In Mammoth Hot Springs you’ll be met by a giant, steaming mountain of white. The area is in continuous change as active hot springs are building up the terraces at a rate of two feet per year.
Mammoth Hot Springs is located in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone and is one of the first areas you’ll drive through if you have entered Yellowstone National Park from the North Entrance. The hot water that feeds Mammoth has over thousands of years created the famous white and orange terraces that all visitors come to see.
The secret to Mammoth Hot Springs is limestone. When limestone comes into contact with the water from the hot springs you end up with tons of calcium carbonate deposits that builds up the terraces. So every time you visit the view will have changed.
Photography tips: The terraces are difficult to photograph in direct sunlight so Mammoth Hot Springs is a good place to visit when there is some overcast in the weather forecast. Another idea is to use a polarising filter to remove the glare on the surface of the pools, this way the colours of the pools will pop in your photos.
The area is in a constant change, some springs dry up and turn chalky white while new spring emerge. The estimated volume of water from the hot springs is a whopping 500 gallons (approx. 1900 liters) per minute .
On top of the terraces there is a paved drive way called Upper Terrace Drive that you don’t want to miss. It feels like driving through a world of another place. On this drive you will pass features like Angel Terrace and Orange Spring Mound.
Angel Terrace is a good example of the constant change at Mammoth Hot Springs. In the 80’s Angel Terrace was dry and crumbling, while now the area has an abundance of water supply again.
You’ll not be surprised to learn that the Orange Spring Mound is a vibrant orange. As in many other parts of Yellowstone the colour comes from heat loving bacteria called thermophiles. The deposited minerals from the spring is slowly consuming the surrounding trees.
Fort Yellowstone was established in 1981 in Mammoth Hot Springs as a result of the War Department taking over the responsibility to manage and protect the park. Thiry-five of the original structures remain today so a walk through the historic village is highly recommended for those interested in the history of Fort Yellowstone.
When you walk through the village you might wonder why there are so many elk in town? It turns out as part of constructing Fort Yellowstone many green lawns where planted in the village, and the elk loves the grass! They are here year round for this delicacy.
You should always keep a safe distance, but be aware that this is even more important during mating season when the bulls keep a close eye on their females. My photos of the elk are taken with a telephoto lens. Keep safe!
If you want to get off the beaten path try the Old Gardiner Road. This is an old dirt road that runs one-way from behind the Mammoth Hotel back to the North Entrance. It will give you a hilltop view of Mammoth Hot Springs.
You should feel comfortable driving on narrow, twisting dirt roads if you want to take on this drive. Chances of seeing elk and pronghorn should be fairly good.
Have you been to Mammoth Hot Springs? I’d love to hear your experience, please leave a comment on the comment section below.