Firehole Lake Drive: White Dome, Steady Geyser


At this point you’re probably watching the clock and freaking out, because you’d figured you would have covered half of Yellowstone by now.  Of course, you were terribly wrong, and completely misjudged the amount of time you’d need, in order to see everything.  Now is the time to accept the fact that you’re going to need an extra day or two, or maybe a whole extra trip, in order to make it all the way around the figure-8 loop.

Once you’ve experienced that realization, it’s a little easier to consider taking a scenic, but slow, side route.  Firehole Lake Drive is a one-lane paved road that splits off from the main road, just north of the Midway Basin.  It’s well worth your time, and here’s why:

The first attraction you find as you travel Firehole Lake Drive is Firehole Spring.  It’s blue, it bubbles, it’s worth a picture or two.  Best of all, you barely have to leave your car: it’s right by the side of the road.

Surprise Pool is close to the road, too.  It didn’t surprise me with any unexpected activity in the 30 seconds or so that I spent here.

I don’t know what Surprise Pool’s big surprise is, but an excerpt from The Yellowstone National Park: Historical and Descriptive  by Hiram Martin Chittenden provides a clue: “Surprise Pool… is always ready to disclose the reason for its name to anyone who will go to the trouble of throwing into it a handful of dirt or a spray of evergreen.”  I guess the park rules about not throwing things into geysers don’t apply here?

Just a bit further, Great Fountain Geyser looks just like it sounds.  It’s great — as in “big”.  It looks exactly like a manmade fountain, with tiered pools spreading out from the center.  And of course, it is a Geyser.  The whole thing is too big to fit in one picture, so you can’t really appreciate it unless you see it in person.

There are bleachers here, allowing patient people a place to wait for the next eruption.  Great Fountain Geyser is, unfortunately, not as regular as some of its neighbors.  Eruptions can vary from 8-12 hours, but maybe you’ll get lucky.

While snapping pictures of a very silent Great Fountain Geyser, I noticed some action in the distance, over at White Dome Geyser. I zoomed in for this picture as the eruption reached its peak…

… but by the time I drove over to it, the excitement had passed.  White Dome is also highly unpredictable.  Eruptions can be just 10 minutes apart, or nearly three hours.

Geysers are just part of the beauty of this area.  As I drove along Firehole Lake Drive, I was compelled to pull over at the side of the road, and admire this meandering stream.

Before the side road returns to the main highway, you’ll be out of your car again, to check out Firehole Lake.  There’s a boardwalk to take you across the dangerous ground (that often has near-boiling water just below the surface).

Steady Geyser feeds the lake.  As the name implies, you’re more likely to see a steady stream of sputtering, rather than an on-and-off eruption here.

As the boardwalk circles around, it passes next to Hot Cascades.  You’d swear it’s a cool, tumbling mountain stream, if it wasn’t for all that steam and sulfur.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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