“Old faithful in every kind of weather…”
—from “Ole Faithful” by Gene Autry 
As I mentioned in my previous post, Hey Boo-Boo, Let’s Go Get Ourselves a Pic-a-nic Basket, when I think of Yellowstone, the first thing that comes to mind is Yogi Bear and grizzly bears. The second is Old Faithful.
Old Faithful is a geyser in Yellowstone that continuously draws people to experience it, paint it, and photograph it. It attracts people from not only all over the country, but all over the world as well. Everyone has heard of and wishes to experience Old Faithful. Out of the three million people that visit Yellowstone a year , almost all of them visit Old Faithful .
Now what makes this geyser so incredible? Why do people feel such a need to experience it? While it isn’t the largest geyser in the world, but it is the most “faithful.” Old Faithful is one of three geysers in the world that are coined “faithful.” Out of these three, it has the highest number of regularly repeating eruptions in the world .
Old Faithful was first named by the Washburn-Doane Expedition. This group was led by Henry Washburn, Nathaniel Langford, and Lt. Gustavus C. Doane. When exploring the park, they came upon the geysers and were amazed by their beauty and power:
“But the marvelous features of this wonderful basin are its spouting geysers…We gave such names to those of the geysers which we saw in action as we think will best illustrate their peculiarities. The one I have just described General Washburn has named ‘Old Faithful,’ because of its regularity of its eruptions… .”
Once word began to spread about this natural wonder, people wanted to visit it and try their best to capture it.
But things have changed from the times of Washburn, Langford, and Doane. Geysers are very sensitive geological features. After the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, the period of time between Old Faithful’s bursts increased . It continued to increase in the latter half of the twentieth century, with many scientists attributing the change to the development of parking lots and other construction in the area .
So while Old Faithful may not be as faithful as it used to be, now going off about every 92 minutes (plus or minus 10 minutes), it still remains as awe-inspiring and photogenic as ever.
For more on Old Faithful, check out Points West Online: Yellowstone National Park and Park County, Wyoming, Photographers and Treasures from Our West: Preussl’s “Old Faithful” by Nancy McClure, our electronic communications manager and assistant editor of Points West .