Volcanic Springs

Geysers, Hot Springs,
Mud Pots, and Fumaroles

Norris Geyser Basin of Yellowstone

Norris Basin, named in honor of Philetus Walter Norris, the park's second superintendent, lies about 4 km ( 2.5 miles) north of the northwest rim of the 640,000-year-old Yellowstone caldera and is the northernmost geyser basin in the park. Scientists believe that more or less continuous thermal activity at Norris dates back more than 150,000 years before present, making it the earliest hydrothermal basin of Yellowstone. Norris is also regarded as hottest geyser basin and as such it comprises a huge number of impressive geysers, including the currently tallest geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser. Besides a variety of acidic, neutral, or alkaline geysers, it features as many different types of hot spings, mud pots, and fumaroles as no other area in the park. Norris Porcelain Basin and Norris Back Basin are easily accessible and served by a large parking lot, while the other thermal areas within the region, Sulfur Dust Area, One Hundred Spring Plain, Upper and Lower Tantalus Basin, and The Gap are either closed to public entry or should be visited only by very experienced parties.

The following picture shows Norris Geyser Basin as seen from a northern roadway turnout. The large steam plume on the very left side belongs to Porcelain Basin. The steam plume in center marks the position of Steamboat Geyser in Back Basin. Just in front of it a bare area can be spotted, called One Hundred Spring Plain, which is not accessible by Norris Basin walkways. On the right side another large steam plume is visible, emitted by the Gray Lakes in the south corner of Norris Back Basin.

Norris Geyser Basin seen from north:

Norris Geyser Basin overview

Norris Geyser Basin
Very special to Norris Geyser Basin is a temporary increase of activity, which once or rarely a few times a year may find its expression in rising temperatures, turbidity, acidity, or water supply of hot springs. Lasting days up to weeks, this activated state, called disturbance, is most common in late summer. Therefore, it is sometimes referred to as "annual disturbance". Besides basin-wide disturbances also ones focused on sections of Norris Basin are known. There are several geysers at Norris, which are almost exclusively playing during a disturbance, and some usually quiet hot springs may turn into geysers, too. Scientists do have no final explanation of the mechanisms, but they believe that a decrease of the ground water level during the summer may depressurize the subjacent hydrothermal system and support a rise or convection of superheated water and steam. However, there must be additional factors involved because a disturbance can also occur in spring or at other times of the year.
If you are lucky to visit Norris Geyser Basin once during ordinary periods and on another occasion during a disturbance, you will experience very different hydrothermal events. On top of that, also the effects of disturbances may come in notable variations.

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