Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park is indeed a glory to behold, no matter what the season. But, if you’ve seen (and photographed) this hot spring in different seasons, under different lighting conditions, you’ll notice that the colors don’t look quite the same – in the cooler months, they tend to be a little less bright and a little more murky.
When this pool was first discovered it was a brilliant blue, hence the name after a beautiful morning glory flower. People throwing trash, coins, rocks and logs into this pool over the years have caused a change in the water temperature (cooling it because all that trash has piled up around the vent and reduced hot water circulation) which in turn has caused the colors to change, allowing orange- and yellow-colored bacteria to thrive within the water. Add to that the subfreezing temps of the winter season (when this photo was captured), which in turn cool the surface water of the hot spring, and you get a murky look like you see here. It’s still a beautiful little spring, but the change in colors is mainly due to the extreme short-sightednes of humans. Sigh.
This is just a close shot of a very small hot spring (maybe 3 feet in diameter, including the melted ground around it) I saw while walking on the boardwalks at Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park one freezing February morning. It was a pretty thing, all bright and distinct against the white snow, and it reminded me of a favorite old 1950’s sci fi movie I watch all the time on my iPad when traveling (I listen to movies while editing photos). Anybody ever seen “The Thing From Another World?” Not the one with Kurt Russell, but the 1951 black-and-white version? To me, that’s a classic. The timing and overlapping of the dialog, the whole black-and-white scenario. I love it. Oh, the special effects are laughable, but I still like it way better than the 1982 film. Maybe it’s an age thing, but to me, the old movies are classics and always will be.
Anyway, where is this going, you may ask? Well, in the 1951 version, at one point, the plane with the scientists and the Airforce personnel are flying over the alien’s frozen-over crash spot, and it looks exactly like this little hot spring’s configuration right here. As a matter of fact, when I spotted this thermal spring, it was the first thing that popped into my head.
So, sometimes, you may photograph the things you see because they remind you of something else, right?
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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I visited Yellowstone National Park back in mid February 2022. It was a fantastic trip and I came home with memories of wonderful experiences and great photos. I also returned with a somewhat lower-than-usual opinion of people who visit this national park and leave marks and trash like those you see in the photos above. I guess people are either ignorant of park etiquette, or they think they are above it all and none of the rules apply to them.
Regarding the human foot prints among the wildlife foot prints at both Crested Pool and Grand Prismatic Pool: bison and foxes and wolves and coyotes cannot read the signs the national park has posted warning of the dangers of straying off the boardwalk in the geyser basins. People, on the other hand, can read the signs – they just don’t want to follow the warnings and are what I consider willfully ignorant. What these people don’t realize is that the crust really is thin around thermal features. Proof of that can be found at spots like Blue Star Spring in Upper Geyser Basin. Look into that searing hot, saturated aqua-blue pool and you’ll see the bones of a young bison who made a misstep back in the 80s.
This brings to mind my 2019 autumn visit to Yellowstone. Among the idiots who walked up to Old Faithful Geyser that year was one moron who decided it would be awesome to walk right up to Old Faithful that night – around midnight, I think. The burns he ultimately sustained made him decide to seek medical help, no matter how much trouble he might get himself in. The next day, as I was wandering along the boardwalks up there, I noticed rangers and other orange-vested people out there walking around near Old Faithful, retrieving articles of clothing that guy left behind, and checking to see if there was any damage to the geyser and surrounding area. These thermal ecosystems – and really, all ecosystems within any national park – are fragile and it doesn’t take much to screw them up. If they can be healed, it takes a looonnnnggg time. The snowcoach guide who took me and four other people through Midway Basin told us it takes a very long time for hoof, paw, and human foot prints to disappear from those shallow terraces around the edges of Grand Prismatic.
And let’s get to the face mask issue. This is yet another form of trash that people carelessly leave behind. Ok, more than likely, the mask either slips off the face or slips out of a vest or pant pocket when a person is pulling out something else, but they are sloppy at keeping track of things like face masks. Certainly mars the view, don’t you think? Sure, I can clone out the offending trash, but I have it here so you can see what I saw when I pointed my camera in that direction. It made me sad and angry at the same time.
Most photographer whose pages you visit on some platform like Facebook are pretty careful to not say anything political or otherwise incendiary to alienate prospective purchasers of their work. I suppose I should do the same, but I’ve never kowtowed to conventional practices and am of the belief that there are times when you have to take a stand one way or another. I don’t fence sit when I believe in something strongly enough.
Many people don’t care if they “foul their own nest” when it comes to visiting a national park, rather than leaving no trace so future visitors can appreciate the wild beauty. As such, I have very little patience with people, nowadays. I’m sure my attitude does not win me any fans or photo purchases, but I’ve never been one to shy away from writing (or saying) what I think, regardless of how it may irritate people. I point out human ignorance, stupidity, and hate where ever I see it. I find the people who write to tell me what a bitch I am are generally the ones who have committed the sins about which I write.
I hope the idiots who left that face mask trash and marked up the fragile areas within and around the hot springs were not photographers. That kind of cretin gives the rest of us photographers a bad name. I’m thankful there are still photographers out there who respect the land and the wildlife they photograph. I just wish they would speak up a little louder in defense of these ecosystems.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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And, speaking of the Traveler, today’s edition has a Reader Participation Day article asking what the “national park experience” means to YOU. Why not go over, read the article and the questions asked, and leave a comment at the end of the article. The Traveler uses these things as pointers to what articles to next write and publish.
To read the article and leave a comment, click on the image above.
As for the image itself, it was serendipitous. I was staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and got up early that morning to do photography along the Upper Geyser Basin. It was snowing, and as I approached Old Faithful, I saw a small herd of bison grazing right there. Luckily for me I’d brought along my long lens (Sony 100-400mm) and captured some iconic shots that you’ll be seeing in upcoming Traveler articles.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved
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Heart Spring, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature > 190 degrees Fahrenheit
Belgian Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature ~ >150 degrees Fahrenheit
Did you know that the colors of the beautiful hot springs you see at Yellowstone National Park indicate the water temperature? Make no mistake, you do NOT want to soak in any of these after a long day hiking. Rule of thumb: the bluer the H2O, the hotter it is. And the orange, yellow, and brown colors you see ringing the springs and leading away from them are thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria.
Each of the two times I’ve visited Yellowstone National Park, I stood on the boardwalks of Upper Geyser Basin, marveling that I was standing above turbulent geothermal activity right beneath my feet, covered by fragile ground. I think people forget that, sometimes, which is why they do stupid shit like go off the boardwalks and try to get closer to the geysers and hot springs.
Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has the latest Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles column about New Zealand’s White Island eruption and the lessons learned that might be applied to Yellowstone. It’s a pretty interesting read, written by a U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist.
To read the article, click on the image above
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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Blue Star Pool on a chilly autumn morning, Yellowstone National Park
It’s Trivia Tuesday, folks! Here’s one from Janet Spencer’s “Yellowstone Trivia”: One ranger set out to remove the pennies from Upper Geyser Basin’s Blue Star Pool. After 15 minutes of work, he removed 700 pennies. That means 700 people figured “just one penny” wouldn’t hurt.
As a National Park placard says near another hot spring in Yellowstone National Park: “Thermal features are not trash cans or wishing wells – they are among earth’s rarest geologic treasures …”
Do your part, don’t litter, pack out what you pack in, and report any vandalism to a park ranger.
A morning alone with Solitary Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
This pretty geyser is indeed, solitary, sitting all by itself and located a short hike from either the Upper Geyser Basin boardwalk or on the way up or down the trail from Observation Point. This is one of those geysers that people tampered with way back when they didn’t understand geysers or geology that well. They wanted to use the hot spring water so they put a pipe in it, which lowered the water level several feet and caused the then-hot spring to turn into a geyser that erupted every few minutes. They removed the pipe and the water level rose again, but it continued to be a geyser that now erupts every 5-7 minutes (give or take). It’s not a huge geyser, though. It sort of “burbles” and erupts about 3-4 feet (so the nearby sign says). It was difficult to even see it erupt on that chilly day because of all the steam. I could only tell it was going to erupt by watching for ripples in the water in the far left corner of the geyser, which occurred just before that “burble” of an eruption.
There are signs all along the boardwalks at the geyser basins telling visitors to “stay on walk,” While I didn’t see anybody actually walking off the boardwalk (there was this one moron who walked off the boardwalk to get an up-close and personal look at Old Faithful, but he did it at night and suffered bad burns for it while I was there), I did see people do stupid stuff at Norris Basin.
The first photo you see is a morning shot at Upper Geyser Basin, and I was getting an overall shot of the beautiful scene in front of me, including a leading line of the boardwalk and a portion of the sign.
The other two photos I took with my iPhone of people doing stupid stuff at Norris Basin. That first shot is of a lady from a tour bus who sat on the edge of the boardwalk and put her feet on the thin crust so her honey could get a fashionable shot of her. The second shot is of an idiot who decided to risk screwing with the delicate ecosystem there and leaned over to touch the foliage along the boardwalk. I was almost hoping he’d fall in so I could get a shot of that, too. I’m not very nice when it comes to seeing people do stuff they shouldn’t.
Another story comes to mind of a couple of friends I made while at Upper Geyser Basin. I’d hiked with them to Fairy Falls because they didn’t want me hiking alone in an area frequented by a bear. The following day, they’d walked to Morning Glory Pool (I got there a little later than they did) and they told me the story of a couple there at the pool, and the woman climbed over the fence there to squat next to the hot spring to get a photo of herself. When someone said something to her, she looked up and said “You’re not rangers.” My friends were flabbergasted. I asked them if they’d gotten a photo of that stupid creature and they said the woman quickly got her selfie and climbed back over the fence before they could get their smartphones out. Another one of those days when I wished I would have been there to get a photo and send it to the National Parks Traveler for posting as well as posting it to my own page. People don’t really realize just how thin that crust is out in the geyser basins and how hot and acidic that water really is. I read that some of the hot springs at Norris are as acidic as battery acid.
Morning Glory Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yes, I now have my own images of a much-photographed park icon. It’s photographed because it is so beautiful. The interesting (and sad) thing, though, is to see how much the colors of this pool have changed over the years, due to people throwing coins, rocks, and other trash into the clear, once deep blue water and lowering the temperature.
I ran a search on the National Parks Traveler site and found a December 2014 article about the changes in color and how efforts to clean the pool weren’t able to reverse the damage done. To read the article, click on the image above.
All images on these posts are the exclusive property of Rebecca L. Latson and Where The Trails Take You Photography. Please respect my copyright and do not use these images on Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat or any other business, personal or social website, blog site, or other media without my written permission. Thank you.
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