Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is located in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. The Grand Prismatic Spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet in size and 37 feet in diameter. It is not the largest hot water spring in the world, but it is the largest in the United States and the third largest in the world. Yellowstone National Park occupies almost 3,500 square miles and is located in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It is always considered to belong to Wyoming as 98% of the park is in that state.
The visible rings of color fascinate everyone who beholds the Grand Prismatic Spring. The spring obtains its colors due to living organisms in the water. Each layer heats or cools to a different temperature. Different types of bacteria survive in different temperature layers. The further from the center of the pool, the cooler the water.
The spring is not only hot but deep. It is up to 160 feet in depth and the water is about 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The color of the Grand Prismatic Spring is the natural color of the spring. The middle of the spring can get up to 189 degrees Fahrenheit and few, if any, organisms can live in water at that temperature. The water appears to be very clear and a deep blue at the “sterile” center. The water travels thru a crack 121 feet below the spring from the earth’s crust and is heated due to the extreme temperature inside the earth.
Bacteria in the Spring
“Microbial or cyanobacteria” mats form at the edges of the water, thus creating vivid colors of orange along the edges of the water. The organisms tend to stay closer to the shores of the hot springs where the temperature may only be 121 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bacteria from the lake, in a less stressful environment, would be similar to the blue-green algae that are found in many ponds in the US. However, in the spring, it appears to be more of an orange color. The hot environment robs it of the chlorophyll that it would produce in a less harsh environment. It is an extraordinary event in that the bacteria can survive and multiply in the hot spring.
Water of the Spring
The spring puts out 560 gallons of water a minute, every minute of every day of the year. The steam vapor radiating from the water is due to the differences in the temperature between the air and the very hot water.
Grand Prismatic Spring is a naturally occurring event. It is not manufactured for our enjoyment. Thus, while visiting the spring, you must be aware at all times that it is not necessarily a “safe” area. Everyone should see the spring for themselves at least once in their lifetime. Caution is definitely the word of the day. We can not survive in the heated waters of the spring. The area is indeed a wilderness and in such a place we can contemplate our insignificant place in this environment.