Volcanic Springs

Geysers, Hot Springs,
Mud Pots, and Fumaroles

Geysers and hot springs in the United States of America

In search of geysers and hot springs the locations of active, dormant, or even extinct volcanoes are a good starting point. Volcanic activity in the United States is focused, besides Alaska and Hawaii, on the Rocky Mountains and the adjacent west coast, which are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Numerous volcanoes of different types, lava domes, and cinder cones are lined up along the states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Accordingly, the list of places with hydrothermal features in the US is quite long. But some geyser sites, for example in the desert of Nevada, are appearing apart from volcanic heat sources. They are probably powered by tectonic movement processes.

Mount Rainier in Washington, the tallest stratovolcano of the American Cascade Volcanic Arc:

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier
In terms of geysers and hot springs one spot, the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming's Rocky Mountains, outshines all other worldwide. Comprising more than 700 geysers (around 300 of them are regarded as active) and more than 10,000 hot springs, it is by far the largest field of hydrothermal features on earth. Over 60% of all known geysers are to be found here. Since the late 1980s scientific investigations have revealed that thermal activity has to be attributed to a "super volcano's" giantic magma chamber 5 miles (8 km) under the Yellowstone caldera.

Yellowstone National Park, Grand Geyser Complex:

Yellowstone Grand Geyser

The Beowawe sinter terrace in north-central Nevada was second to Yellowstone for its number of active geysers, but otherwise the small area featured the highest density of generally active natural geysers in North America. It was located on a slope in Whirlwind Valley, 15 km (5 mi) southwest of the village of Beowawe. Nowadays, a gravel road cuts right through the terrace, and all geysers and springs are dry as a result of geothermal drilling, which started in 1957. The destruction work was completed by bulldozing debris into the remaining vents to prevent the production wells from a loss of steam.
Prior to 1957, Donald E. White, a leading geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, studied the geyser field over 12 years. In the U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin The Beowawe Geysers, Nevada, before Geothermal Development from 1998 he documented the positions of 28 active geysers, even attached fascinating color photographs of the main geysers, and mapped several further hot springs.
White also described 7 named geysers on the field in more detail, as well as two unnamed ones. Beowawe Geyser was the most prominent and the largest of all. It erupted for 2 minutes to a height of 8-10 m (26-33 feet) at an interval of 30 minutes or longer. The same interval was found for Spitfire Geyser, which reached a height of 3-5 m (10-16 feet). Another large geyser was called Teakettle Geyser, spouting water form two vents up to 5 m (16 feet) into the air at an interval about 6 minutes.
White Flame Geyser exhibited cyclic activity and played every 7 minutes to a height of 1.3 m (4 feet). In contrast, the vent of Orange Spouter caught the eye for its bright color rather than for a strong or frequent play. A pile of sinter covered boulders was the reason for Pincushion Geyser’s name. The boulders were possibly implaced by Indians and formed six vents for the geyser to erupt. Frying Pan Geyser was splashing up to 60 cm (2 feet) out of a large blue pool, sitting at the foot of the slope. A picture of Frying Pan Geyser, taken in 1983, can be seen here. Last but not least, one of the unnamed geysers on location was active during every of White's visits over the 12 years observation period, erupting for at least 10 minutes to a height of about 3 m (10 feet).
There are bitter comments on the internet from people who observed the destruction or even tried to prevent it back in the 1950s. Most of them come to the conclusion that the people and the state of Nevada lost a gem of nature and all the economical chances coming with an unique nature reserve. On the other hand, they got an inferior, temporally limited energy source to a benefit of a few.

Nearly the same sad history applied to the Steamboat Springs, the third largest geyser field of North America, 14 km (9 mi) south of Reno in Nevada. On three sinter terraces, Lower, Main, and High Terrace, 25 geysers were recorded. Up until 1860, one of them spouted up to 25 m (80 feet) high. Thereafter, an increasing utilization of hot water diminished the power of the geysers, but at least 21 of them remained active until 1987. Then the State of Nevada allowed a company to exploit geothermal energy near the geyser field, which lowered the water table drastically and stopped all geyser activity. In contrast to Yellowstone and to Beowawe, none of the geysers at Steamboat Springs had been officially named, instead a number system was used, introduced by Donald E. White.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California is another example of a high-temperature area with a good number of hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles. However, no true geysers are occurring here.

Lassen Peak in California, a plug dome volcano of the Pacific Ring of Fire:

Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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