Yellowstone There’s Molten Rock Not Far Below You

As you drive along the north end of Hayden Valley, you’re about as close as the road goes to the Sour Creek dome, one of the two areas in the park that overlie molten rock as close as 2 to 3 miles (3-5 km) below the surface. Even a very modest rise of the Sour Creek dome affects the shorelines of Yellowstone Lake. Raising Hayden Valley raises the lake outlet (the Yellowstone River), which in turn raises the lake level. This is a different phenomenon from the rise in lake level due to sudden spring thaws that cause the Yellowstone River to flood. For a map showing the resurgent domes and for more about the domes, see the Geological History chapter. 10.6/4.8 P Alum Creek bridge. Alum Creek drains some hot springs reached by the Mary Mountain Trail. Though the water may not actually contain alum (potassium aluminum sulfate), which was sometimes used to contract blood vessels, plenty of legends have risen from the belief that it does.

Coach drivers were fond of telling tales about how its waters could shrink practically anything such as the one about the guy who, upon riding his horse across the creek, found that the horse’s hooves had shrunk to pinpoints. Another legend had it that water from this creek, when sprinkled on park roads, caused the distances to shrink. Eight miles up Alum Creek, the government’s first attempt to save the buffalo was made in 1895-96, a time when public sentiment was strong for trying to keep the magnificent animal from extinction. The animals were penned up for feeding in winter. Some segments of fence still stand, but no buffalo were actually saved in this effort. Looking south from Alum Creek, you can see the steam from Sulphur Mountain or Crater Hills hot spring and mud pot area. Early tourists who took the Central Plateau route reached this hydrothermal region by a side road. However, the area is no longer open to visitors unless accompanied by a ranger.

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