TO WEST THUMB GEYSER BASIN (17 miles):
The road climbs steeply from Old Faithful
to the top of the Madison Plateau, past Kepler
Cascades, and then over Craig Pass (elevation 8,262'asl,) then down to the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
The visitor crosses the continental divide twice on this journey and
the bridge at Isa Lake allows the imagination to wander because this
little body of water drains both east and west, feeding water into both
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Restrooms located at West Thumb.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is better
known for its pools than its geysers. Although there are about a dozen
identified geysers in a concentrated area, their activity has declined
greatly since the 1970's. Additionally, the tectonic activity of the
Yellowstone Lake region has conspired
to inundate and drown several
significant thermal features here. The north shore of the lake basin
is raising and the water is moving to the south and filling the West
Thumb basin as it does. Many of the inundated features lie within sight
of the shore and as deep as 10-20 feet. Activity in the form of bubbles
can be seen when the lake is calm, and in the winter holes in the ice
are occasionally seen.
There are two main groupings of geysers
in this geyser basin:
The Lower Group and The Upper Group. Both groups are
easily accessible in the winter. Lower Group: Twin Geysers, Roadside
Steamer Pool, Abyss Pool, Black Pool, King Geyser, Fishing Cone (one
of the most famous hot springs in Yellowstone is cooling rapidly,) Thumb
Geyser, and Surging Spring are the prominent features of this group.
Lake Shore Group: Occasional Geyser,
Lone Pine Geyser, Blowhole Spring, Overhanging Geyser are the significant
features of this concentrated group of thermal features.
TO FISHING BRIDGE (22 miles):
The road provides a pleasant journey along the shore of Yellowstone
Lake, through occasionally very dense forest of pine and fir. Vast panoramas
are available for the photographer. Restroom located at fishing bridge.
Fisherman have a great opportunity here to catch the native cutthroat
trout along the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Boat Rentals are availabel
at the Bridge Bay Marina. Yellowstone Lake is over 135 square miles,
100 mile of shoreline and considered the largest highest alpine lake
in North America. Yellowstone Lake provides excellent summer recreation
with its many native cutthroat, shoreline hikes, boating and camping.
FISHING BRIDGE TO CANYON JUNCTION (17 miles):
Six or seven miles north of Fishing Bridge
along a scenic climb
and descent into the Hayden Valley is the Mud Volcano Area.
This area is often described by visitors as 'hot, stinking, violent,
scary.' This region is adjacent to one of the major vents from the collapse
of the Yellowstone caldera about 600,000 years ago. This region is so
active that the parking area is constantly being repaired. The Mud Volcano
Area contains 11 significant features most of which are mud pots of
various kinds. There is also a rare feature, the Mud Geyser it is currently
experiencing a period of quietude but the turbulence at the south end
of the bubbling pool may signify a coming resurgence. The discharge
from Sulfur Caldron is about the same acidity as battery acid (pH of
1.2,) and the striking yellow color attests to its high sulfur content.
If you want photographs of other-worldly scenes this is the place to
take them. Visitors enjoy the memorable names of this area: Dragon's
Mouth Spring, Sour Lake, Churning Caldron, Sizzling Basin, Cooking Hillside
(soil temperatures as hot as 200 F.) Continuing north throught the Hayden
valley the visitor experiences pastoral winter scenes in this vast and
rich valley. Stray coyotes, giant bull bison, occasional ravens, infrequent
elk, solitary eagles, and snowshoe hares puntuate the expansive valley.
At times the horizons seem endless, at others the Yellowstone River
carves graceful curves on its way to the thundering falls at Canyon
Junction just eight or nine miles north of Mud Volcano. Restrooms at