GOSA (The Geyser Observation and Study Association)


Geysers and Pools

in the

Norris Geyser Basin



[ Introduction ]
[ Back Basin ] [ Porcelain Basin ]

Porcelain Basin

[Norris Geyser Basin Introduction provided by Smokey Sturtevant.]

Norris Geyser basin was the last "major" thermal basin to be discovered in the Park. It was first seen in October of 1872 by two "treasure hunters" that were sitting on the top of Bunsen Peak.

Norris is the hottest and most dynamic geyser basin in Yellowstone. Temperatures have been measured as high as 135C. This was by Drs. Allen and Day in 1930. The feature was Black Growler (Steam Vent). There are many features in Norris that are superheated. The boiling temperature here at Norris is 92.5C.

Norris Geyser Basin is the largest concentration of acidic thermal features. Most of the thermal features here at Norris have a pH that is near 3 to 4. The measured pH in the Basin varies from 0.76 to 8.28.

The geyser basin is separated into three individual basins. They are Porcelain Basin, Back Basin and 100 Spring Plain. Porcelain Basin is the smallest in area. It has the appearance of another world. There is little vegetation in this basin. The thermal features breaking through a large crust of sinter and geyserite. The activity in Porcelain Basin is highly variable. There are numerous features that are active one year and gone the next. They might be dormant for many years and suddenly re-activate. Others that have had regular activity may suddenly go quiet.

Echinus Geyser

Back Basin is the next largest thermal area. It has a completely different physical makeup than Porcelain Basin. The thermal features are scattered around the basin among trees and other growth. This area is home to the most regular geyser in the Basin. Echinus Geyser is located in the far western edge of Back Basin. It is the tallest active acidic geyser is the World. With a pH of around 3.5 and a interval between eruptions of 40 to 60 minutes, Echinus is always a crowd pleaser.

Back Basin: -- Map

Cistern Spring: [Map]

The deposits from Cistern spring have created some beautiful terraces on the West side of the spring. These sinter terraces have been growing at the fantastic rate of up to 1 1/2 inches per year. In the process, several trees, now dead, have been entombed in the sinter. Rapid growth like this, though, is not that unusual in an acid area such as Norris. At times the terraces have been covered with beautifully colored cyano bacteria but at times, these organisms have been killed off by changes in water chemistry and temperature.

Cistern Spring is the only feature to have a known connection to Steamboat Geyser, located about 300 feet away and up the hill. During the 24 hours following a major eruption of Steamboat, Cistern will drop, sometimes only a half meter and other times until the crater is empty. It typically refilled in 3-4 days. At least twice, Cistern was seen to erupt at the start of a major Steamboat eruption. These eruptions of Cistern reached as much as 20 feet.

Echinus Geyser: Click for more information.

Emerald Spring: [Map]

Emerald Spring was named for its emerald color. The color is due to the refraction of blue by the water combined with yellow from sulfur deposits lining the pools walls. Emerald is usually many degrees below boiling. Bubbles seen rising to the surface are due to steam, carbon dioxide and other gasses. This is not always true though. At times, especially at times of a disturbance, Emerald Spring can become turbid and begin to boil and sometimes even erupt to 3 feet or so. In 1931, Emerald saw spectacular activity. It was in eruption fully 87% of the time with some bursts reaching 60 to 75 feet.

Porkchop Geyser: [Pictures] [Map] [Video - external link]

Porkchop Geyser went through an explosive change on September 5, 1989. On that day, it exploded.

Prior to that, Porkchop played from a "porkchop"