Explore Norris Geyser Basin
About Norris Geyser Basin
If you are interested in how exotic Yellowstone’s landscape can be, be sure to visit Norris Geyser Basin. It is the hottest, oldest, and changes the most of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. At just 1,087 feet (326 meters) below the surface a temperature of 459°F (237°C) was measured in a scientific drill hole. This is the highest temperature yet recorded in any geothermal area in Yellowstone! There are very few thermal features at Norris that are under the boiling point, which is not 212°F, at its elevation of 7,600 feet, it’s 199°F.
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Park scientists say that Norris appears to have had thermal features for at least 115,000 years. That said, the thermal features in the basin change daily, with frequent disturbances from seismic activity and water fluctuations. Yellowstone is called “geology in fast forward” for this reason. Many of the flows at Norris are acidic. Boiling hot acidic water sounds scary enough, but there are even acidic geysers, but they are very rare.
Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world (300 to 400 feet) erupted for the first time in eight years in the summer of 2013. Reportedly only about 30 people witnessed the amazing sight. If you are hoping to see it, don’t hold your breath, but you never know. Steamboat erupts without giving much warning and there’s no pattern that anyone has discerned. The previous eruption was in May 2005, but there were three in 2003, two in 2002, and one in 2000. Before then it had been 9 years. There have been periods when it erupted as often as every four days, but it has also skipped 50 years. The park scientists have not been able to find reliable indicators for Steamboat.
Echinus Geyser is one of the most popular sights at Norris, and for years it erupted every 35 to 75 minutes, depending on how long the previous eruption lasted. However, late in 1998 the interval between eruptions began to change and now its eruptions may be hours, days, or months apart. Like most geysers, which have complicated sub-surface plumbing, Echinus is affected by seismic activity and basin-wide disturbances. Check in with a ranger at the Norris Museum for predictions and suggestions for where to walk.
Other Features of Interest
- Whirligig Geyser
- Cistern Spring
- Constant Geyser
- Porcelain Basin
- Veteran Geyser
- Porkchop Geyser
- Emerald Springs
Don’t Miss a “Disturbance” at Norris Geyser Basin
From time to time, something big changes in Norris Geyser Basin. Usually it causes water level fluctuations, temperature variations, pH changes, color changes, and the frequency of eruptions in many of the geysers in the basin. Some pools get cloudy, change color, clog up, or just stop. Some geysers change how often they erupt, or even blow up after getting clogged. Scientists have studied these changes, and there are (of course) several theories about what is happening. One opinion is that the disturbances are a huge fluctuation in the water supply underground. It is known that there are several water systems under the surface that circulate water that has seeped down back up. These systems interact, so they are called stacked water systems. The disturbances usually occur in the fall, so another opinion is that there is less surface water mixing with water from deep underground and there is a higher concentration of silica that clogs the plumbing. Pressure builds up and creates a “disturbance”. If you are in Yellowstone and you hear there is a disturbance at Norris, go see the changes! The basin returns to a more “normal” state after a few weeks.