Yellowstone, Redux – Castle Geyser Reflection

Castle Geyser Reflections © 2010 Bo Mackison

Castle Geyser is in the Old Faithful Complex of Yellowstone National Park, a half mile walk from the Old Faithful Inn. I say “walk” and not hike because the trail is paved for bikers and is wheelchair accessible. (2.4 miles worth of great scenery is accessible t0 all — I applaud the efforts of the National Park Service to make at least portions of the parks available to all who want to visit.)

Sounds busy, but on a mid-week day in October we nearly had the place to ourselves once we left Old Faithful’s crowds behind.

I thought Castle Geyser was quite lovely, but the dozen or so people I spoke with while I was gazing, enamored with this sinter cone, were quite peeved that this thermal formation wasn’t performing up to expectations. Seems Castle Geyser used to be one of the regular guys. It would erupt explosively every 13 hours, give or take a few minutes, spouting one hundred feet in the air, and then steam for 30 to 45 minutes. For its final act, it would emit what was described to me by another passerby as a “thrilling, contralto roar”.

I cannot verify any of those facts. Castle Geyser puffed prettily for me, steamy and hot, and dribbled bubbly water that overflowed the lip of the cone. But there was no massive eruption. No thrilling roar. Only evidence that something was amiss was the mysterious sign, hand-lettered by a park employee, saying, “Future eruptions–unreliable.”

As I was photographing this scene, several other shooters waved me on, telling me not to bother. Well, I quite liked this “unreliable” geyser, fashioned from geyserite parts, some that are a thousand years old. It did rather look like a medieval castle, partly under attack and in (unseen) flames, and its run-off provided a great reflection of a perfect October sky.

Maybe by now Castle Geyser has its internal plumbing fixed and it is once more spouting on schedule. Though I liked it fine the way it was.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. That’s a beautiful scene, eruptions or not! Your photo of it is superb! I wonder how it happened that so many people seem to expect Nature to perform a circus act for them.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It seems once nature becomes the least predictable, we humans crowd to see it. I wonder if it isn’t easier for many people to schedule one natural wonder into their busy schedules and check nature off their list rather than just be attentive and see so many of the wonders, big and small, that are always present. I did love when the big geysers erupted–it was quite a thrill–but I also loved the little gurgling pools and the terraces that “only” dripped but produced such spectacular colors and patterns. Different strokes for different folk, I suppose.

  2. Angie Willis says:

    What a lovely photograph. So sharp from foreground to background. The sky and its reflection makes for a wonderful image.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I was particularly drawn to that reflection. There was a lot of runoff from Castle and the sky was one of those perfect deep blues, filled with clouds — seems I see those skies often when I am in the Western US.

  3. Looks pretty spectacular just as it is. Perhaps it wasn’t performing up to its full potential..but the image is stunning!!!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      If it had been spurting 100 feet, I would never have seen the lovely reflection. I rather liked it gurgling and steaming away, like it was on its own special mission.

  4. Exquisitely captured. That sky and that reflection is superb.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Yellowstone really does offer a wonderland for a photographer who has patience, or maybe one with not so many expectations that nature will work on a human schedule. 🙂

  5. Beautiful image. It almost looks prehistoric, the ground steaming and smoking. Where’s Danny the dinosauer when you need him?

  6. I think you captured a beautiful scene. Who needs an eruption??

    You just confirmed a theory I have about revisiting the same place year after year. On the one hand, it gives one the opportunity to really get to know the place and, if one is aware, the chance to find something new in the familiar. On the other hand, it gives some folks the opportunity to complain about how things change, as if they expect it all to stay the same year after year. Kind of like going to Disney World.

  7. Whoa! Very cool.

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