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The Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces have been a popular feature in Yellowstone since the early stagecoach routes up the Yellowstone River Valley. The Terraces, first described by the 1871 Hayden Survey, were given the name of White Mountain Hot Spring, even though they were well known and named before then.

The step-like terraces form as heated water moves along the Morris-Mammoth Fault. The hot water carries dissolved calcium and bicarbonate to the surface of the terraces where pressure lessens. Carbon dioxide then escapes as gas and the carbonate combines with calcium to precipitate as travertine.

The Mammoth Terraces are constantly changing shape and color. Springs which were active one to five years ago may be dry and lifeless now, yet activity may later resume. Along with changes of thermal activity come changes in color. Fresh travertine is bright white in color and as it weathers it changes to gray. Bright colored cyanobacteria and algae mats which were dependent upon a stable temperature and a flow of water also change as the microorganisms die creating a stark, bleak landscape.


LIBERTY CAPliberty cap
Height 45 feet. It received its name from the 1871 Hayden  
Expedition for its
resemblance to the caps worn by colonial patriots in the Revolutionary War. The cone formed from a steady flow of hot water emerging from a single source, depositing dense layers of travertine. The cone continued to grow as long as there was a source of water. Either the hot water spring found a more convenient underground channel to escape through or the orifice became sealed by travertine deposits. It is now an inactive spring and it is not known when Liberty Cap became extinct. The weathered outer surface now supports a plant community of lichens, grass and even a small tree.


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OPAL TERRACEopal
Temperature 160°F When this feature received its name in 1871 by the Hayden Expedition, it was a small spring with opal colors. it was dormant for several years until 1926 when it began to flow again. Since then it has intermittent activity. During the 1940s Opal was very active and rapidly deposited porous travertine, doubling its size. Nearly a foot of travertine deposited a year. The terraces began encroaching on a tennis court and at first the deposits were rerouted. By 1947 the tennis court was removed and the terrace now covers the original site. Opal is still known for its pastel colors, but like most Mammoth Terrace features it constantly changes activity, shape and color.


MINERVA SPRING AND TERRACEminerva
Temperature 161°F This spring and terrace is considered one of the most colorful and ornate terraces at Mammoth. Minerva has had periods of inactivity throughout its recorded history, but when it is active terraces of porous travertine form rapidly. During the building of a single terrace, orterracette, travertine precipitates around the edge of a small pool, and can accumulate at a rate of as much as 8.5 inches a year. As the water cascades from terrace to terrace the water cools, allowing algae to grow. Blue-green algae and cyanobacteria, in colors of green, yellow, orange and red, line the terrace run-off channels.


ORANGE SPRING MOUNDorange
Temperature 157°F Mound dimensions 48x20 feet. Orange cyanobacteria which streak the large travertine mound are the origin of the name. The spring from this mound is cooler than other thermal features at Mammoth Terraces which allows orange-colored cyanobacteria to dominate. The brilliant color changes from season to season depending on the flow rate and the amount of available sunlight. The mound appears as a large cone-shaped hot spring, but it actually formed along a fracture line of a fissure ridge. Several cones have formed along this line of fracture, including Tangerine Spring. Based on the low flow and deposition from this spring and the size of the mound this formation may be very old.


NEW HIGHLAND SPRING
highlandTemperature 160°F The Highland Terrace area received its name from A.C. Peale, geologist for the 1872 Hayden Expedition. There are many springs and pools in the Highland Terrace area. Most have intermittent activity. New Highland Spring began its activity during the early 1950s. Before that time it was a grassy, wooded hillside. The Spring rapidly formed a massive deposit of porous travertine. Trees on the hillside became engulfed by travertine and now stand as skeletons. Like other thermal features at Mammoth Terraces, New Highland Spring changes from season to season depending on water flow and temperature.


CANARY SPRING AND TERRACEcanary
Temperature 160°F This spring is part of the Main Terrace, which includes Blue, Jupiter, Naiad and Main springs. All the springs have had intermittent activity, but Canary has been the most regular spring in the group. The name Canary was in reference to the yellow filamentous algae growing along the edge of the spring, and may have been named by the 1904 Hague Expedition. But now Canary Spring is known for its ultramarine-colored pool. The water flowing down the face of the terrace has created multi-colored bands of algae and cyanobacteria.

 

 

 


For more information on Yellowstone National Park and
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YellowstoneNationalPark.com
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