A Scene: Watching Yellowstone’s Grand Geysers — H.W.S., 1881

Yellowstone_Grand_Geyser Wikipedia

Grand Geyser

We had dismounted and unloaded our horses and buggy, and were looking for the best sites for our tents, when the cry was heard, “There goes a geyser!” and we dropped everything and ran. The sight was truly a glorious one. At the far end of the basin, Old Faithful was playing his wonderful fountain, and we saw what looked to us a river of water shooting up into the sky. Our guides told us it was only 150 or 200 feet high, but to us it seemed to reach the clouds, and on one side of it was a lovely soft rainbow that came and went with the blowing spray. It spouted for five or ten minutes and then subsided.

Giant Geyser YDSF05074

Giant Geyser

Old Faithful is the only geyser whose performances can be depended upon. He spouts regularly every sixty-seven minutes, and has done so ever since the discovery of the Park. The crater looks like a great mound of coral or petrified sponge, surrounded by terraced basins at all shapes and sizes, and of the most lovely colors.

The whole mound is convoluted in the most beautiful fashion, and every one of the little basins around it is rimmed with exquisite scalloping and fluting. The Grand Geyser, the Giant, the Grotto, the Splendid, the Riverside, and the Fan, complete the list of large geysers in this basin, and each one has a marvelous and distinct beauty.

As we were quietly sitting in camp the day after our arrival, I noticed a great steam in the direction of the Grand Geyser, and called out to one of our guides, “George, is old Grand doing anything?” He looked a moment, and then, dropping everything, began to run, shouting out at the top of his voice, “Old Grand is spouting! Old Grand is spouting!” In a second of time our camp was deserted, every thing was left in wild confusion, and we were all running at the top of our speed to see the display.

It was perfectly glorious! As it sent up its grand water rockets 250 feet into the air, shooting out on every side, we all involuntarily shouted and clapped our hands, and Sam took off his hat and swung it over his head in a perfect enthusiasm of delight! It was like a grand oration, and a wonderful poem, and a beautiful picture, and a marvelous statue, and a splendid display of fireworks, and everything else grand and lovely combined in one. Then all would subside, and the pool would be quiet for a moment or two; then again, it would heave and swell, and the glorious fountain would suddenly burst up again into the blue sky! Seven times this took place, and then all the water was sucked down, down, down into the abyss, and we climbed part way into the steaming crater, and picked up specimens from the very spot where just before had been this mighty fountain.

The Giant, too, gave us a grand performance while we were in the Basin. We thought it the grandest and most beautiful of all. It shoots up a column of water at least seven feet thick to the height of 250 feet, the steam rising far higher. It played for nearly an hour, and flooded the whole basin around with boiling water, doubling the volume o water in the river. The internal rumblings and roarings meanwhile were perfectly deafening. I could not help feeling as I gazed on these wonders that there was a lesson in it all. Nothing but heat could bring forth such beauty as we see here at every step, and I thought that thus also did the refining fire of God bring forth in our characters forms and colors as beautiful after their fashion as these.

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  • H.W.S, “A Lady’s Visit To The Geysers Of The Yellowstone Park.” Friends Intelligencer, May 19, 1883. Pages 218-221 and May 27, Pages 234-237.
  • Photos from the Yellowstone Digital Slide File.V