YELLOWSTONE III MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS by john aldrich

In 1966 an excited young twenty-four year old traveler visited the West and some of its National Parks for the first time. One of the lingering memories was of our stop at Mammoth. We probably only spent one night in the campground as we were on the move almost every day, but for some reason this location (as well as Glacier NP) made an indelible impression on me.

Now, fifty years later, I was returning for the first time since that early visit. Mammoth is the only area of Yellowstone I hadn't seen in more recent years, so this was something I had looked forward to since the start of our trip.

The weather and skies were unsettled during the time we were there, but that's generally good for photography so we couldn't complain. There were people around but it wouldn't be called crowded like some of the spots we had visited over the previous several days.

The following photograph provides a view of Mammoth from the top of the hill where the hot springs extend down in terraces through which a lattice of boardwalks wander. In the settlement, the large buildings are the historic hotel and its associated dining room.

The thermal features are primarily hot springs and their associated terraces formed by the accumulation of mineral deposits. There are endless fanciful formations and colorful areas created by thermophilic bacteria. Skeletons of trees unable to survive this environment stand in stark contrast.

For a bit of ambience before moving on to still photos watch this brief video.

The following photographs depict a representative spectrum of features that caught my eye. They will be presented without caption or comment since the specific location doesn't seem to me to be relevant.

Thermal features weren't the only sights to see at Mammoth. There were many elk in the area, and they were clearly accustomed to people. When we first arrived we noted many that were lounging on the grass among the buildings and obliging tourists by providing nice backgrounds for their selfies. During our walk through the hot spring terraces we heard bugling and spotted a bull under a tree across the highway. A cow nearby seemed to be succumbing to his charms.

He eventually lumbered to his feet and headed off toward town followed by several of his harem. This video catches a few moments of that action.

The community of Mammoth was also interesting to explore. The historic hotel was the centerpiece, but many other buildings had clearly been a part of the original army post. (Click to view larger.)

Between Mammoth and Gardiner the highway follows the Gardiner River and descends roughly a thousand feet in 5 miles. It was a scenic stretch of road that enticed us to stop several times for photos. We also hiked a quarter mile to a thermal area we could see from above. This turned out to be a place where water from hot springs flowed into the river and created a spot called Boiling River which was the only location in the park where bathing in thermal areas was permitted.

We then enjoyed our second night at the Best Western in Gardiner where the breakfasts were the finest of our trip. The following day would be our adventure getting to Old Faithful.

Created By
John Aldrich
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