Old Faithful Geyser

Geysers are transient geological features that periodically eject jets of steam and a column of hot water. They are usually found close to active volcanic areas and are extremely rare natural features found only in certain places that exhibit unusual conditions necessary for their occurrence. There are only about 1000 geysers throughout the planet and a majority of these geysers are found within the Yellowstone National Park that occupies parts of the US States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. At present, only two types of geysers including the fountain geysers and the cone geysers are observed. The Old Faithful Geyser is such a cone geyser that is situated at the top of the Upper Geyser Basin in the southwestern part of the Yellowstone National Park, in the Teton County of the US State of Wyoming.

About the Old Faithful Geyser

Old Faithful Geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park. 

Located at an elevation of 2,240m, the Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most well-known geysers in the world as well as in North America. The Old Faithful Geyser along with the adjacent Old Faithful Inn forms a part of Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Historic District. The spectacular fountain-like columns of steam and boiling waters ejected from the Old Faithful Geyser vary in height from 32 to 56m, with the average height being 44m. Normally these eruptions last between 1.5 to 5.5 minutes, and the intervals between these eruptions range from 60 to 110 minutes, with the average being 66.5 minutes. However, at present, this mathematical average between the eruptions have slowly increased to about 90 minutes, which geologists believe is due to the frequent earthquakes that have affected the underground water levels, thereby leading to much longer intervals between the successive eruptions. Nevertheless, these disruptions have made the eruptions of the Old Faithful Geyser more predictable, that since 2000, has erupted every 44 to 120 minutes. As per the park authorities, currently, the Old Faithful Geyser erupts about 20 times a day. Based on the duration and height of the previous eruption, the eruptions of the Old Faithful Geyser can be predicted with a 90% confidence rate within a variation of 10 minutes.

Bison in front of a steaming Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Bison in front of a steaming Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. 

The amount of hot water that is released by the Old Faithful Geyser also depends upon the duration of the eruption. It is estimated that about 3,700 US gallons of hot water is released for the short eruption duration of 1.5 minutes and 8,400 US gallons of hot water is released for a longer duration of 4.5 minutes. Studies have revealed that during an eruption, the water temperature at the opening of the geyser is about 95.6°C, while the superheated steam has a temperature above 176.6°C.

Brief History

Tourists watching the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Tourists watching the Old Faithful erupting in Yellowstone National Park. 

The Old Faithful Geyser was first discovered by the members of the “Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition” on September 18, 1870. The geyser was named “Old Faithful” since the members of the expedition noticed that the geyser erupted almost “faithfully” at regular intervals. The Old Faithful Geyser was also one of the first geysers out of more than 400 active geysers in the Yellowstone National Park that was given a name. The Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most famous attractions of the Yellowstone National Park that attracts more than 3 million visitors every year. In 2010, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center was established that provides the tourists an opportunity to know more about the scientific studies, hydrothermal features, and geology of the Old Faithful Geyser as well as the other hydrothermal features of the Yellowstone National Park.

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