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Monday, 27 July 2020

Yellowstone National Park: West Thumb Geyser Basin

Another day, another Yellowstone post! I hope you're not sick of geysers and hot springs yet! There are still a few more posts to come.

Today's post is all about a place in Yellowstone that I knew nothing of in advance but quickly became one of my favorite stops on our trip. Have you heard of West Thumb Geyser Basin? Weird name right? I'd never heard of it before our trip, but upon reading about it in the information brochure we received at the entry gate I was keen to check it out. Like other geyser basins in Yellowstone, West Thumb is home to plenty of geysers and hot springs, but it's also home to a few features we'd been yet to see including mud geysers and underwater geysers in Yellowstone Lake.

Black Pool
Black Pool
Thumb Paint Pots
Lake Yellowstone with under water geysers
Thumb Paint Pots
Mathilde Walks along the boardwalk
An elk grazes around a hot spring
West Thumb Geyser Basin

We visited West Thumb on our second day in the park. The second day was much colder than the first had been, and as we entered the park the rain that had been continuously falling changed to sleet. By the time we reached West Thumb it had changed again: to snow! Can you believe that? Snow - in Summer! Granted, it was only very light snowfall and it melted as soon as it hit the wet ground, but it was snow none the less.  

We braved the chilly weather and set out on the wet boardwalks that make up the West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail to explore yet more geothermal wonders. It was quite busy here despite the colder weather, so we all made to sure to mask up - although Mathilde's came off for the photo below.

Exploring with new friends

Here we found a new (to us) type of spring: mud pots! Just as the name would suggest, these are pots, or pools, of bubbling mud. The mud pots here are called Thumb Paint Pots and the opaque, milky looking water and mud does look rather paint like as it bubbles and fills the air with steam. The pale colors of the mud vary every so slightly from creamy whites through the lightest greys and blues to yellowy greens and oranges. A perfect pastel paint pallet. 

Thumb Paint Pots
Thumb Paint Pots
Mathilde's fogged up glasses
Thumb Paint Pots
Thumb Paint Pots

Our walk along the trail led us past springs in the most vibrant turquoise colors. Abyss Pool, Collapsing Pool and Lakeside Spring stunned us with their colors, as did yet more pools that I didn't manage to find the name of. Oops. I did try really hard to make note of the names of each geyser during our visit so I could share them accurately here, but some I missed seeing the name of, while others did not have their names posted at all.

Abyss Pool
Abyss Pool
Collapsing Pool
Lakeside Spring

The most stunning colors, however, were found in Black Pool. I think this was my favorite hot spring of all in Yellowstone. The deep turquoise waters contrast beautifully against the orange and brown surrounds and the white crusted edges. The bubbling waters from the hot spring overflow across the orange ground and into nearby Lake Yellowstone.

Black Pool
Black Pool
Black Pool
Black Pool
Checking out Black Pool
Black Pool
Black Pool
Black Pool
The overflow from Black Pool makes its way to Lake Yellowstone

Speaking of Lake Yellowstone, one of the unique features that we found at West Thumb was underwater geysers. These geyser cones are located underneath the surface of the lake, with some poking out above the water and others completely submerged. We didn't see any of these erupt, although I can imagine that it would be a pretty spectacular sight.

Big Cone
Lakeshore Geyser

Another favorite feature at West Thumb was Bluebell Pool. This particular pool we looked at from above as we walked along the raised boardwalk. The pale green colors blended in beautifully with the surrounding trees and grass. The steam hung in the air like a low fog laying over a forest and made the area feel like something straight out of a fairy tale. Had pixies appeared around here I probably wouldn't have been surprised!

Bluebell Pool
Bluebell Pool
The ever present steam was one of my favorite things in Yellowstone in general. I loved seeing it rise from random points. Often we couldn't see just what it was rising from. It was just there, pouring out of the grassy ground or from rocky areas. It made a pretty epic backdrop too!


Just before we finished up at West Thumb Geyser Basin we were treated to the sight of an elk grazing around the edges of a hot spring. It was a pretty cool thing to see the wildlife interacting with the landscape in this way. There didn't appear to be much in the way of grass growing along the very edge, but there was obviously something there that kept the elk busy. Maybe salts or other minerals along the edge? I'm not sure, but it sure was a treat to see.


West Thumb Geyser Basin was somewhere I'd never heard of before entering the park, but it quickly became one of my favorite places. The area is much smaller than Upper Geyser Basin (home to Old Faithful) and there is a little less to see here, but its compact size makes it perfect for families with small children. Like other attractions at Yellowstone, the raised boardwalks that make up the trails are both wheelchair and stroller friendly. As small ranger station and gift store is located here, but as these are run by the National Parks the were closed during our visit due to covid. There are several bathrooms located in the parking lot here. 

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