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Yellowstone National Park Attractions: Mammoth Hot Springs

February 12, 2013 - 4:13pm
Yellowstone National Park Attractions: Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park may be best known for Old Faithful, but this iconic geyser is not the only thermal feature the natural landscape has to offer. There are more than 10,000 hot springs and geysers throughout the more than 2.2 million acres of wilderness, and few are more beautiful than the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. These layered hot springs are constantly changing and growing, so even if travelers have visited the destination on an escorted vacation in the past, they might not recognize the formations upon their return. 

Why are there so many thermal features at Yellowstone?
Below the surface of Yellowstone lies one of the world's largest calderas, which are essentially craters formed when a volcano collapses. There is still a considerable amount of volcanic activity occurring below the surface of the park, and constant earthquakes ensure the heat from the magma can travel through the earth's crust, heating water and forming the various hot springs and geysers throughout the park. The Mammoth Hot Springs are actually located just outside the scope of the caldera, but scientists believe there is a fault line that connects this area to the volcanic activity, heating the water that bubbles to the surface of the various hot springs that make up the Mammoth area, according to National Park Services.

How do the Mammoth Hot Springs change?
The hot springs are formed by a combination of heat, water, limestone and fractures in the rocks that allow hot water to reach the surface. Essentially, cold water seeps into rock fractures, gets heated by the magma chambers below the ground, and then rises back to the surface. There is an abundance of limestone below the surface, and as the hot water moves up, it carries with it calcium carbonate created by carbon dioxide interacting with the limestone. The newly formed liquid mineral changes into a solid when it comes into contact with the air and contributes to the existing terraces, which is why the Mammoth Terraces constantly change in shape and color.

There are approximately 50 terraces filled to the brim with hot water, and the sight of these features is made all the more breathtaking by the steam rising off the water's surface. Senior travel groups are sure to be delighted by this natural wonder, as there are no other places quite like it in the world.