Steamboat Geyser Eruption

It was the afternoon of October 2, 1991. I had just checked for elk in Gibbon Meadow and Elk Park and was heading north to check the meadow by the Norris Campground. As I approached the 4-way stop at Norris Junction, I noticed drops of water falling on my windshield. This seemed very strange, since it was a nice sunny afternoon with a clear blue sky. Maybe I should go into Norris geyser basin and see what's up.

From the moment I opened my car door, I knew something was wrong. There was a loud roaring noise and a big cloud of steam. I headed down the boardwalk as fast as I could go, with a bit of apprehension. As I got closer and closer, the roaring noise kept getting louder and louder.

Finally I could see the actual geyser, and it was in full eruption. The sound was a deafening thunderous roar plus a hissing sizzling sound. The ground was trembling. A big fat column of water was furiously blasting out of this geyser with big clouds of steam rolling off. I had to yell at the top of my lungs to talk to a person just a foot away. The whole atmosphere was just awesome, truly a spectacle of nature.

But you might say, "I've seen Old Faithful, so what's the big deal?" Well, this is nothing like Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupts to 100 feet or so, with a relatively dainty plume of water and hardly a sound, while all the spectators sit on the round boardwalk, take their photo, and say "Ahhh". By contrast, Steamboat is 350-400 feet tall, much beefier, and amazingly loud. Unfortunately, you really can't appreciate the magnitude of this geyser from this picture. I had to use a 24mm wide angle lens to get the whole plume in the frame, which makes the trees lean sideways and the whole thing seem small. Believe me, there is nothing small about this geyser.

Another thing that makes this experience extra special is the rarity of eruptions. There had not been another eruption since this one in 1991 until May 3, 2000.

Back in the parking lot, it was raining big time. All the cars were coated with these funny white deposits. I cleaned off my windshield with the wipers to see forward, but I had to roll down the side windows to see sideways. I washed it at the car wash in Gardiner, but discovered the stuff had etched my windshield ever so slightly. A small price to pay for seeing an eruption of the world's largest geyser.