running down to the river. The great Excelsior Geyser is a fountain of enormous power but uncertain periods, which when at work throws out such immense amounts of water as to double the flow of the river. Its crater is a hundred yards wide, with water violently boiling in the centre all the time and a steady outflow. The sides of the crater are beautifully colored by the deposits, which are largely of sulphur. It is a geyser of modern origin, having developed from a hot spring within the memory of Park denizens. It throws a column over two hundred feet high, and while quiet at times for years, occasionally bursts forth, though having no fixed period. In close connection to the westward is the seething cauldron which is the immediate Hell’s Half Acre, that being about its area—a beautiful but terrible lake, steam constantly rising from the surface, which boils furiously and sends copious streams over the edges. This is an uncanny spot, with treacherous footing around, and about the hottest place in the Park.