Monday, June 22, 2009

My World: Artists Paint Pot

Typically we travel to Yellowstone each year for the abundance of wildlife that can be found there. However the wildlife is not the reason why Yellowstone was set aside as the worlds first national park. It is its geology that makes Yellowstone unique.
Many people have heard of Old Faithful before but Yellowstone is filled with many geological areas. Catastrophic volcanic eruptions that happened 2 million, 1.2 million and 600,000 years ago have left a landscape filled with geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots.
The last volcanic eruption, 600,000 years ago, happened in the middle of what is now Yellowstone. After erupting the volcano collapsed forming a 28 x 47 mile caldera, or basin. On the west side of the caldera close to midway between the Upper and the Norris Geyser Basin sits the Artist Paint Pots.
The Artist Paint Pots are named for the mud pots which are found in the area. Mud pots are hot springs with a limited water supply. Hydrogen sulfide gas rises up through these springs from deep inside the earth. Microorganisms living in the spring use this gas as a source of energy. In the process the gas is converted into sulfuric acid which breaks down the surrounding rocks and converts it to clay.
The clay is composed of minerals and fine particles of silica. Most of the rock in the area is rhyolite, which is chiefly composed of feldspar and quartz, which breaks up into the clay mineral kaolinite. The Crow tribe that lived in the area many years ago used this kaolinite clay to paint their tipis which is why the mud pots are called the Artists of Fountain Paint Pots.
The density or thickness of the mud is dependent on the season. In spring and early summer the mud is usually thin as it mixes with water from the spring rains and the snow melt. As summer progresses and the amount of rainfall lessens the mud begins to thicken. By late summer and fall the mud is typically quite thick which allows for flying mud as gas bubbles push through. Besides the mud pots there are other volcanic feature in the area. There are geysers, like Twig, Fountain, Morning and Clepsydra, none of which were erupting while I was there. There are also fumaroles and hot springs like Celestine Spring pictured above.
Red Spouter is a pool during the spring and early summer but during the dry season it loses its water and becomes a hissing fumarole. There is also leather pool which is named for the brown bacteria which grow in its waters.


Chris said...

Wow this is very impressive and looks like our hot spring around the country but it is still quite different. All the pleasure of blogging, then you can discover similar things in different countries. Thanks for sharing.

Sylvia K said...

Brought back lots of memories of several trips my family and I took to Yellowstone. Always one of my favorite places. Your information is really interesting, learned some things that I didn't know about the geysers! Thanks! Have a great week!

Calm Energy said...

Quite amazing photos!
I love the names these special places were given~ Maria

Guy D said...

Fascinating photos, your blog is definitely one of my favourites.

Have a great week
Regina In Pictures

Sally in WA said...

Great photos. I've always found this area fascinating when I've watched on TV. Never seen it in person...yet.

NatureStop said...

Nice images and interesting write up.

Arija said...

Great post, The kaolin looks great for making fine porcelain.

Snap said...

I really enjoyed this trip to Yellowstone with you and the Artists Paintpots. I could imagine the heat the blop, blop of the mud!!!!! Thank you!