Photo Essay: Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring
We’ve feasted our eyes on a great variety of beautiful landscapes in our travels, but nothing has come close to approaching the highly unusual Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States, and measures a whopping 250 x 380 feet. The hot spring sets on a wide mound among a small collection of mammoth-sized springs in what is called the Midway Geyser Basin.
As you can see in our photograph, steam shrouds the hot spring giving off a somewhat eerie blue/orange glow. The edge of the spring is effervescent giving the appearance that the water is boiling temperature. However, temperatures hover around 147 – 188°F.
Rudyard Kipling famously called this geyser basin “Hell’s Half Acre”
According to the Yellowstone National Park website, Rudyard Kipling visited Yellowstone in 1889 and immortalized this basin by referring to it as “Hell’s Half Acre”. Even today, it is still recognized by that name.
To get to the Grand Prismatic Spring, you must first pass along a wooden boardwalk that frequently disappears in a blanket of steam from the surrounding hot springs.
With a little patience, the steam will begin to clear and allow you to again make your way up to the Grand Prismatic Spring.
Here, I caught a young photographer wildly snapping photographs with the steam glowing blue and orange behind her.
As we approached the same spot as the young photographer above, this is what we saw…
and as we moved along the edge and caught the sun’s light at different angles, the colors become even more vibrant.
“The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red; the amount of color in the microbial mats depends on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids and on the temperature of the water which favors one bacterium over another. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.
The deep blue color of the water in the center of the pool results from the intrinsic blue color of water, itself the result of water’s selective absorption of red wavelengths of visible light. Though this effect is responsible for making all large bodies of water blue, it is particularly intense in Grand Prismatic Spring because of the high purity and depth of the water in the middle of the spring.” (via Wikipedia)
As a travel photographer, the Grand Prismatic Spring provided me with scores of cherished photographs and an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
As you’re bound to hear from me over and over, you must visit Yellowstone National Park. And when you do, for heaven’s sake, don’t miss the Grand Prismatic Spring!
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