Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Upper Geyser Basin

Upper Geyser BasinUpper Geyser Basin

Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin

Mammoth Terraces

Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces WebcamMammoth Terraces

Grand Geyser

The initial burst of an eruption of Grand Geyser on 22 Sept 2012 at roughly 1458.

Grand Geyser continues at it’s 5-6 hour hurried pace which I still find amazing.


With the eruptions coming more often, I’ve wondered if these first bursts are larger than I recall, or not. It does seem that there are fewer multiple burst eruptions happening than reports in other years, but in all honesty, I’ve not sat down and taken a closer look.


The entries over at Geyser Times may or may not have the extra information in there, and it’s in a code that most visitors to the Park know.


For example, on this eruption, it has in the notes, G1C.


Here’s the code breaker:

The first letter is either a G or a T which means either Grand started the eruption or Turban started the eruption.


The number is the number of bursts the eruption had.


There may be a * or a # after the number.


* means the second burst was long (more than 1 minute, 15 seconds)


# means the third burst (if there was one) was long (also more than 1 minute, 15 seconds)


The last letter is a Q or a C. That refers to the behavior by Turban and Vent Geysers after Grand’s eruption. These two will either Quit or Continue erupting.


It’s nice that most people use this code in the notes simply because it helps those who love to crunch the numbers and stats and where these specific data points come into play.


On our last trip into Yellowstone, we missed it numerous times simply because this pace for Grand Geyser hadn’t really sunk in for me. On this day, we were walking up to the Sawmill group – and my notes say we were at Churn Geyser – when the first burst happened. I was actually glad to be this far back. I had the 100-400mm lens on my camera with no time to switch to a wider lens, so I had it the widest it would go, and even then I still missed the very top of this burst while trying to keep the boardwalk in view. While taking it, I couldn’t help but think that this initial burst was a tall one and didn’t expect to see a second burst, and that was correct.


But what this photo does show is the ‘hole’ at the bottom of the water column in one section. At first I though it was a shadow, but rendering it with High Dynamic Range (HDR) software shows it’s seems to be just and empty space under the water column. Absolutely a stunning geyser no matter what.




Let’s Go Wait for Grand

On our recent trip to Yellowstone, one night my husband and I decided to head out to Grand Geyser after dinner – figuring we would catch a lovely evening light eruption. The evening was warm and the breeze was fairly gentle. Basically wonderful weather. As we headed down the old asphalt path that used to be the road, we noticed birds and kept our eyes out for any other wildlife we might spot. Turning at Castle Geyser, the boards clanked beneath our feet. Steam rose from all the various geysers and hot springs and floated nearly straight up with little wind to shift it around. We stopped at the Sawmill Group which was in a deep drain. Heading over to Spasmodic, it was sending up spray and steam from a vent in the main hole on the right that must be tucked into the wall of the crater closest to us. We were ready to go and enjoy Grand Geyser’s show.

But when we arrived at Grand, the crater was empty, but splasing. I know we didn’t see or hear Grand erupt from the time we left the Old Faithful Inn. Surely it hadn’t erupted while we were dining – right?  I had it firmly in my mind that Grand would not have erupted so early. But you know how assumptions go – Grand Geyser had erupted. It must have – the crater was empty. Vent and Turban were in eruption. I knew it had after play eruptions at times, but I still couldn’t accept that it had erupted that early.

Grand Without Grand?

I asked another visitor who arrived just before we did if they had seen an eruption of Grand. They hadn’t, but mentioned that Vent Geyser had started right after they arrived. So, we stayed and watched. I called someone who could look up to see if anyone had already reported a Grand Geyser eruption on Geyser Times. No, nothing there. Mike mentioned that the whole thing looked like a Grand eruption with Vent and Turban joining in, but without Grand. I recorded a video of part of it – it did have a lovely rainbow. But I was confused and when we got back to the room (blasted denial), I sent an email to the Geyser Email Listserve with details.

Some of the experienced Geyser Gazers probably chuckled at my email – some likely scoffed, but a few kindly gave an explanation and some more information about this encore show – in fact, more information than I had known before. Remember, there are never any stupid questions except those that go unasked. Nobody will ever really know all there is to know and things change, so asking and sharing information is the best bet. And I’d much rather learn and risk a bit of embarrassment than to not ask and continue to wonder.

Our Survey Says…

The answers all said, watch the afterplay. It can start anywhere from a few minutes to nearly half an hour after Grand Geyser’s main eruption and go on for quite awhile. During this, Vent and Turban may restart as well.  It may just be splashing like in the video, but Grand’s splashing can also build and turn into an afterburst – which can reach 100 feet tall or more. These apparently haven’t been reported in years, and likely haven’t occurred, but Grand isn’t always done after the big show.

Everyone has their own list of favorite geysers, and I definitely have mine. But if you’re on your first visit to Yellowstone, here’s what I tell people who ask me for advice on which geysers they should try to see erupt.

First of all, know where to find information on the geysers. First is the Visitor’s Center – look on the screens behind the information desk for the latest predictions. You can also access Geyser Times .org from your phone – there you will find eruption times for many geysers as well as how long since the last known eruptions of a few popular geysers.

An Evening Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser

1. Old Faithful Geyser

If you’ve not seen it before, this is on your list. But know that it erupts about every hour and a half – which means you have 8 or 9 chances a day to catch it during daylight hours. The best indicator for Old Faithful is simply the number of people waiting on the benches. You can wait there or take a walk over to Geyser Hill (reached by walking toward the river from the benches surrounding Old Faithful – keep going until you come to the bridge – go across and up the hill and you’re there).

Beehive Geyser with Double Rainbow in the Fall

2. Beehive Geyser

Beehive Geyser is one of the major geysers on Geyser Hill. Right now it’s erupting about every 12-15 hours or so – give or take an hour. That means it usually erupts once during the daylight.  If you can find out when it last erupted then you’ll be able to give yourself a forecast window of about 4 or 5 hours starting 11 hours after the last eruption – unless it decides to take longer than average – which it does often enough to keep it off the predictable geysers list at the.  Usually (but not always), Beehive’s Indicator  – a small vent near Beehive’s cone – will erupt first for anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes before Beehive itself erupts. Occasionally the Indicator erupts somewhere mid-cycle, so if it quits without an eruption of Beehive, then it’s likely a mid-cycle eruption. If you see people gathering, go gather with them. It’s worth it. And, you can also still watch Old Faithful from this area of Geyser Hill.

Vent Geyser, Turban Geyser & Grand Geyser

3. Grand Geyser

Right now it seems Grand usually erupts twice during the daylight hours.  This one is a bit farther down the geyser basin from Old Faithful Village, but it’s the tallest predicted geyser in the world and most people find it more impressive than Old Faithful. However, it takes more patience to wait for an eruption here. The forecasted 4 hour window (the prediction is in the middle of that window) is listed at the Visitor’s Center. The time is also usually posted in the summer on the sign for Grand Geyser which sits about in the middle of the benches surrounding it. If you have to choose between Old Faithful and Grand – choose Grand. It really is worth the wait.

A First Burst of Plume Geyser

4. Plume Geyser

It has been erupting fairly regularly lately – erupting more often than Old Faithful at about every hour (give or take some minutes). It’s also on Geyser Hill, not far from Beehive. There’s really no warning with this one – there’s just suddenly the sound of water rushing to the surface when the eruption starts which catches many off guard for this delightful surprise. It will pause – then have a second, third, fourth, and perhaps fifth burst or more.  The first burst is the most powerful. Each following burst is less in height. Plume is not predicted, but the last known eruption can be found on Geyser Times .org.


Castle Geyser in Eruption

5. Castle Geyser

This is another predicted geyser, but it’s a bit trickier for them to come up with a forecasted window for it. You see, it has major and minor eruptions. If it only had major eruptions, the rangers would have an easier time as it’s fairly reliable to figure out the next window of opportunity. But when it has a minor eruption – a short eruption that doesn’t end with a lot of steam (a steam phase) – it throws things off and makes it impossible to know when it will decide to do something next. At that point all that can be done is to wait for the next major eruption – one that lasts more than 10-15 minutes and has a long steam phase (of an hour or more).  Again, check at the Visitor’s Center or Geyser Times .org for the latest information.

If Castle Geyser seems unlikely, you also might try an alternate:

Daisy Geyser in Eruption

5b. Daisy Geyser

Daisy has been fairly reliable over the past few years – about every 2 1/2 to 3 hours or so between eruptions. This is another one of the predicted geysers you can find at the Visitors Center or Geyser Times .org. Daisy is a bit further down the paved trail (which is the old road) past Castle Geyser. It’s a favorite of many people – especially the finish which sounds exactly like a steam locomotive chugging away.

It is possible to see all of these and more in a morning or afternoon if your luck is with you. But for your best chance, plan a full day for the upper geyser basin. There’s so much to see beyond just these geysers. But if your time is limited, at least see Old Faithful and take a walk around Geyser Hill before heading on your way.

More favorite picks to come.

A second burst from Grand

From reports, it seems yesterday Grand Geyser had a rather unusual eruption that lasted longer than normal and included six bursts.

Grand Geyser erupts regularly enough to allow a prediction that sits in the center of a four hour forecasted window of opportunity. That means it’s likely to erupt within those four hours, or maybe a little bit outside of it. The prediction is in the center of the window – which you can find at the Visitor Education Center. The arch of benches on the boardwalk surrounding the area let you know that yes, it is worth the wait. It’s very much worth the wait. Many of us would agree that a Grand eruption surpasses that of Old Faithful.

To the left of Grand Geyser’s crater, are two other geysers, Turban and Vent. Turban erupts about every twenty minutes and Grand often (but not always – they are geysers, afterall) will erupt at the beginning of a Turban eruption. What people look for is a full pool, increased steam and ideally a few waves from Grand (really hard to learn how to see) when Turban is about ready to erupt or has just started. The easiest thing to watch for is an increase in the steam in the pool of water to the right of Turban.


Eventually, you’ll see the water splash up from the center of Grand’s pool:

The beginning of a Grand Eruption

Vent, Turban and Grand Geyser in Eruption

Then it shoots up and continues for about 8 minutes. Vent and Turban usually erupt in unison with Grand, though are often shrouded in steam. At that point, if it doesn’t calm down to where you think the eruption is over, then it may just continue like this for a few more minutes.

But if it does calm down and the pool remains full, wait. Really. Because that’s when the second burst, which often at least seems taller than what you witnessed before rockets to full height almost immediately. And if it calms down again – and the pool remains full – wait. You might get a third burst.

Yesterday, it seems they got SIX bursts. While rare now, before the big 1959 earthquake, multiple bursts was the norm – though each burst didn’t continue for many minutes as they do now. In 1892 F.K. Warren reported in his book, California Illustrated: Including a Trip Through Yellowstone Park, “the grand whose intermittent play, twelve times repeated, was indeed Grand…”

In Reau Campbell’s 1909 Guide Book, it listed Grand as “Plays every eighteen to twenty days, 250 feet, but only 20 minutes to a half hour.” That description makes me chuckle – only 20-30 minutes of this amazing display. And if it only played every 18 to 20 days, you’d need to hang around for a month to see it.

Right now it plays 1 to 2 times during daylight hours each day. It still reaches great heights, and it the tallest predicted (forecasted) geyser – and it is Grand. If you have a choice to wait for Old Faithful (which erupts 9 or 10 times during daylight hours) or Grand, wait for Grand. You won’t be disappointed.

And how do you know it’s over? The crater empties and Vent and Turban often continue on.

Vent and Turban Geysers continuing after Grand's Eruption

To reach Grand Geyser, walk down the old road (the paved path) until you get to Castle Geyser (you can’t miss it). Turn right and take the boardwalk over the bridge and up the hill. Turn Left at Sawmill geyser and a little ways beyond, you’ll see the benches. The time for the next forecasted window is on a sign about in the middle of the benches.