A Tale: Part 6: A Lady’s Visit To The Geysers Of The Yellowstone Park — HWS 1880.

The final installment of HWS’s chronicle of her Yellowstone adventure begins at the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Then a photographer takes her picture on Foxey and she visits Yellowstone Lake and the Upper Geyser Basin. Then she starts home.

Begin with Part 1


The lads of our party found great delight in starting enormous fallen trees down the awful incline, and watching them crash their way with a fearful swiftness to the river’s brink. Any mother will know how that made me feel, especially when I add that no doctor could be procured in that region under seven days at the very least, and that we had neither houses nor beds, nor anything considered necessary in sickness. I confess I was thankful every minute that our family did not possess a country seat on the banks of the Yellowstone Canyon!

Near us was camped a photographer, and of course we were taken, guides, pack train, colts, dogs and all. They put me, mounted on Foxey, in the very forefront of the picture, and beside me an old blind pack-horse with our store on his back, choosing this position for us, no doubt, because we were the two queerest looking objects in the whole train. We have since heard that this picture is to be put in a panorama amongst other objects of interest in the Park, and that we shall be magnified to the size of fifteen feet and perfectly recognizable!

One of our chief difficulties arose from the impurity of the water and its impregnation with mineral substances, yet the whole of our party went through the trip without suffering any bad effects, and even grew stronger and better, though not a drop of any stimulant was touched by any of us.

The Yellowstone Lake lies 7,780 feet above the sea, almost on the top of the Rocky Mountains, and covers 300 square miles, being the fourth in size, which lies entirely within the limits of the United States. Its pure, cold waters, in some places 300 feet deep, are the rich blue color of the open sea, and swarm with trout, while it is the summer home of white swan, pelicans, geese, snipe, ducks, cranes, etc., and its shores furnish feeding grounds for elk, antelope, black and white tailed deer, bears, and mountain sheep.

Scattered along its shores are many clusters of hot springs and small geysers. It is surrounded on every side but one with snowy mountains, and was long considered to be entirely mountain-locked and inaccessible. The guides told us that it was literally true that a man could stand at one point on the shore of the lake and catch fish on one side of him, which he could swing over and cook in a boiling spring on the other side!

Leaving these high elevations, we went to see the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. We had dismounted and unloaded our horses and buggy, and were looking for the best sites for our tents, when the cry was heard, “There goes a geyser!” and we dropped everything and ran. The sight was truly a glorious one. At the far end of the basin, Old Faithful was playing his wonderful fountain, and we saw what looked to us a river of water shooting up into the sky.

Our guides told us it was only 150 or 200 feet high, but to us it seemed to reach the clouds, and on one side of it was a lovely soft rainbow that came and went with the blowing spray. It spouted for five or ten minutes and then subsided. Old Faithful is the only geyser whose performances can be depended upon. He spouts regularly every sixty-seven minutes, and has done so ever since the discovery of the Park.

The crater looks like a great mound of coral or petrified sponge, surrounded by terraced basins at all shapes and sizes, and of the most lovely colors. The whole mound is convoluted in the most beautiful fashion, and every one of the little basins around it is rimmed with exquisite scalloping and fluting. The Grand Geyser, the Giant, the Grotto, the Splendid, the Riverside, and the Fan, complete the list of large geysers in this basin, and each one has a marvelous and distinct beauty.

As we were quietly sitting in camp the day after our arrival, I noticed a great steam in the direction of the Grand Geyser, and called out to one of our guides, “George, is old Grand doing anything?” He looked a moment, and then, dropping everything, began to run, shouting out at the top of his voice, “Old Grand is spouting! Old Grand is spouting!”

In a second of time our camp was deserted, every thing was left in wild confusion, and we were all running at the top of our speed to see the display. It was perfectly glorious! As it sent up its grand water rockets 250 feet into the air, shooting out on every side, we all involuntarily shouted and clapped our hands, and Sam took off his hat and swung it over his head in a perfect enthusiasm of delight!

It was like a grand oration, and a wonderful poem, and a beautiful picture, and a marvelous statue, and a splendid display of fireworks, and everything else grand and lovely combined in one. Then all would subside, and the pool would be quiet for a moment or two; then again, it would heave and swell, and the glorious fountain would suddenly burst up again into the blue sky! Seven times this took place, and then all the water was sucked down, down, down into the abyss, and we climbed part way into the steaming crater, and picked up specimens from the very spot where just before had been this mighty fountain.

The Giant, too, gave us a grand performance while we were in the Basin. We thought it the grandest and most beautiful of all. It shoots up a column of water at least seven feet thick to the height of 250 feet, the steam rising far higher. It played for nearly an hour, and flooded the whole basin around with boiling water, doubling the volume o water in the river.

The internal rumblings and roarings meanwhile were perfectly deafening. I could not help feeling as I gazed on these wonders that there was a lesson in it all. Nothing but heat could bring forth such beauty as we see here at every step, and I thought that thus also did the refining fire of God bring forth in our characters forms and colors as beautiful after their fashion as these.

On the 19th, we broke camp and started for our homeward journey. And so, in due time, our trip was over, and the “Mystic Wonderland” lay behind us; but we all felt that we had stored up while there a treasure of fascinating memories of which no time nor distance could rob us. Some of us felt also that we had learned to know our God and His greatness as we had not known Him before, while living amid such displays of His creating and sustaining power, and realized that never again could we doubt His love and care.


— From H. W. S., “A Lady’s Visit To The Geysers Of The Yellowstone Park.” Friends Intelligencer May 19, 1883. Pages 218-221, and May 27, Pages 234-237.

— Detail from a photo in the collection of the Pioneer Museum of Bozeman.

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