Frequently Asked Questions at Mammoth Hot Springs
Q. Are the springs drying up?
A. No, but they almost surely look different from the last time you saw them. Most of these springs are intermittent in their activity. The direction of flow down the hillside and the amount of water discharged by the springs changes all the time. Those of us who live here and are lucky enough to visit these springs often notice changes even on a day-to-day basis. We think that although individual springs dry up, there are at the same time new springs forming and other springs that become more active so that the overall volume of water discharged by all the springs remains fairly constant. Just because it doesn't look the same today as it did last time you were here doesn't mean that it won't look the way you remember again some day.
Q. Are the elk outside the visitor center tame?
A. No, but they have, to some degree, lost their fear of humans. They are still unpredictable. During the rut or mating season, the bull elk are extremely aggressive and are agitated easily. In the past several years, many vehicles have been damaged by the bulls attacking the cars. In the spring, cows with calves can also be dangerous if approached too closely.
Q. What were these old buildings?
A. The row of stone and wooden buildings facing the Mammoth Hotel were the officers' quarters for the U.S. Cavalry from 1891 to 1918. Take the Fort Yellowstone Online Tour for more information.
Q. Can we swim in the hot springs?
A. It is illegal to swim in park thermal features (it damages the resource and is very unsafe), but you may swim in bodies of water fed by runoff from thermal features. An established spot is on the Gardner River two miles north of Mammoth on the North Entrance road; this spot is known as Boiling, or Hot, River. It is only open during daylight hours, and it temporarily closes during periods of high water.
Q. What can we do at Mammoth in the winter?
A. You can try snowmobiling, snowcoach tours, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, hot tub rental, soaking in Boiling River, wildlife observation, self-guided tour of Fort Yellowstone and the Mammoth Terraces, ranger programs, Albright Visitor Center (museum and films), and/or drive to Cooke City.
Did You Know?
Prior to the establishment of the National Park Service, the U.S. Army protected Yellowstone between 1886 and 1918. Fort Yellowstone was established at Mammoth Hot Springs for that purpose.