Red Spouter Is A Great Example Of Cool Geology

Red Spouter fumerole at Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park during summer 2018
A close-up view of Red Spouter as a fumerole during summer 2018
Red Spouter as a hot spring (or really wet mud pot – take your pick) in the winter (February) of 2022

Geology is such a cool science. I have degrees in geology (which meant, at the time, diddly squat in terms of getting a job, but it was a cool branch of science to study, anyway). Yellowstone National Park is a great place to see geology, past and present. Take Red Spouter, for example.

Before August 1959, Red Spouter did not even exist. In its place was a small grassy hill in the Fountain Paint Pots area. Then, on August 17, 1959, the Hebgen Lake earthquake occurred about 25 miles northwest of Fountain Paint Pots with a magnitude of 7.3. It was quite a shaker and “rippled through Yellowstone,” creating Red Spouter.

The interesting thing about Red Spouter is, depending upon the season, it can be a hot spring, a mudpot, or a fumerole. Back in the summer of 2018, as I was moving from TX to central WA, I stopped for a brief visit to Yellowstone. At the time I explored the Fountain Paint Pots area, Red Spouter was a fumerole (steam vent). During my recent February 2022 visit, I toured the same area while on a snowcoach trip, and Red Spouter was a splashing, muddy red, hot spring (well, maybe you’d call it a mud pot, although it seemed really watery to me).

Why is this? Well, it all depends upon the water table just beneath the surface. If the water table is high, like when snow melts and in the spring, then it’s either a splashing hot spring or a bubbling mudpot. If the water table is low, which it can be during the height of a dry summer (and it’s pretty dry out in Yellowstone, anyway), then Red Spouter is a steam vent.

Geology is cool, and it’s even cooler when you can get nicely-composed photos of that geology, right?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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