Black Sand Basin ~ Yellowstone National Park

Black Sand Basin ~ Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is like no other place on earth.  The Yellowstone terrain still baffles experts, because there are few other places that can even be remotely compared to the strange volcanic landscape in this park.  Most of Yellowstone lies on top of one of the world’s largest ancient super volcano calderas, which is a scary thought in itself.  Even scarier, this gigantic super volcano supposedly erupts on a 600,000 year cycle and according to some theorists, it is now overdue for some big time explosive activity.  

To make matters worse, a super volcano the size of the Yellowstone Caldera is big enough to wipe out the majority of life on earth.  The thought of this super volcano erupting is the reason why some people absolutely refuse to visit Yellowstone. In reality, it will not matter if you are standing in the middle of the Yellowstone Caldera or you are standing somewhere in Mongolia, because when the Yellowstone Super Volcano explodes, very few humans will survive anywhere on this planet. 

The reason why today’s article began with presenting the reality of Yellowstone is because I have actually talked to people that are dead scared to go anywhere near this National Park, because they fear the super volcano that is brewing in the ancient caldera.  All that can be said is that media sensationalism and fringe documentaries are to blame for exaggerating the fear factor. A false sense of fear is the reason why some people lose out on experiencing this majestic place.  

The regular everyday volcanic anomalies that are considered to be normal in Yellowstone would be looked upon as being extreme warning signs anywhere else. In other words, the clouds of steam rising up from the hot springs, the sky high geysers and boiling mud pits are perfectly normal at Yellowstone, while anomalies like these would cause mass panic elsewhere around the globe. This is how big and powerful the Yellowstone Caldera really is!

Yellowstone will certainly not explode any time soon, even though the entire caldera terrain looks unstable.  The strange landscape of Yellowstone may be volcanically active, but it is important to remember that this National Park is not the only location of this caldera through history. As the North American Continent drifts west, the tectonic plate floats over the stationary big underground magma plume that currently is underneath Yellowstone. A trail of caldera explosions can be traced on a map over a grand time scale from northern California to Yellowstone, so this big magma plume has existed for eons of time.

Because of continental drift, the Yellowstone magma plume actually is slowly heading northeast toward Montana, so it is likely that no major events will occur till the magma plume passes underneath a portion of the earth’s crust that does not allow pressure to be easily released. As can be seen in the Yellowstone landscape, the earth crust in this region has been shattered and displaced enough times to easily allow underground pressures to be released, so the next big super volcano explosion likely will not occur inside this park.  

The details and theories presented in the previous paragraphs certainly do demonstrate how Yellowstone certainly is a great place to ponder over earth sciences! All these thoughts naturally run through the mond when visiting Yellowstone. Therefore, Yellowstone is an education in itself and thousands of people pass through the gates to learn a little something about this majestic place each day.

Yellowstone is a very weird place and it seems like with every mile traveled, it gets even weirder.  The landscape can change from the scenic splendor of forested mountain peaks and peaceful grassy wetland meadows to bizarre multi color mineral springs and boiling mud paint pots that look like they belong on a planet in outer space.  Basically, the weirdness of Yellowstone can stretch the bounds of ones own imagination and this is what makes this park so exciting to visit!

One of the weirdest bizarre landscapes in Yellowstone National Park is without a doubt, the Black Sand Basin.  Black Sand Basin is located just north of Old Faithful on the central touring loop, so it is easy to find.  The Black Sand Basin collection of hot springs pools and geysers is part of the Upper Geyser Basin.  What sets the Black Sand Basin apart from the Upper Geyser Basin is the high proportion of black obsidian sand in the ground.  The black obsidian creates quite a contrast to the bright color mineral deposits from the hot springs and for onlookers, the visual effect is fascinating to see.

The boardwalk paths are safe to tread upon in the Black Sand Basin, but the same cannot be said about walking on the bare ground.  The earth crust is very thin in this area and it will not support much weight.  Taking a closer look by treading on the bare ground may result in breaking through the crust and falling into a boiling hot spring, so by all means, it is best to stay on the boardwalk paths!

The foot paths do meander close to the main attractions in this geyser basin, so there are plenty of great viewpoints.  Points of interest in this field include the Opalescent Pool, Spouter Geyser, Cliff Geyser, Emerald Pool, Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake.  There are also dozens of small bubbling mud pits, flowing hot springs and scattered little geysers in this volcanic field. 

Because there is so much geologic activity going on in the Black Sand Basin, there really is never a dull moment!  It pays to keep looking around while in the Black Sand Basin, because so much is going on. This is one of those weird places where if you focus on something interesting in front of you, something even more exciting will be guaranteed to happen behind your back out of view.  I cannot count how many times that I waited to watch a gurgling geyser in front of me send a jet of water straight up into the air, only to end up seeing a little gasp of steam. At the same time, a geyser went into a full eruption behind me and I only caught a glimpse of the water falling back to the ground. The small geysers in Black Sand Basin definitely do play a cat and mouse game, which is very easy to become completely absorbed in! The Black Sand Basin certainly is a natural water fountain show packed full of surprises that can catch a visitor off guard! 

It is the steam effect that keeps things interesting and walking through the billowing clouds of steam in Black Sand Basin certainly is an unearthly experience.  The comical cat and mouse game that the little geysers play can be aggravating in a fun way. After watching the overview for a while, the rhythm of the little geyser eruptions in this field look as if they could easily be synchronized with a musical score. Yellowstone is full of life in more ways than one and the Black Sand Basin is a showcase of some of the weirdest sights that Mother Nature has to offer, so this is reason enough to get up and go!    


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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