I recently explored a massive natural staircase in the north area of Yellowstone called Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone has several stair like terraces within it, but don’t go walking up those stairs.
First of all, this place is frequently visited by tourists and animals alike that trample this natural wonder enough. The elk in the park like to lay in the warm water in the cooler months. It’s an interesting sight to see but it can damage the features.
There is an easily accessible manmade boardwalk that winds through the natural wonder giving great views of everything here.
The boardwalks protect the fragile environment so please stay on them.
How were the terraces Created?
Carbonic acid is the driving force to creating theses stunning terraces. The acid breaks down limestone deep within the earth, and brings it to the surface. Once it reaches the surface of the earth some of the carbon dioxide is lost.
Once the gasses are lost to the atmosphere, the hot liquids flowing out leave behind travertine deposits of calcium carbonate. Essentially, this creates the terraces and formations we see today.
Exploring Mammoth Hot Springs
Liberty Cap is the first prominent feature of the area, it stands alone at roughly 40 feet tall. The cap is a dormant hot spring that was one flowing, and has not flown in a very very long time.
It was not always called the Liberty Cap, the locals had a different name for it that I won’t get into. If you have seen the cap in person, I’m sure you said hey, that looks like a fill in the blank.
Anyways, it’s cool to look at it and to know that the ground under it was flat at one time. After hundreds of years of water flow and deposits, the cap has risen from the ground up to where it is today.
Palette Spring is right next to the Liberty Cap. I really don’t think you can see one without the other. The Palette Spring has a vast array of colors being formed, similar to a painters paint palette. This would be my best guess on how it got it’s name.
That black feature sticking out of the Palette Terrace like a sore thumb is ironically called, the Devils Thumb. My best guess for the name would be that it looks like the black charred thumb of a creature that has been burning in hell.
Palette Spring has so many interesting colors that are produced, and it is still a running spring. When walking the trail around to the top of the spring, you can see where the water comes out of a pool at the top that feeds the Palette Terrace.
Minerva Terrace was the next section we strolled through and it was quite different. I noticed that it has a lot of gray, white, and black in its coloring. I’m pretty sure it’s because there isn’t a lot of new mineral deposits being laid down anymore in this terrace.
I had read somewhere that the springs can turn on and turn off, at random times based upon how much rainfall has been collected underground.
Mound Spring in Mammoth Hot Springs
Mound Spring was in my opinion, the most noteworthy section of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. The white colors really pop out in this terrace, and you can see clearly where new flows started and old ones end.
The bright white sections in these terraces are really cool because if you look at them very closely you can see tiny crystals on them. The water flows and steams over all these little ripples, and crystals.
In addition to the amazing scenery, I feel that the dark cloudy skies in the background really help to enhance the coloring of Mound Springs.
Mound Spring’s awesome colors come from an orange pigmented cyanobacteria, and the colors can change depending on the nutrients the bacteria feed on throughout the year.
In the photo above I wanted to show the boardwalk, it goes right over the terraces. If you are quiet you can hear the water trickling underneath and around you, and some of it is slightly flowing.
Look at the picture below, it’s what you would see over the sides of the walkway. It’s like there’s a bunch of small pools down below.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a beautiful place to be with epic sights and views. Stay on these board walks so as not to damage the hot springs and terraces. You can learn even more about this place on the national parks website here.
It takes a long time for mother nature to build these things, in addition, it takes no time at all for us to destroy them. Keep this in mind when visiting this epic place.
If you liked the Mammoth Hot Springs, check out these other places I explored in Yellowstone National Park
- TOP THINGS TO SEE IN YELLOWSTONE
- ARTIST’S PAINT POTS
- GRAND CANYON OF THE YELLOWSTONE
- THE GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING
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Here is a small list of some of the gear I used on this expedition.
- Camera: iPhone and GoPro
- Protective iPhone Case: Insipio Case
- Go Pro Handle: GoPro Handler
- Power Bank: Anker Bank
- Backpack: Camelback
- Jacket: Columbia Waterproof Jacket
- Boots: Vasque Boots
- Bear Spray: Counter Assault
- Sunscreen: Sky Organics