Take a tour of our newest visitor center with Exhibit Planner Sally Plumb.
Duration: 20 minutes, 24 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- Yellowstone National Park Web Video Team
- Date created:
Hi, I’m Sally Plumb.
Welcome to the new Old Faithful Visitor
Education Center. Come on in!
Welcome in to our wonderful new lobby.
As visitors enter from the geyser side,
the first thing they will see on their
right is our auditorium.
We’ll be showing park movies there that are
spaced around the geyser’s eruptions.
If you want to replenish your park literature,
the Yellowstone Association Bookstore,
will also be open for business.
We have an entire room that will be
dedicated to exhibits that will explore the
hydrothermal features of Yellowstone National Park.
And we have general orientation for our
park visitors; not only from our ranger desk,
but also on exhibits where they can help themselves.
This building has truly been a labor of love,
with a lot of efforts of time and organization.
On this wall, we recognize donations made to the
Yellowstone Park Foundation in their 15 million dollar
capital campaign fund that went toward the
construction of both the building and the exhibits.
Since the early 1870’s, visitors have come
to Yellowstone National Park.
Today, we get more than 3 million visitors per year.
This panel in the lobby area gives us a taste of
some of the souvenirs of past eras, as well the
words and thoughts of visitors from the past.
While you are in the lobby, you may be treated
to the eruption of Old Faithful Geyser.
The geyser erupts approximately every 90 minutes
and the picture windows in the lobby
frame the eruption beautifully.
The exhibit hall explores the hydrothermal areas
of Yellowstone National Park, as well as the underlying
processes and the unique ecology that exists here.
So we explore a number of different themes, starting
with the fact that Yellowstone is an active volcano.
The hot-spot associated with Yellowstone’s volcanic
activity has been active for about 16 million years
and the North American plate has drifted over it.
In this interactive exhibit, visitors can move the
North American plate slowly over the hot-spot until
it ends up in its present location over Yellowstone
National Park. A large number of visitors from
different countries come to the Old Faithful area
and so we have key exhibits translated into 4 different
languages: Spanish, French, German and Japanese.
This area of the exhibit hall focuses on how
geysers erupt and the different ingredients that
need to come together to form a geyser.
So we explore heat, water, the fracture system
and earthquakes in a little more detail, so that
visitors can put it all together and see how
geysers form. Beginning with heat, we take a
look at some of the evidence we have that a large
body of very hot molten rock underlies Yellowstone.
The transfer of heat is also explored in this
interactive exhibit; conduction, where heat is
transferred from one solid surface to another and
convection, where heat is transferred through currents.
Geysers also need water to exist.
And so in this exhibit, we explore the different
types of water that are found in a geyser’s system
and below the geyser. Magmatic water actually doesn’t
work its way into the geyser’s system,
but magma does release it.
In the deepest part of the system, the water may
reach temperatures far above the surface boiling point.
And the water begins in Yellowstone in the form of
rain and snow that circulates down through cracks and
fissures in the rock, before it makes its way into
a geyser’s system. Geysers require a unique
plumbing system. In this exhibit, we explore
the fractures and fissures in the rock. The water
makes its way down and has to work its way back up
through different types of rock.
The volcanic rock that under lies the geyser basin
is rhyolite, which is very rich in the mineral quartz.
And when the rock emerges on the surface,
after it has been dissolved by hot water,
it comes in the form of sinter.
A large piece of the interior of Pork Chop Geyser
was thrown out of the geyser when the geyser
experienced a hydrothermal explosion. So this
offers us a rare glimpse of the throat of a geyser.
Earthquakes are also a necessary ingredient to
keep geysers active, because they help clear away
the build-up of silica in the geyser’s system.
However, earthquakes can also be a destructive force
and alter or change forever the underground
plumbing system of a geyser. In the Yellowstone area,
we get about 2,000 earthquakes every year.
This exhibit combines all the different ingredients
and shows the entire eruption process.
We affectionately call this the ultimate graphic.
And one of the really interesting things about
this exhibit is that the sounds you are about to
hear as it goes through the process were
all made by a human voice.
(Exhibit audio gets louder and deeper.)
Here is a chance to explore different hydrothermal
areas, both in Yellowstone National Park and
in the world. The first panel explores the
Upper Geyser Basin and some, though hardly
all of the geysers found here. The Upper Geyser Basin
has approximately 150 geysers and we are just
highlighting on this panel some of the major ones.
This side of the panel highlights hydrothermal areas
around the park; everywhere from Mammoth to Norris
to the Upper Geyser Basin to some of the
less known geyser basins, such as Shoshone.
And the third panel explores a sampling of
hydrothermal areas around our planet.
You can find out both the location
and a little bit about the geyser.
Great Geysir for instance, occurs in Iceland
and is the namesake of all geysers.
Our exhibits also explore the different types of
bbbhydrothermal features that are found in the park.
Many people think that we just have geysers and
hot springs here. But we also have steam vents,
also called fumaroles, and mudpots.
In this interactive exhibit, you have a chance
to compare and contrast different types of
hydrothermal features. For instance,
I want to compare Oblong Geyser; and then
I can compare it with Castle Geyser.
We ask a basic question; which of these two is
a fountain geyser? And then we can compare and
get in depth statistics on both geysers.
Each of the four different types of
hydrothermal features is explored in depth.
And those four are geysers, hot springs,
steam vents and mudpots. We include a diagram
on each of the different features, so visitors
can understand the differences that are below
ground in addition to the differences that
they see above ground. One of my favorite
exhibits is in the mudpot section where you
have a chance to see a video that looks
like you are looking directly down into
the mouth of a mudpot. This is being filmed
a week before the grand opening and we are
still putting final touches on some of
the exhibits, including our diorama.
This will be a representation of a typical
hot spring and will explore a lot of the
ecology that occurs in and around the hot spring.
One theme we explore in the new visitor center
is the extreme conditions that some of the
plants and animals encounter around the
hydrothermal areas of Yellowstone.
Yellowstone has hydrothermal areas that range
all the way in acidity all the way to 14
on the PH scale, with 1 being the most acidic,
like battery acid.
In this exhibit we compare some of the
hydrothermal features in the park with
common house hold items, so that visitors
get an understanding of how acidic or
How alkaline our features are.
As far as we know, Yellowstone doesn’t
have any hydrothermal features that are
more than 10 in the PH scale.
We call this exhibit a visual poem of the
microbes of Yellowstone. These are images
of Yellowstone’s smallest life forms that
were taken through a microscope.
Yellowstone’s extreme microbes have figured
in some interesting scientific discoveries.
One of our exhibits explores Yellowstone’s
most famous microbe, Thermus aquaticus, which
revolutionized the DNA fingerprinting process.
Also, our microbes occur in places that you
would never think to look. And we explore
some of the different areas and how they
appear in different parts of the park.
The microbes also figure in some uses
that we might never suspect, such as
salad dressings or make-up.
In this part of the exhibit hall,
we explore scientific investigation that
has taken place in Yellowstone’s
hydrothermal areas. Rather than concentrating
just on the Upper Geyser Basin,
we selected four different areas scattered
around Yellowstone National Park that have
some pretty interest hydrothermal
investigation being done.
This first exhibit focuses on Norris Geyser
Basin and explores the basic question of why
does Norris Geyser Basin experience some vast
and dramatic changes throughout the year?
And so, we give visitors a chance to
explore some of the reasons that scientists
have determined. Norris Geyser Basin sits
at the junction of three separate faults,
which is part of the reason that it is
such an unstable area. So here visitors
have a chance to overlay the evidence.
The first exhibit focuses on where the
caldera lines are; and then we can see
where faults occur in relation to the
caldera lines and then see where
earthquakes occur around the faults.
The next area of scientific investigation
is Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth occurs
near the northern end of the park and is
different than other hydrothermal areas
because there are no geysers in Mammoth
and also the underlying rock is limestone
rather than the volcanic rhyolite.
In this exhibit, visitors have a chance
to look through a magnifying glass at
the travertine that is so predominate
in the Mammoth Hot Springs area and compare
it with the geyserite that is commonly found
around the geysers in areas such as
the Upper Geyser Basin.
One scientific investigation has revealed
that microorganisms figure in the formation
of the Mammoth Terraces. They reveal that
there are several different formations that
form of the travertine being deposited,
depending on the slope and the rate of
water and the microorganisms that live
in the various places. So this exhibit
allows you to look into different areas
along a hot spring and if you could
magnify them by several times,
this is what you would see.
The same place is magnified to 2 times
and the same place is them magnified
to 200 times.
Our third highlighted area of scientific
investigation is the Grand Canyon of the
Yellowstone. Studies have revealed that
the Grand Canyon is a cross section into
a hydrothermal area. Kind of like if you
could take a knife and slice through the
Upper Geyser Basin, this is what you
might see on the inside.
The rocks of the Grand Canyon tell an
interesting story of geologic history.
Here we have specimens of 2 different
types of rock that are found in the park;
the non-altered rock and then the rock
that has been changed and altered by
And our forth area of scientific investigation
is Yellowstone Lake. A portion of the lake
sits within the caldera of 640,000 years ago
and scientists have revealed that the
lake bottom is covered with hydrothermal vents
and some interesting formations such as
these spires. Researchers believe the spires
are the remains of ancient hot springs and
the tree-like branches there are caused by
the interaction of hot water meeting with
cold water. They’ve also been able to
shoot footage that reveals some of the secrets
of the deep, the bottom of Yellowstone Lake.
You can learn more about the hydrothermal areas
of Yellowstone, their unique ecology,
how geysers work and the variety of
hydrothermal features that occur in Yellowstone
by exploring our Virtual Visitor Center right
from the comfort of your own home.
Look under photos and multimedia at www.nps.gov/yell.
We have a special room, made especially for
our youngest scientists and whoever else would
like to engage in a lot of hands-on activities.
Let’s take a look inside!
Many of the colorful bands in Yellowstone’s
hot springs are actually caused by
living microorganisms. And so in this exhibit,
our young scientists have a chance to take
temperatures, pretend temperatures in a pretend
hot spring. They can move down this temperature
gauge, get a reading of 110 degrees and then
compare it with the panels over to the side;
in this case this one, to see what might be
actually living there.
The microbial mats in many of Yellowstone’s
hot springs are actually composed of different
layers and to help children understand that,
we’ve compared the mats to an apartment
building where different people live on
different stories and yet they all
interact with each other.
When visitors come to the Old Faithful area,
of course one of the things they really want
to know is-when is the geyser going to erupt?
In this exhibit, we try to teach children
how to predict the time of Old Faithful Geyser,
which is based on the previous eruption.
We filmed 4 different times that the geyser
erupted and the children can select whichever
one they want and then be able to experience
step-by-step instructions of how to predict
the geyser eruption time. So, are you ready?
We will start the timer when we see the water
start to jet out continuously; right about now.
And we’ll stop the timer when we see the
last small splash of water; let’s try this.
We timed the eruption at 2 minutes and 17
seconds and now we have a chance to see when
it actually did erupt.
Old Faithful tends to erupt every 90 minutes
if the eruption lasts longer than 2 minutes
and 30 seconds and every 60 minutes if it
last less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
We said 2:17, so we can check our answer.
It looks like my estimate was pretty accurate,
but if you were wrong or if you just want
to try it again, you can start over.
We have a life size geyser model in the room.
You’ll have a chance to watch the interplay
of heat and water and pressure interacting
together to make the geyser erupt.
Meters on the geyser model measure the
temperature at 205 degrees, while the
boiling point here at Old Faithful is
actually about 199 degrees. Old Faithful
Geyser, when it erupts, is about 204 degrees.
Be careful though, if you’re standing
here to long, you might get splashed.
Children will have a chance to learn more
about some of the animals that live around
the geyser basins or that come here for food
and warmth at different times of the year.
This exhibit explores some of the tracks of
what you might expect to see in the geyser basins.
Children can also put their foot next to some
of these tracks to see how they stack-up.
One of the interesting things that children
will learn about is that animals that live
around the hydrothermal basins year around
experience tooth decay a whole lot faster
than those animals that live away from
hydrothermal areas. This is because the
plants in hydrothermal basins tend to be
coated with silica, which is like glass
and additionally are high in fluoride
content, which makes the teeth soft.
So here children will compare the teeth
of an elk that lived away from the basins
with those that lived in and look at the
teeth decay. This room is also equipped
with a special gathering place just for
children so that they can attend lectures
here or that classroom can present videos
on a special screen that faces the area
or that tired parents can just wait for their
children to finish enjoying the exhibits here.
While you are waiting, see if you know the
answer to some of these popular Yellowstone myths.
For instance, is it true that Old Faithful Geyser
is the tallest geyser in the world?
And the answer is, No, because Steamboat Geyser,
in the Norris Geyser Basin is actually
the tallest geyser in the world.
This building qualified for the
Gold LEED level. LEED stands for Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design and is
measured in the following areas:
sustainable sites, water efficiency,
energy and atmosphere, materials and resource,
indoor environment quality and innovation in design.
Thanks for touring the Old Faithful Visitor
Education Center virtually. Come back and
see us in person, because there is a lot
more to see here than I was able to cover
bin this brief tour.