Geography Features Old Faithful

About Old Faithful in Yellowstone, history, description, and geography of the geyser.



"Out thar in Yellowstone," 19th-century trapper Jim Bridger told anyone who would listen, "thar's a river that flows so fast it gets hot on the bottom." Explorers John Colter and Joe Meek also brought stories back to St. Louis of a wondrous place of boiling mud, hot springs, and steam geysers that shot high into the air. It has long since been discovered that the river Jim Bridger told about--called Firehole River--actually does get hot on the bottom because of hot springs bubbling up along its bed. But many of the other bizarre sights he described must have been hard for his listeners to swallow.

Old Faithful, the most famous Yellowstone landmark, was not discovered by westerners until 1870. An exploring party led by Gen. Henry Washburn rode through the pine trees and caught sight of what must have seemed an astounding phenomenon. With a rumbling and vibration of the earth, amid hissing and clouds of steam, the largest geyser on the planet sent up a scalding column of water an estimated 150 ft. high. And, Washburn and party were amazed to note, it did this as regularly as clockwork. Every hour, for about five minutes at a time, the geyser put on its show-stopping act. General Washburn named it Old Faithful, and for over 100 years now it has lived up to its name, delighting thousands of tourists each year.

There are spectacular hot springs and geysers in Iceland and New Zealand, but nowhere on the face of the earth are there as many so spectacularly arrayed as in Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming. There are over 10,000 hot pools, geysers, and patches of boiling mud in Yellowstone's 3,472 sq. mi.

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