Cone Geysers

Riverside Geyser

Many of Yellowstone's most famous geysers, including Old Faithful, are cone-type geysers.



The plumbing system of a cone-type geyser usually has a narrow constriction close to the geyser's vent. During eruptions, the constriction acts like a nozzle, causing the water to jet in great columns. The cone is formed by the constant deposition of silica around the geyser's vent.

While traveling underground through volcanic rhyolite, the thermal water dissolves silica, then carries it to the surface. Although some of the silica lines the underground plumbing system, a portion may be deposited around the outside of a geyser to form a distinctive cone. The splashing of silica-rich thermal water may also form spiny, bulbous masses of "geyserite."

The vents within these massive cones are often very narrow, causing the water to splash and spray as it emerges. Every splash and each eruption adds its own increment of silica, enlarging the cones as the years pass. The cones of many of Yellowstone's geysers are hundreds of years old.



Beehive is an example of a cone geyser. It was so named because its four-foot high cone resembles an old fashioned beehive. Though its cone is modest compared to others in the Upper Geyser Basin, Beehive is one of the most powerful and impressive geysers in the park. Typically, Beehive's activity is not predictable, but when eruption cycles start, intervals between eruptions can range from 10 hours to five days. An average eruption lasts about five minutes.

Additional Resources

Hydrothermal Features

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