• A bull elk bugles in Yellowstone National Park

    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?

Summer Crowd at Old Faithful.

At peak summer levels, 3,500 employees work for Yellowstone National Park concessioners and about 800 work for the National Park Service.