|LIBERTY CAP (At the right) 0.4|
|The curved layers and an opening in the top indicate
that this was once the nozzle of a hot spring. Compare with Devils
Thumb, located a little farther away. The Hot Spring Terraces are made
of travertine which is largely composed of lime.|
0.4 (At the left) CAPITOL HILL|
A huge mass of glacial gravel resting upon the terrace material, or travertine.
|Gives the horizontal sky line. Mammoth Lodge and its 300 cabins. Beautiful view up
valley of Gardiner River and Lava CreekNote winding road to Tower
Opposite the Lodge is Jupiter Terrace, one of the largest of its kind
||Bunsen Peak (directly in front) is a huge mass of lava, and was named
for the inventor of the Bunsen Lamp. Bunsen gave the first plausible
theory of geyser action.
We are climbing out of the valley of the Gardiner River.
Stop at Parking Area.|
In the foreground take in the wonderful view of Jupiter Terrace. Sheep
Mountain is in the distance at the north, and Sepulcher Mountain at the
northwest. On our right is Mount Everts.
|We pass the entrance to Formations Road leading to Devils Kitchen,
Stygian Caves, etc.|
Bunsen Peak covered with Lodgepole pine.
Note how fire destroyed large tracts at the left.
This occurred in 1883. A new growth is now
TRAIL TO SNOW PASS CROSSING
We now pass through a growth of Aspens.
These trees are related to the Cottonwood and
Poplar. The bark is a favorite food of the
beaver and elk.
A nearer view of Bunsen Peak shows that it is scored by landslides. In
the distance far to the east are seen the rounded peaks of the Washburn
|3.5||Stop at Siding. At right a bank of coarse gravel. At
left the entire floor of the valley is covered with stones and other
material as though it had been a dumping ground. The small ponds are
surrounded by hills of gravel. To the north Sheep Mountain and other
peaks of the Snowy Range. Look way across the valley at Mount Everts
and note the oblique lines or strata. These indicate the layers of
sediment which formed on the bottom of an arm of the ocean when this
part of the country was submerged. At that time there were no birds or
mammals, like those of today, and, of course, no human beings. Much
later came flows of lava. One of these can be seen as a thin cap over
the southern end (right) of the mountain.||3.5|
|On the horizon, at the left of Bunsen, the peaks of the Washburn Group
again appear as rounded hills.|
SILVER GATE AND THE HOODOOS
Approaching Silver Gate we are abruptly confronted
with a picturesque mass of huge blocks of stone. This is a gigantic
landslide and we will presently see whence it came. The charred trunks
are the ghost of a forest destroyed by fire. Young trees are beginning
to spring up.
THE RHYO-TRAVERTINE GULCH
These whitish angular rocks may be traced to the top
of Terrace Mountain where they form a distinct layer. At some remote
time hot springs were active on the crest of this mountain and their
limy deposits covered a wide area to a considerable depth.
The brownish rock on which the travertine rests is
rhyolite, the same kind of rock that crowns Mount Everts.
It appears that at one time the entire valley below
was filled to the height of Mount Everts and that layers of molten rock
flowed across this ancient surface. Upon cooling this lava hardened
into the brownish rhyolite of today. After long periods of erosion hot
springs deposited successive layers of travertine.
Eventually glaciers descended from the south and
west, overriding the old hot spring formations, carrying rocks and
gravel, remnants of which may be found resting upon the travertine of
As the ice moved down valley blocks of travertine
and rhyolite were broken off and plucked from the mountainside. As these
rocks were shoved, rolled and dragged along, they were worn down and
mixed up and finallyon the melting of the icethey were left
as hillocks of coarse gravel and boulders which we passed on our way up
Here, near their origin, the travertine blocks and
rhyolite boulders have not begun to mingle.
The configuration of this mass of volcanic rock and
its composition (dacite rather than rhyolite) are evidences that it was
intruded in a semi-molten state from hot layers of the earth's crust.
From the fact that when we ascend the canyon we will find that the
layers of rhyolite apparently flowed against its flanks it is
evident that Bunsen Peak must have been well established long
While here in the gulch let us review the sequence
of geological events.
1. Bunsen Peak was intruded as a stock.
2. Erosion of surrounding area established Bunsen
3. Rhyolite flowed against its flank and across the
4. Hot springs brought up lime from the deep-lying
rocks and began to deposit itas travertineupon the upper layers of
5. Glaciers of the Ice Agetwenty or thirty
thousand years agotore off and transported both travertine and
6. Hot springs continued to deposit travertinethey
were not extinguished by the ice.
7. Present-day vegetation and climatic agencies are
wearing away the picturesque landscape in a tireless effort to reduce
everything to a level of uniformity.
We enter and ascend Golden Gate Canyon and in doing
so pass upward through the thick layers of rhyolite already observed. We
are literally walled in by them. From the varying colors and structure
of these frowning walls we conclude that they result from several
distinct volcanic flows.
|4.9||We pass through Golden Gateso named because of
the brilliant yellow of an encrusting lichen (one of the lower plants)
and emerge on Swan Lake Flat.
|At the left is a road around Bunsen Peak. (A
fascinating drive down the Gardiner Riverthe canyon of which is
lined with lava that has cooled into a marvelous series of
columnspast Osprey Falls and back to Mammoth.)|
|We have climbed a thousand feet since leaving Mammoth
and are nearly a mile and a half above sea level. Before us stretches
the "Great Rhyolite Plateau" and on this plateau we will generally
remain while following the "loop roads" around the park.|
SWAN LAKE PANORAMA
We stop and take in a wonderful panorama. Swan Lake
Flat was once the bottom of a large lake, surrounded by banks, terraces
and hillocks. The hills are largely composed of the same kind of
glacial debris that made Capitol Hill, and was seen covering the valley
of Gardiner River. The glacier which arose on the mountains at the west
(Gallatin) was of relatively late occurrence and must have been a big
The surrounding mountain peaks are as follows: At
the rear, (N.E.) Bunsen, at the left of which is the light gray crust of
Terrace Mountain. Farther removed is the rounded, partially wooded,
Sepulcher Mountain, and still farther the jagged Electric Peak, hardened
by many igneous intrusions. A small cap of rhyolite on the top of Bunsen
Peak suggests that rhyolite flows may have reached as high as its
summit. To the Southwest are four apparently united peaks. The one at
the left is Trilobite Point, so-called because trilobitesfossils
of crustacean-like animalshave been found in the rocks of this
mountain. The second is named for an eminent scientist, who gave the
first geological description of the park, Dr. W. H. Holmes. On its
summit a small "lookout" can be seen. The remaining two peaks in this
group form Dome Mountain. Further to the right, Antler Peak
stands quite alone. The long ridge extending from Antler toward Electric
is Quadrant Mountain. The peaks from Trilobite to Electric mark the
crest of the Gallatin Range. Ten miles to the west of this range is the
Toward the easton the distant skyline and south
of Bunsen Peakare a series of elevations that mark the location
of the Washburn Group, Mount Washburn, Tower Falls and Camp Roosevelt
lie beyond this ridge.
Swan Lake is all that is left of a large lake that
once covered this level area. The rare Trumpeter Swan is nesting here.
Please do not disturb them.
If you wish to know the names of birds, flowers,
trees, etc., you should visit the Trailside Museums and Field Exhibits
located at various points on the "loop."
Proceed slowly. The middle distance is covered by
Lodgepole pines. In the foreground are low hillocks and ridges of
glacial gravel and volcanic rock.
|There is an exposure of basalt on the extreme right.
It shows that this dark, heavy lava at one time flowed out upon the
rhyolite plateau on which we are riding.|
|>Here we get our best view of the peaks of the
Gallatin Range. Notice how abruptly they rise like islands out of a sea.
They are old mountains partially engulfed in lava flows. The parallel
bands or strata on the mountains of the Gallatin Range recall those on
Mt. Everts. They are significant. The strata are not volcanic, they are
sedimentary. They contain fossils of marine animals and therefore, they
must have formed on the bottom of some ancient sea or seas.|
Geologists tell us that the entire area that we now
call the Rocky Mountains was the bed or beds of shallow seas and as the
sedimentary layers were lifted, they emerged from the ocean and the
eroded remains, which lie before us, now are eight or nine thousand feet
above the present sea level.
During this process the horizontal layers have been
tilted, folded and cracked. Volcanic rocks have been intruded. Crests
and peaks have been worn away, valleys have been formed and molten lava
has repeatedly flowed up from below covering the surface as we have
A road leads to the Basaltic Amphitheatre, on
the left, one-fourth mile away, and well worth
|We note the junction of Obsidian Creek, and the
Gardiner River. The latter conveys the melted snow from the Gallatin
Mountains and adjacent foothills. From this point it is quite evident
that Quadrant Mountain is composed of stratified rocks.|
|Camp ground on right.||9.0|
|We follow Obsidian Creek and enter Willow Park.
Stunted willows cover the valley. Remember that we are in a high
altitude, the winters are long and cold. Certain trees cannot live
here. Look sharp for moose.|
|THE BEAVER DAM FIELD EXHIBIT||10.9|
|We park and dismount. Mount Holmescrowned by a
small lookout stationrises in the west. Trilobite Point extends
towards us. To the right is Dome. Immediately in front of us several
beaver dams arrest the flow of Obsidian Creek. Sediment is consequently
deposited. Vegetation takes root and fertile soil results. Through this
the river meanders. Thus the beaver has much to do with the formation
of arable land. Look back toward Sepulcher Mountain and see the extent
of the meadow-like area.|
|Dismount and sample the water. The spring is
well-named. As we proceed be sure to note the black, glassy boulders by
the roadside and in the gravel pits. They are evidence that we are
approaching Obsidian Cliff.|
The yellow water lily grows in this small lake which
is gradually being filled with encroaching vegetation and silt.
|THE OBSIDIAN CLIFF FIELD EXHIBIT||12.8|
|Park, read the labels and get the story. We are still ascending Obsidian
Creek and before us opens another broad valley, the result of the work
of beavers. Sedges, here, rather than willows.|
|ANOTHER BEAVER DAM||13|
Look across the pond and see the "beaver house," near
one of the telephone poles. Wild ducks breed here. On the left of the
road is a mass of rhyolite. In places, obsidian passes imperceptibly
As we proceed, we note that there are no obsidian
boulders along the roadside and we conclude that when the glacier
picked up material from Obsidian Cliff it was flowing northerly rather
than in the direction we are going. It is by such evidence that the
geologist reads the "Book of Nature."
|Obsidian Creek is growing smaller. Highways often
follow water courses because water finds and follows the low grades.
Note the profusion of flowers.|
The Geologist reads this gravel bank as follows
1. At the close of the Ice Age the valley of Obsidian
Creek was a lake.
2. A stream from the uplands flowed into this
3. At first the stream brought fine sediment which
was deposited as clay, and now forms the base of the bank. If you
examine the clay carefully you will find that it was deposited in
4. On top of the clay is a brownish band of fine
gravel. Something must have happened upstream. It looks as though hot
springs had broken out somewhere and iron and sulphur had solidified and
stained the gravel.
5. Since "the more rapid the flow the larger the
pebbles" we conclude that the streams emptying into the lake must have
had varying velocities.
6. The colored (red) bank a little farther on gives
positive proof thatafter rivers deposit sand and gravelhot
springs, bearing iron and other coloring matter, may come into
existence. The oblique line is evidence that underlying strata have
moved a little and made a "fault line"that a miniature
7. Semi-Centennial Geyser proves that violent
hot spring activity may be of short
duration. During the celebration of the fiftieth
anniversary of the founding of the Park, there was a violent explosion
at this point. Rocks and boiling water were blown to a height of three
hundred feet, traffic was stopped and thermal activity took part in the
8. We conclude that hot chemical vapors are active
agents in disintegrating rhyolite. Remember this when you marvel at the
depth of the canyon of the Yellowstone.
9. See how the disintegrated and dissolved rhyolite
gathers into small heaps.
10. When it rains, this powdered rhyolite is carried
off by the small streams. It starts on its long journey to the
11. In the ocean it settles down as sediment and thus
nature transforms an igneous rock into one that is sedimentary.
|Notice how several little meadows have been made by this small
stream. It has been assisted, of course, by the rain and snow that have brought
dirt down from the side hills. Steam rises from several places.|
|Here we leave Obsidian Creek, the waters of which finally reach the
Yellowstone at Gardiner.|
|The storyand an interesting oneis told on
|The first, nine feet or more above the second, is
deep olive green. The second is of a different shade. The lakes are
apparently being kept apart by an old beaver dam upon which trees are
now growing, the interlacing roots of which preserve the original
structure. These lakes drain into the Gibbon rather than into the Yellowstone. We have,
therefore, crossed what is called a "divide."|
|18.6||NYMPH LAKE FIELD EXHIBIT||18.6|
This is a most instructive spot.
1. At the left is an outcrop of our old friendthe rhyolite.
2. Through its cracks and crevices hot decomposing
gases have arisen from below destroying its character and changing it
into mineral substances of various texture and color.
3. The action is still going on. Look up at the left
and see the stream and fumes.
4. As you climb the hillock, the soil becomes hot and
around the vents you will find that, as the vapors cool, sulphur in
fine, yellow crystals is being deposited. (Don t disturb, others too
may want to see.)
5. Below us, on the right of the road, vapors are
also rising. There is a boiling pool.
6. Some of the water in Nymph Lake doubtless filters
down onto the hot underlying rocks and comes back superheated.
|THE FRYING PAN||18.8|
|Don't be fooled. It is not boiling, plants are growing around the edges. The
bubbles are made by escaping gases.|
More rhyolite. Altered at the far end as it approaches hot springs and
|As we proceed we see more hot springs and the earth by the roadside is
warm, vaporous and discolored.|
Lodgepoles as far as you can seemillions of them. On the horizon
at the left rise the low mountains that we noted as comprising the
||The road now passes through a highly colored, whitish
formation. Can it be that these hills are composed of mineral matter
like Terrace Mountain that has been brought up from below by
superheated water and stream? No. If we study this formation we find
that the whitish banks along the roadside were originally composed of
rhyolite, such as we have recently seen, but they have been decomposed
into gravel and sand. Vapors of sulphur, and other gases have bleached
the original darker lava and solutions of iron oxide and iron hydroxide
have stained it yellow, red and pink.
NORRIS RANGER CAMP
AND AUTO CAMP
Here, at a concrete bridge, we meet the Gibbon River
down the valley of which we will presently go until at Madison Junction
it joins the Firehole River, and thus forms the Madison. The Madison
empties into the Missouri at Three Forks, Montana. (The water travels
more than four thousand miles before reaching the ocean at New Orleans.)
Look around for elk.
Norris-Canyon freight road. Narrow, winding road, 25-mile speed limit.|
We bear to the right and suddenly come out on
the rim of Norris Geyser Basin"Nature's Laboratory."
Here, through the agency of hot water, steam and
other vapors, quartz and other mineral matter is being brought to the
surface from be low and deposited as "sinter." Not only are the exposed
hills of rhyolite being decomposed but the underlying rocks are yielding
in this "chemical warfare."
In the distance we again identify the mountains of
the Gallatin Range. The profile from this angle is quite different from
that heretofore seen. The lookout station identifies Holmes. The
diagonal strata identify Antler and Quadrant. The dark area under the
strata of Antler is a huge mass of once molten rock which was forced out
of the earth, actually lifting the mountain and tilting it out of
Nuphar, a cool lake, considerably above the level of
the basin. Why does it not drain into the basin?|
|We pass steaming vents and violent jets of scalding
THE NORRIS TRAILSIDE MUSEUM
Parking area on left beyond museum.
You will add to the profit of your visit by spending
some time examining the exhibits, reading the labels, referring to the
relief map and conversing with the Ranger Naturalist. A half hour,
self-guiding nature trail starts from the rear of the museum. It provides
many interesting sights.