Yellowstone FAQ

Q: In regard to volcanic activity, is it safe to visit Yellowstone? A: Yes. Scientists do not have any indication of an imminent eruption, or any eruption, at this time.

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Q: How imminent is an eruption of the Yellowstone Volcano? A: There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is imminent. Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years. Scientists have also found no indication of an imminent smaller eruption of lava.



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Q: At Mud Volcano: What's that smell? A: Hydrogen sulfide gas gives the mud pots their infamous "rotten egg" smell. Sulfur, in the form of iron sulfide, gives the features their many shades of gray.



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Q: When does Old Faithful erupt? A: Basic prediction of Old Faithful is dependent upon the duration of the previous eruption. During visitor center hours, geyser statistics and predictions are maintained by the naturalist staff. People speak of the average time between eruptions. This is misleading. The mathematical average between eruptions of Old Faithful is currently 74 minutes, but it doesn't like to act average! Intervals can range from 45-110 minutes. Visitors can check for posted prediction times in most buildings in the Old Faithful area.



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Q: I heard Old Faithful isn't as faithful as it used to be. Is it slowing down? A: It depends on what you call faithful. The famous geyser currently erupts around 20 times a day and can be predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate within a 10 minute variation. Prior to the 1959 earthquake, Old Faithful erupted 21 times per day. That's a significant decrease in activity for geologists tracking each eruption, but to visitors seeing one or two eruptions it looks just fine.



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Q: Where can I see a moose? A: Moose are seen fairly commonly in the Lake District. Look in the marshy areas around the river, particularly at the Fishing Bridge. They are also seen with some frequency in the large meadows near Bridge Bay and the marshes along Pelican Creek. Moose are most often seen at dawn and dusk.



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Q: Why can't I smoke in the park? A: Geyser basins are fragile places. Litter of all types is a problem, but cigarette butts can become especially numerous if smoking is allowed in an area. Also, most thermal areas have sulfur deposits lying on the surface. When sulfur catches fire, dangerous, sometimes lethal, fumes are given off. This is a chance we just aren't willing to take.



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Q: Why can't my dog walk the geyser basin trail with me? A: Dogs don't seem to recognize the difference between hot and cold water. Dogs have lost their lives diving into hot springs. Dogs also disturb wildlife and frighten other visitors.



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Q: Is it really dangerous to walk off the boardwalk? A: Yes!!!!! Areas of the park like Norris are constantly changing and have hollow areas that may have only a thin layer of rock over them. Boiling water surges just under most of the basins. Most burns received in thermal areas are second and third degree. People have died from falling into thermal features.



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Q: Why doesn't the Grant Campground open until June 21? A: Grant was developed in prime grizzly bear habitat. There are five streams in this area that cutthroat trout use for spawning during late May and early June, thus bears, both grizzly and black, frequent this area to feed on spawning trout. To help prevent any bear/human conflicts, the campground doesn't open until most of the spawn is over.



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Q: Why is there no fishing from Fishing Bridge? A: Because the gravelly bottom of the Yellowstone River at the outlet of the lake is a major spawning area for the cutthroat trout. Overfishing from this once popular fishing spot contributed to the decline of the cutthroat trout in the lake, which is home to the largest inland population of cutthroat trout in the world. Fishing was prohibited from the bridge in 1973.



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Q: Is Yellowstone Lake the largest lake in the world? A: No. It is the largest lake at high elevation in North America (above 7,000 ft.). Lake Tahoe is larger, though it is at lower elevation.