66 – MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS

A group of young elk grazing on front lawns, hanging out like a bunch of teenagers, is a standard sight in Mammoth Village, the Park Headquarters for Yellowstone. The place itself goes back a long way, but in 1886, because of poor management by its civilian custodians, the U.S. cavalry was assigned to manage Yellowstone Park, and construction of the fort was begun in 1891. The members of the army worked hard. They arrested poachers, managed wildlife, and fought fires as well as educating visitors and providing medical care.

The red-roofed buildings with many chimneys, which are still standing and still in use, were built as part of the original fort. The current visitor center originally housed quarters for unmarried officers. Because of its comparatively mild winters and year-round access, this area has been the park headquarters ever since it became a national park.

The Mammoth Hot Springs are quite different from thermal areas in other parts of the park . As hot water rises through limestone large quantities of rock are dissolved by the hot water.  A white chalky mineral is deposited, and travertine layers or “terraces” build up. These springs lie outside the caldera or original area created by the ancient volcano but their energy is attributed to the same system that fuels other Yellowstone thermal spots.

As a matter of fact, the travertine build-up caused concerns during construction of the fort, and later the hotel in Mammoth Village. Though there are some sink holes in the area, and many people were afraid that the travertine terrace wouldn’t support the buildings Obviously it has.

Rangers point out that it’s normal for springs throughout the park to disappear, since their location and rate of flow can change daily. However, the total amount of water discharged by all of the springs throughout the park remains about the same.

In the next blog it’s on to other places.

Trivia: Two historic events took place here—the Nez Perce Native American fight in 1877 and President Teddy Roosevelt’s visit in 1903.

More Trivia: A sign on the road between the North Entrance and Mammoth marks the 45h parallel, which is halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.

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