Tag Archives: geology

Science In Yellowstone National Park

Colloidal Pool in Porcelain Basin was one of the hydrothermal features studied in the YVO 2021 annual report, Yellowstone National Park / photo by Rebecca Latson

Photography articles are not the only things about which I write for the National Parks Traveler. I also pen quizzes, park checklists, and itineraries, to name a few other pieces I contribute. Last week, you might have read a piece I wrote synopsizing a technical article about how scientists are running simulation scenarios for lahars (volcanic mudflows) that might occur due to an avalanche on Mount Rainier.

Today, the National Parks Traveler has published another article I’ve written: a synopsis of the 2021 annual report produced by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) of scientific research conducted over 2021 in Yellowstone National Park and some conclusions reached. It was a cool annual report to read and fun to condense into an article for the Traveler.

If you are interested in finding out what went on in Yellowstone National Park in 2021, and want to download the full 2021 YVO annual report, click on the image above.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Yellowstone National Park

Lahars (Mudflows) Can’t Be Predicted, But They Can Be Simulated

A View Of Mount Rainier From Seattle’s Elliott Bay

Lahars (mudflows) can’t be predicted but they can be simulated using a special computer application. My latest contribution to the National Parks Traveler is all about this subject, so check out the article by clicking on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler

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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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

It’s Trivia Tuesday 3-29-2022!

Old Faithful erupting at Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park
Heart Spring in the foreground and the Lion Group of geysers in the background at Upper Geyser Basin
The scalloped edges of Doublet Pool at Upper Geyser Basin
A bright bacterial mat leading toward a hot spring at Biscuit Basin.
Geyser Beads

It’s #TriviaTuesday Folks! So, how many of you have ever visited one of the geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park, marveling at the colorful hot springs and the energetic geysers? Do you know how to tell if what you are looking at is a geyser or hot spring (if there is no sign to identify it)? Especially if a geyser, when not erupting, looks like a hot spring?

According to a cool little video on the NPS site for Yellowstone, you should look at the edges of a thermal feature. “Hot springs often have ledges or walls of sinter (silica deposits) around them, because as the water level fluctuates, it leaves behind silica deposits. The edges may even be scalloped or lacy, such as what you see when looking at Doublet Pool in Upper Geyser Basin.

“Beadwork,” or pebbly-looking sinter indicates a geyser. “As the water splashes with each eruption, it deposits silica, creating a bumpy appearance.” At some geysers that look like hot springs, you’ll notice rounded, riverstone-like pebbles beneath the water. These rounded stones are called “geyser eggs” and are formed by silica deposition and water movement.

Colorful orange and yellow bacterial mats are also good indicators of hot springs, since that means the water is warm enough for thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria to thrive, but not hot enough to be a geyser.

The thing is, the landscape beneath and above Yellowstone is always changing. Excelsior Crater Geyser used to be a geyser, and is now a hot spring – well, it’s a hot spring right now that hasn’t erupted in several decades, but it could become a geyser again if the conditions change.

And now, you are that much smarter for the day. 🙂

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, Photography, Trivia Tuesday, Yellowstone National Park

National Parks Traveler Checklist For Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

A Stormy Mid-Day Along Bryce Amphitheater, Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Whether you’re traveling to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah for your first time or your fifth time, you might want to check out my latest Traveler Checklist published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. The Checklists I pin are not about reminding you to remember your toothbrush and toothpaste, but rather ideas and suggestions on what you can see and do in specific national parks, in addition to alerts of which you might need to be aware.

To read the Checklist for this national park, click on the image above.


This image was captured during my road trip move from TX to WA state. I spent several days in Bryce Canyon National Park. On this day – it was mid-morning – I was hiking along the Rim Trail around Bryce Amphitheater, heading toward Inspiration Point (the rim of this amphitheater in the background). I’d made it to Inspiration Point and realized it was going to rain and maybe I needed to head for cover. A clap or two of thunder told me that I needed to skeedaddle, because being out in the open in the high elevation is a recipe for a lightning strike. I just made it back to the cabin area of Bryce Lodge as the downpour began, and lightning did, indeed, flash more than once during that time.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bryce Canyon National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel, Traveler's Checklist, Utah

Mt. St. Helens And The Fujifilm GFX 100

A Late Afternoon View From The Loowit View Area, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (Washington)

May marks the 41st anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens (May 18, 1980). I first visited this volcano about 10 years after its eruption. The devastation was obvious. It would be 30 years before seeing this area again. While there has been much growth in the area (including stands of trees planted 3-6 years after the eruption), the devastation is still obvious.

I had recently purchased the Fujifilm GFX 100 and desparately wanted to get out to test this medium format camera. A return trip to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was just the ticket. It’s about 4 hours’ drive from where I live, and even leaving at 3 a.m. didn’t get me up there in time for sunrise shots. Once I arrived, I did spend all morning there and about an hour or two of late afternoon. I can tell you that early mornings (before 9 a.m.) and late afternoons (5 p.m. and after) are the best times for good lighting, because starting at 8 a.m., things start to get a little hazy and a blue cast to the atmosphere begins to settle in prior to harsh light for the remainder of the day. Doesn’t really matter, though, since this mountain (or what remains of a once conical, snowcapped mountain with an elevation of 9,677 ft [2,950m]) is picturesque nonetheless.

I only have two lenses for the GFX 100, and both of them are prime wide-angles (wide and wider). So the close up shots I achieved while there were captured with a different camera, about which I’ll write later.

The GFX 100 is easy to work with. It still takes a little hunting in the menu to find what I need, but as I wrote in a previous post, the menu is much easier to walk through than my Sony menus. The only thing I had a problem with was the auto power-off setting, and it wasn’t so much a problem as the fact that I assumed it would be like my Sony cameras, where I depress the button and the camera comes back to life. Not so with the GFX 100. I kept pressing the shutter button and nothing would happen. It wasn’t until I turned the camera button from the On position to Off and then back On again that the camera came to life. Needless to say, I changed the settings and the camera remains completely on now. I know it’s a drain on the battery life, but even with that, I was able to shoot through the entire day without needing to change to the spare batteries (the GFX 100 takes two batteries).

As long as you check the weather reports to pick out a decent day for visiting this national monument, May is a great time. I could count on two hands the number of people I encountered, and that was at a safe distance. Not many people were there early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It is a bit of a drive off of Interstate 5 (about an hour). There aren’t that many hiking trails around there, and Johnston Ridge Observatory is not open – well, the building is not open, nor are the restrooms, but you can still drive up there, park, and walk around. The nearest restrooms are accessed at the Coldwater Lake parking area, 8 miles away from the observatory. The main hiking trail (Boundary Trail) which starts at the observatory still has quite a bit of snow on it in places – deep enough for snowshoes. I had them in my vehicle but didn’t feel like putting them on and taking them off multiple times just to cross over the snowy parts. IMO, the two best view areas for really seeing this volcano are the Loowit View Area (the photo above was captured there) and Johnston Ridge Observatory area.

If you go visit, make sure you take a telephoto lens with you. I’d brought along my Sony 100-400mm lens but left it in the car and naturally, I came across a trio of mountain goats grazing around the observatory area. Sigh.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fujifilm GFX 100, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Photography, Travel, Washington State

Do You Sometimes Wish You Could Return To Re-Photograph A Particular Scene?

I look back as some of my photos and wish I could revisit a particular landscape and capture the same scene with my newer-model cameras (bear in mind, newer-model also includes the high-megapixel Canons I’ve had since 2016). Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah is one such place, and this is one such scene.

I photographed this landscape back in 2013 (8 years ago – has it been that long – or that short – of a period of time??). The February winter midday light was harsh, but the distant snow/rain storm was pretty cool. I’d like to go back and see how much more detail and dynamic range my current cameras could pick up. Maybe someday, I’ll do just that.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Photography, Travel, Utah

Fairyland Canyon Scenery

Fairyland Canyon Landscape, Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

I’ve been working on a series of short articles for the National Parks Traveler, titled “Traveler’s Checklists.” These are bulleted lists with tips on what to do, where to go, where to stay, what to eat, etc. for national parks and other protected lands I’ve visited. I’ve finished three already (Redwood National and State Parks, Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Park) and each one is scheduled to show up weekly on a Wednesday.

I’m now working on my 4th Checklist, which deals with Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve already found the images I’ll use for this Checklist, but as I was perusing the files, I noticed a number of images I have never worked on and thus never posted. So, I thought I’d do a little photo editing today, in addition to writing.This image was captured during my short hike along the Fairyland Loop Trail, in Fairyland Canyon, a separate amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park.

My one regret is that I never completed the 8-mile loop trail – I only hiked parts of it. Someday, when I return to this national park, I’m going to make it a priority to actually finish hiking the entire damned trail. It’s a well-maintained trail, and all I need to really remember (aside from bringing camera gear) is to take plenty of water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold out there – the dry atmosphere will suck the moisture from your body in the blink of an eye before you even realize you might be dehydrated.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bryce Canyon National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Utah

Early Morning At Roaring Mountain

An early autumn morning listening to the low hiss of Roaring Mountain fumeroles, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

This shot was captured on my last day in the park. Actually, I was heading out and back to Bozeman to meet up with some friends, but I was loath to leave the park. I could have stayed there for another week and been happy.

Roaring Mountain doesn’t really roar. Instead, it has a low hiss that is sometimes difficult to hear – especially as cars passed by on the road behind me. All those spots where you see steam issuing forth are from fumeroles – openings that emit steam and other gases.

If you ever visit this national park, take a moment to fathom that you are standing upon a volcanically active (hydrothermally active) landscape. The crust is not quite as thick as you think it might be, which is why it’s good to obey the signs that say “Stay On Trail.”

2022 marks Yellowstone National Park’s 150th birthday. I’m going to try and be there at some point in time to celebrate that year with the park.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Fun Fact Friday, 3-5-2021

Chief Mountain

It’s #FunFactFriday ! Meet Chief Mountain. Half of it is in the eastern portion of Glacier National Park, and half of it is in the Blackfeet Reservation. Named Ninaistako by the Blackfeet, it’s a place of sacred ritual and ceremony going back thousands of years.

According to the National Park Service’s Geodiversity Atlas for Glacier National Park, it’s also a premier example of a klippe: “a geologic term for the erosional remnant of older rocks in a thrust sheet completely detached from comparably aged rocks trailing behind. Like the Lewis Overthrust itself, Chief Mountain is considered one of the world’s outstanding examples of a klippe; its images grace the pages of many geologic textbooks.” Come to think of it, I believe I *have* seen this mountain in one of my geology textbooks.

Back in 2017, when I told my editor I was heading into Glacier National Park, he asked me for images of Chief Mountain to go with a National Parks Traveler article about bison, I think. On the day I traveled over to this area, it was really hazy with smoke from the Sprague Fire over on the west side of the park. So getting a clear image was impossible – on that day, at least – and took a little bit of editing and Adobe Lightroom’s dehaze slider to bring forth any details.Veiled with wildfire smoke or not, Chief Mountain is an impressive site.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Glacier National Park MT, Montana, National Parks, Photography, Travel