• An aerial view of Old Faithful erupting taken from Observation Point with the Old Faithful Inn to the side.

    Yellowstone

    National Park ID,MT,WY

Mammoth Terraces and How They Work

Spectacular travertine terraces of limestone color the landscape at Mammoth Hot Springs.

At Mammoth Hot Springs, a rarer kind of spring is born when the hot water ascends through the ancient limestone deposits of the area instead of the silica-rich lava flows of the hot springs common elsewhere in the park. The results are strikingly different and unique. They invoke a landscape that resembles a cave turned inside out, with its delicate features exposed for all to see. The flowing waters spill across the surface to sculpt magnificent travertine limestone terraces. As one early visitor described them, "No human architect ever designed such intricate fountains as these. The water trickles over the edges from one to another, blending them together with the effect of a frozen waterfall."


How They Work

Water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of dissolved calcium carbonate. At the surface, carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming travertine, the chalky white rock of the terraces. Due to the rapid rate of deposition, these features constantly and quickly change.

Did You Know?

Yellowstone Wolf.

There were no wolves in Yellowstone in 1994. The wolves that were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996 thrived and there are now over 300 of their descendents living in the Greater Yellowstone Area.