Thermal Features

Tuesday, July 12, 2005: I checked out of Mammoth at about 6:30 and headed toward Norris. My first real stop was at Swan Lake, prompted by the two white specks I noticed while driving. The binoculars resolved them into swans, and the scope revealed they were the expected Trumpter Swans. Some ducks were also present. A succession of stops followed as I traveled through Willow Flats. It was fairly birdy there and it took me until after 9 to travel the 20 miles to Norris.

Outflow Stream at Norris Green Outflow at Norris Puff 'n' Stuff Geyser
Outflow Streams at Norris Puff 'n' Stuff Geyser

I find Norris Geyser Basin an interesting place, particularly for the colors that the various thermal features (and the organisms that live there) create. In many ways, I prefer the Porcelain Basin to the Back Basin because of this. The major geysers (Steamboat, Echinus) are in the Back Basin. Neither of them geysers erupted while I was there (Steamboat has apparently had a number of minor, 30 foot eruptions lately). I was surprised they didn't have a prediction for when Echinus would erupt. Three years ago they did, and it was reasonably accurate. Apparently Echinus is no longer predictable.

Norris Geyser Basin Porcelain Basin Black Growler Steam Vent
Norris Geyser Basin Porcelain Basin Black Growler
Steam Vent
Back Basin View Echinus Geyser Emerald Spring
Back Basin View Echinus Geyser Emerald Pool

Chocolate Pot & Virginia Cascade

I tried to go to Artist's Paint Pots next, but the parking lot was full so I skipped it for now. I did see one of the “chocolate paint pots” along the Gibbon River. I also stopped by Gibbon Meadows, where I found some Elk. Virginia Cascade Road is a two-mile, narrow, one-way road along the Gibbon River featuring some precipitous dropoffs. It's hard to believe it was once the main road! It features the 60-ft. Virginia Cascade.

Chocolate Pot Elk Virginia Cascade
Chocolate Pot Elk! Virginia Cascade

I tried to go to Little Gibbon Falls. The trailhead is not marked, but I had directions telling me to go to a particular unmarked turnout east of the Ice Lake trailhead, then walk about 100 feet east where there may be a red marker. There wasn't a marker, but there was a trail. Following it into the woods, I found a sign giving the distance to the next trail intersection. Success! However, about 0.4 mile in the trail crossed a wet meadow, with standing water. I didn't have proper footgear, so I turned back rather than soak my tennis shoes. Guess I should have worn boots!

Arrival at Canyon

I ate lunch around 2, reacquainted myself with Canyon Village (they are putting in a new visitor's center and then checked in. Some things are still the same. I noticed a buffalo grazing next to a cabin across the street, just as last time.

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone

By the time I was set to go out again, it was around 4. I viewed the Upper Falls from the South Rim of the canyon, then walked upriver for a little bit. At one overlook, there was a pair of Peregrines overhead, followed by a Swainson's Hawk.

Upper Falls Canyon Bridge Upper Falls
Upper Falls
of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone River and
Canyon Bridge
Upper Falls
of the Yellowstone

I planned to end my day's activities by visiting the Hayden Valley for a while. Lots of buffalo, a few elk, a lot of Canada Geese and some other birds. No luck on grizz or wolf. Since I was returning early, I made a stop at the Brink of the Upper Falls before dinner. After dinner, I went to the evening program, which was about hiking in Yellowstone.

Crystal Falls Brink of the Upper Falls
Crystal Falls Brink of the
Upper Falls

Birds: 141. Mammals: 24.

Canyon, WY