Tag Archives: Midway Basin

Yellowstone At 150: Challenges Go More Than Crowd-Deep

Sunlight reflections and paw and hoof prints on the shallow terraces at Midway Basin

Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has a great Feature Story about the challenges and stresses facing Yellowstone National Park. No, I didn’t write it – it was penned by Traveler correspondent Rita Beamish. She’s a fantastic journalist and you should go on over and read the article. Just click on the image above to go to the article.

As for this image: I had joined five others for a snowcoach tour during my February stay in this national park. One of the places we stopped was Midway Basin, and we had the entire spot to ourselves and our driver/tour leader April was fantastic at teaching us about the various parts of the area as well as of the park, as a whole.

Here’s the thing about a visit to Midway Basin, no matter what time of year. You’re not going to see the overall stunning beauty of Grand Prismatic Spring like you do from the overlook on the hillside behind the spring (accessed by the Fairy Falls Trail, with a detour up to the overlook). What you *will* see are the various parts of the spring, as well as the other geothermal features in this particular geyser basin, each part of which has its own beauty.

The morning produced a sort of “watery” sunlight, trying to break through the cloud cover. It did so, in places, and one could see its reflection in the mirror-smooth water of the shallow terraces. One could also see the distinct little paw prints (can you spot them?) and the much larger hoof prints (thankfully, no boot prints here, that I could discern) on those shallow terraces. In the background was the steaming proof all around us of the underground geothermal machinery within the park.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: all the white stuff you see in the terraces and in the paw and hoof prints is *not* snow or ice. The water is too warm for that. What you are looking at is silica precipitated out of solution. Yellowstone’s geothermal waters are full of silica in solution, but once that water reaches the surface and flows away from the heat source toward the cooler portions of wherever it lands, that silica precipitates out. It tends to create milky appearances on the ground and within “cooler” hot springs, making them look sort of opal-ish.

Anyway, there is this beauty to Midway Basin that both has something to do with Grand Prismatic, and at the same time, does not. If you ever visit and can find a parking spot, it’s a worthwhile stop, even if you don’t see that areal view of color that you’d see in textbooks or at the Grand Prismatic Overlook.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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