The Colors of Yellowstone National Park

Abyss Pool, Yellowstone National Park

Abyss Pool, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Amazingly vibrant color, more than any other single thing, is what puts Yellowstone in a league all by itself. For some unknown reason, though, the park’s collection of frequently erupting geysers gets most of the attention. Old Faithful, it seems, is as much a national landmark as the overexposed giant heads of Mount Rushmore. But seeing a column of water burst from the ground like an ordinary city fountain is every bit as exciting as it sounds. Having to wait 90 minutes or more to actually see one makes it decidedly less so.

Thermophiles, meanwhile, are as underappreciated as the water spouts are overhyped. These incredible heat-loving microbes literally put the yellow into Yellowstone.

Jewel Geyser Yellowstone National Park

Jewel Geyser, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

Thriving at various temperatures, different thermophiles take up residence in different hot water springs and pools. Cooler water is hospitable to green and brown colored organisms.

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park

Morning Glory Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

Orange and yellow indicates hotter temperatures.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellow Stone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

Fewer creatures survive in springs with temperatures near the boiling point. In these locations, the clear water shines emerald blue.

Excelsior Geyser Crater, Yellowstone National Park

Excelsior Geyser Crater, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

For other looks at this most diverse of U.S. national parks also check out The Otherworldliness of Yellowstone and The Ordinary Beauty of Yellowstone.

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49 Comments on “The Colors of Yellowstone National Park”

  1. Huw Thomas October 15, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Fabulous place. We were there about two years ago… and you’re right, Old Faithful was fairly interesting but it was the pools and smoking vents that were far more captivating.

  2. VisualBanquet October 15, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    What beautiful colours! Visiting Yellowstone National Park is on my bucket list :)

  3. Raunak October 15, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    wow…its just amazing how the colors serve as indicators to the temperatures. What a wonder of nature!

  4. Animalcouriers October 15, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    The colours are stunning. Great photographs.

  5. Debbie Young October 15, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Oh my goodness, those fabulous colours take me back to an incident that occurred there when I visited in my childhood. I’m British, but we lived in the States for a year when I was 8, and my brave parents took me and my brother and sister on a coast-to-coast road trip. We spent a wonderful day at Yellowstone, where I insisted on buying a red straw souvenir hat with Yellowstone Park emblazoned across the front which I immediately put on. Next stop, Morning Glory Pool, where we stood gazing into its beautiful blue depths. Until, that is, a gust of warm air came along and whipped the hat off my head straight into the pool. Glad to see it is no longer the deep pink that it was turning from the dye on the hat, as this shrieking British family ran as fast as we could in the opposite direction…

    • Rotten Ray October 15, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      I sincerely believe that one is required to take a picture of a hat in one of the pools. I bagged 2 hat photos my last trip to Yellowstone.

      • Debbie Young October 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

        Ha ha! I bet they sell a lot of hats in the shops there actually – because of course we then had to call back to the shop to replace the hat I’d lost! There are probably Park Rangers hidden behind bushes with wind machines to help them on their journey!

    • Brian October 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Ha! Maybe I got it wrong. The colors are really just dies bled from different hats that flew into the pools.

      • Debbie Young October 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

        Yep, that’ll be it! I had a nice green Amish bonnet that I’d picked up in Pennsylvania Dutch country a few days earlier too…

  6. Karen Purcell October 15, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Wow! I just put this on my bucket list! Actually to do a trip like you guys have done ought to be on there too now I think about it.

    Love the premise of Novel Destinations and just added it to my Christmas List.

    After years of disappointing pressies I’ve decided to go for direct rather than subtle hints in the present department. Know this is off topic but does anyone else have this problem too?!

    • Brian October 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      We’re delighted that you’ve added Novel Destinations to your Christmas list. And nothing wrong with asking for what you want. ;-)

  7. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) October 15, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    it almost looks like someone has coloured the water with yellow texta! Incredible – it sure looks hot :)

  8. BagspackedI'moff October 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    An almost unbelievable change in colours in the third photo. Yellow then BAM now I’m green! Back to admiring, yet again, the wonders of Mother Nature.

    • Brian October 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      It is hard to improve on what nature has already done.

  9. solaner October 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Womderful colors.
    I hope to see them one day with my own eyes.
    Thanks fir sharing!

  10. solaner October 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Womderful colors.
    I hope to see them one day with my own eyes.
    Thanks fir sharing!

  11. Still Times October 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Rich and vivid colors. Almost a surreal view. Great photos!

  12. the drunken cyclist October 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Really surreal photos–they appear to be fabricated with either filters or photoshop!

    • Brian October 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      Nope. That’s how they really look. I discovered that it helped to get a cloudless day (because the clouds reflected on the water) and to shoot at mid-day when the sun light penatrated deep into the pools.

  13. thelittleblackraincloudblog October 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Gorgeous photos! I have yet to make it to Yellowstone. I remember family vacays to the Rocky Mountains and then up into the Badlands, but I don’t believe we hit Yellowstone or I would have remembered all those spectacular colors! :)

  14. earthriderjudyberman October 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    I just “shared” your photo on Facebook, Brian. Stunning.

  15. denisediscovers October 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    The colours of those pools are so beautiful. Thank you also for the information about why they are like this. Nature can be so unexpected and amazing.

  16. meanjoegreene88 October 16, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    There are actually Yellow stones at yellowstone! Genius!

  17. Satu VW October 16, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    These pictures are stunning! I’ve never been to Yellostone but these images really make me want to go.

  18. Sharlee Plett October 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    OMG! I so want to go there — you got it — at least once! Magnificent photos, I love them! Thanks for visiting my blog and your like – is the Jurassic Coast now on your bucket list?

  19. blinkpack October 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Josh here from the BlinkPack blog. What awesome photos! I hope to visit someday. I wish you all the best with your travels and blogging. Cheers!

  20. cravesadventure October 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Beautiful photos – thanks for sharing! Have a Great One:)

  21. kevinmayne October 17, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    It’s one of those where first impressions could guess that the photos have been enhanced, but of course we know nature is just brilliant. Nice work

  22. marionquitasol October 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Hello! I have nominated you for The Super Sweet Blogging Award http://marionquitasol.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/super-sweet-blogging-award/
    This is my thank you for inspiring me once in a while. :)

    • Brian October 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Well we’re super honored! Thanks.

      • marionquitasol October 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

        You’re very much welcome. Enjoy! :) All the best to both of you. :)

  23. kgrahamjourneys October 18, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    Beautiful photographs! I will finally get to travel to Yellowstone National Park next year & cannot wait to be there. Thanks for sharing.

  24. harri8here October 18, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    Sublime colours. Gorgeous.

  25. Arizona girl October 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Your pictures reminded me of what a neat place Yellowstone is. I do love the colors! Also interesting are macro shots of some of the really shallow pools – they look like the surface of some strange planet. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Erin | The Other Side of the Road October 19, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    The thumbnails in my reader could easily have been abstract paintings. Very beautiful.

    • Brian October 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      I guess they kind of are abstract paintings – just not painted by man.

  27. prince_n_roses October 19, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    color of earth!…very nature…nice!

  28. lkallmeyer October 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    I love the layout of your blog and love reading about your adventures. I am glad you enjoyed my post about Costa Rica. I hope I am even half as sucessful on my journey as y’all are on yours! Way to take control of your lives and live the way you want to!

    • Brian October 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Here’s to living the lives we want. Cheers and happy travels.

  29. Sarah October 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Wow amazing colours! I love all the photos! Beautiful!

  30. Silvia December 25, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    When is the best time to visit it??
    Please answer me :)

    • Brian December 27, 2012 at 12:26 am #

      Spring, Summer and Fall are all very popular. I don’t think there is necessarily a best time. Seeing Yellowstone in winter seems like it would be a unique experience. Although the park is open all year long, most of the roads close during the winter. But you can still get a snowmobile and see the park in a way very few other people do.

  31. bradvanfleet January 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    I agree completely with your view on the park’s landmarks. All the hot springs and pools with their incredible colors deserve much more attention than Old Faithful.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Ordinary Beauty of Yellowstone National Park | Everywhere Once - October 24, 2012

    [...] entire state of Rhode Island. Even the massive volcanic caldera that gives rise to its signature hot springs and geysers still only represents about 40% of the park. The rest is covered by seemingly endless [...]

  2. Best of the Blog: 2012’s Top 10 | Everywhere Once - December 26, 2012

    [...] 9) Yellowstone National Park [...]

  3. 10 Favorite Destinations, Year 3 | Everywhere Once - April 29, 2013

    [...] Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming [...]

  4. Memory Lane at the Museum | Everywhere Once - June 7, 2013

    […] of his 1907 work The Morning Glory Spring, Yellowstone, one of the park’s otherworldly thermal pools, was blooming bright when we arrived in […]

  5. The Otherworldliness of Yellowstone National Park | Everywhere Once - March 16, 2014

    […] other looks at this most diverse of U.S. national parks also check out The Colors of Yellowstone and The Ordinary Beauty of […]

  6. More than a Crater Lake | Everywhere Once - March 21, 2014

    […] rooms available in the entire park. That compares, for example, with the nine hotels located inside Yellowstone, including one 300-room giant so close to Old Faithful that it nearly casts a shadow on the geyser. […]

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