Mammoth Hot Springs is an exceptional geothermal site located in the Yellowstone National Park. It has the largest number of hot terraces in the world.
In the north of Wyoming, at the foot of Mount Everst, this exceptional thermal site is unlike anything we have seen in Norris Geyser Basin for example. No geysers spewing acid waters or no transparent blue pools. Yet, this place is the expression of the volcanic forces that have been working in Yellowstone for hundreds of thousands years.
But first, we invite you to consult the Official Yellowstone map to locate Mammoth Hot Srings.
1. What is Mammoth Hot Springs?
Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the most active geological area on Earth. Yellowstone National Park is located above a huge magmatic chamber.
Rain waters seep into the rocks, and once they reach a certain depth, they are heated by the action of boiling magma. Then they rise back to the surface of the earth. Unlike at Norris Geysers Basin, the waters at Mammoth Hot Springs are not expelled into the air. They cross the rocks up and deposit limestone sediments on the surface. The warm waters slowly flow from one basin to another, forming terraces as shown in the picture below.
Over thousands of years they have formed terraces called travertins formations.
2. Best way to visit Mammoth Hot Springs?
This hydrothermal site is located less than half a mile from Albright Visitors Center, on the Grand Loop Drive which bypasses the site. Several parking areas have been set up along the road for easy access to the major formations.
Mammoth Hot Springs includes 3 large terraces, the Upper and Lower terraces and Main terrace.
The Upper Terraces are accessible by the 1,5 miles long Upper Terrace Drive. It runs among the travertine formations so that you can explore the site with your car.
But the best way to discover this unique geological curiosity is on foot. Boardwalks have been specially arranged so that visitors can move from one terrace to another and discover these surprising limestone formations.
3. Explore the travertine terraces
We stop at the first parking area of Grand Loop Drive, just in front of the famous curiosity of the area, Liberty Cap.
It is a conical rock, 45 feet high, formed by the limestone deposits of an old hot spring formerly active.
Just behind, we observe Palette Spring, one of the most striking attraction of Mammoth Hot Springs. It flows over some white limestone and orange travertine deposits.
From here, we stroll on the boardwalks and staircases to move safely from one terrace to another and get to Main Terrace.
We walk in front of absolutely incredible formations, resembling stalactites or limestone basins as we could observe in underground caves. Mammoth Hot Springs is “journey to the center of Earth”, but outdoors!
We are impressed by the rock formations but even more by their colors. Yellow, gold, orange! All these dazzling hues are due to the presence of bacterias and algae that flourish in the extremely hot waters of the springs.
We work our way up to the Upper Terraces (also accessible from Upper Terrace Drive). We observe noticeable features such as Orange Spring Mound and Grassy Spring. This high position gives the opportunity to contemplate the magnificent views of the valley.
The walk ends with Canary Spring, awesome spring whose name is due to its saffron color. Its dazzling white sediments, on which the yellow hot waters flows slowly from the Upper Terraces, offer a unique and magnificent view. The presence of dead skeletal trees emphasized the inhospitable character of the area.
Do not leave Yellowstone National Park without visiting Mammoth Hot Springs. This site is so different from the other hydrothermal areas of the park. It teaches us a lot about the forces that are at work in the heart of our planet Earth.
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