The ABCs of: Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

April 4, 2019

Yellowstone National Park is one of the United States’ most famous — and most striking — natural places. From sparkling lakes and cascading waterfalls to intricate basalt rock formations and vast expanses of greenery, the park spans more than two million acres of splendor. The most famous of Yellowstone’s natural features are its geysers. And of these, the best-known is Old Faithful—the enormous cone geyser that erupts about every hour and a half. Here are three fascinating pieces of trivia about the geyser:


Old Faithful isn’t the biggest geyser in Yellowstone, but it is the most reliable. This is because it is not connected to the park’s larger system of geothermal features. In fact, it’s so reliable that there’s a mathematical equation that can be used to determine its next eruption will take place!

Back up!

The famous geyser’s eruption is sky-high — the average height of an eruption is around 145 feet. The steam from Old Faithful has been known to hit a whopping 177 degrees Celsius. There’s a boardwalk around Old Faithful for visitors to stand on and watch the geyser erupt. Visitors are advised to stay on the boardwalk, no matter how strong the temptation to get closer to this natural wonder. Don’t worry: there’s no chance you won’t be able to see its incredible eruption!


In the 1800s, people in the area found an unconventional use for Old Faithful: they used the geyser as a washing machine. People would throw their clothing into the geyser’s basin; on erupting, their clean clothes would be flung into the air, and they could collect them from the ground. One caveat: apparently, Old Faithful is great at washing cottons, but tears woolens to pieces (not that you should test this theory for yourself, of course!).

Getting there

Discover the natural beauty of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons on a trip with National Geographic Family Journeys with G Adventures, a new line of trips for adventure-loving families in search of a meaningful way to discover the world together. With itineraries inspired by National Geographic's expertise in photography and storytelling, wildlife, culture, history, and geography, these trips let families connect with the world and each other.

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