July, 2015 – Mammoth Hot Springs is Yellowstone National Park’s headquarters and is at the north entrance to the park.
I was a bit disappointed that both times I visited that section there was a bunch of road construction going on and you couldn’t drive under the famous Roosevelt Arch. President Theodore Roosevelt set the 50′ tall arch’s cornerstone in a grand ceremony in 1903, where he called Yellowstone “something absolutely unique in the world.”
But I was glad I could still walk down there and got my picture taken anyway.
The thermal features and geysers were the main attractions for me anyway, and I spent a whole day walking the trails and boardwalks and driving around to see them all. Here you can see Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and complex in the background.
Be prepared for lots of stairs and walking to get to all the levels and see all the features.
Devil’s Thumb – a dormant hot spring cone
I read that the colors here are from the reactions of microorganisms and chemical compounds. Bizarre that these living sculptures are constantly changing and the colors vary with the seasons, therefore this area is called the park’s most dynamic hydrothermal area.
Walking around the boardwalks and stopping at all the viewpoints was endlessly fascinating and impossible to capture the little details that made each one unique.
This steamy scene was my favorite.
It was pretty chilly that day – cloudy and a bit windy, and the first day I had to put on one of my heavier jackets.
This 30 second video shares some of the magic movement and steamy scenes.
The whole side of this mountain was steaming from the top.
Orange Spring Mound
The sign says heat dwelling bacteria and algae grow abundantly in the water here, creating tapestries of living color. I kept thinking it looked like some kind of monster head was melting. This is one of the features that can be seen from Upper Terrace Drive where there are parking areas and pullouts – it’s about a mile long and no RVs or large vehicles are allowed on this road.
It was interesting that right before my visit I read in this news article that Upper Terrace Drive had to be closed when they discovered a “new thermal feature that is impacting the road.” Pretty hot deal, since they found temps up to 152 degrees and thermal imaging showed heat under the pavement. Some of my friends kept telling me they were afraid Yellowstone was “going to blow up” while I was there, so this didn’t help those fears – but it also didn’t stop me from going.
Albright Visitor Center and Museum
Yellowstone.net informs that the visitor center and all the red-roofed, many-chimneyed houses down the street from it were built by the U.S. Cavalry during a time when this was Fort Yellowstone, an Army post dedicated to protecting the national park.
The hotel was originally built in 1911 and a wing from that era remains, but the rest of it was built in 1936. It’s the only hotel in Yellowstone open in the winter that is accessible by car.
I wish I would have been able to return again on a warmer, sunnier day, but it was toward the end of my month long stay in Yellowstone and I never had the time. But this is definitely one area that should not be missed during a visit to Yellowstone!