World’s Largest Active Geyser

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Yellowstone is know for its geysers.

Geysers are hot springs that experience an intermittent discharge of heated water and steam. Associated with volcanic areas, geysers are a geothermal feature. Groundwater in underground cavities near magma sources becomes heated, causing some of the water to flash into steam and expand. The force of this expansion combined with constrictions in the plumbing of the geyser, force hot water and steam up through vents to the surface of the Earth.

There are two types of geysers: cone and fountain. Cone geysers funnel water in a narrow eruption through a cone-shaped opening. Fountain geysers, much like their namesake, shoot water in various directions through a large opening.

Diagram showing a cone geyser and a fountain geyser.  Image: NPS, public domain.
Diagram showing a cone geyser and a fountain geyser. Image: NPS, public domain.

World’s Largest Geyser Locale

Geysers are a rare geothermal feature, requiring the right combination of underground water, heat source, and vents to happen. Geysers only occur in a few locations on Earth. Yellowstone National Park has the world’s largest locale of geysers.

The park has an estimated 500 geysers spread across nine geyser basins. Yellowstone National Park has more geysers than anywhere else in the world.

Steamboat Geyser

Located in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park is Steamboat Geyser, the world’s largest active geyser. Water from two vents can surge to heights of 300 feet (91 m).

Eruptions of water from Steamboat Geyser typically last between 3 and 45 minutes. This is followed by a period of steam venting from the geyser that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

This video shows Steamboat Geyser venting steam after an eruption in 2018.

While some geysers at Yellowstone erupt fairly frequently, Steamboat Geyser, a cone geyser, goes through periods of inactivity that can span years or even decades.

Between 1911 and 1961 the geyser was dormant. After a dormancy of fifty years, Steamboat Geyser became more regularly active in 1962.

2018 began a more active period of eruptions. The most active years on record were 2020 and 2019 with 48 major eruptions each year.

Steamboat geyser eruption, steam phase; Kalsang Phuntsok/NPS,  July 31, 2013, public domain
Steamboat geyser eruption, steam phase; Kalsang Phuntsok/NPS, July 31, 2013, public domain

Recorded Major Eruptions of Steamboat Geyer

2020

48 major eruptions occurred in 2020 with Steamboat Geyser.

# of EruptionsInterval
January 9 and 23;
February 1, 12, 21, and 28;
March 6, 15, and 24;
April 2, 10, and 27;
May 8, 14, 19, 23, and 31;
June 3, 8, 12, 18, 23, and 29;
July 2, 9, and 13;
August 3, 8, 20, 26;
September 1, 9, 16, 26;
October 5, 14, 27;
November 3, 11, 20, 29;
December 11, 20
14 and 14 days;
9, 11, 10, and 7 days;
7, 9, and 9 days;
9, 8, and 17 days;
11, 6, 5, 4, and 8 days;
3, 5, 4, 6, 5, and 6 days;
3, 7, and 4 days;
4, 6, 4, 5, and 6 days;
6, 7, 6, and 9 days;
9, 8, and 7 days;
12 and 8 days

Steamboat Geyser Major Eruptions in 2019

48 major eruptions occurred in 2019 with Steamboat Geyser.

January 4, 16, and 25;
February 1, 8, 16, and 25;
March 4, 11, 17, and 25;
April 8 and 25;
May 3, 8, 13, 20, and 27;
June 1, 7, 12, 15, 19, 23, and 28;
July 4, 10, 18, 24, and 30;
August 12, 20, and 27;
September 3, 11, 17, and 25;
October 1, 7, 16, 22, and 30;
November 8, 17, and 27;
December 8, 18, and 26
9, 11, and 9 days;
7, 7, 8, and 9 days;
7, 7, 6, and 8 days;
14 and 17 days;
7, 5, 5, 6, and 7 days;
5, 6, 5, 3, 4, 4, and 5 days;
5, 6, 8, 6, and 6 days;
13, 7, and 7 days;
6, 8, 6, and 8 days;
6, 6, 9, 6, and 8 days;
9, 9, and 10 days;
11, 10, and 8 days

Steamboat Geyser Major Eruptions in 2018

32 major eruptions occurred in 2020 with Steamboat Geyser.

March 15,
April 19 & 27,
May 4, 13, 19, & 27,
June 4, 11, & 15,
July 6 & 20;
August 4, 22, & 27;
September 1, 7, 12, 17, 24, & 29;
October 8, 15, 23, and 31;
November 7, 15, 21, and 28;
December 8, 17, and 25
3 years, 193 days;
35 & 7 days;
7, 8, 6, & 7 days;
7, 6, & 4 days;
20 & 14 days;
14, 18, & 5 days;
5, 6, 5, 5, 7, & 5 days;
9, 7, 8, and 7 days;
7, 7, 6, and 7 days;
9, 9, and 8 days

Steamboat Geyser Major Eruptions From 1890 – 2014

Tourist watch steam vent from Steamboat Geyser on Setpmber 4, 2014, the day after it erupted.  Photo: Neal Herbert/NPS, public domain.
Tourist watch steam vent from Steamboat Geyser on September 4, 2014, the day after it erupted. Photo: Neal Herbert/NPS, public domain.
Year# of EruptionsInterval
20141 (September 3)1 year, 34 days
20131 (July 31)6 years, 162 days
20071 (Feb. 21)1 years, 274 days
20051 (May 23)1 year, 213 days
20033 (March 26, April 27, October 22)193 days; 32 days; 178 days
20022 (April 26, September 13)1 year, 359 days; 140 days
20001 (May 2)8 years, 214 days
19911 (October 2)1 year, 120 days
19901237 days
198934.3 years–107 days
1984519–93 days
1983124–107 days
1982234–43 days
19791299 days
197829 years, 216 days; 147 days
19691206 days
1968At least 342–150 days
1967At least 315–310 days
1966At least 1011–77 days
1965227–50 days
1964295–45 days
1963266–32 days
1962At least 78–360 days
1961At least 150 years
1911At least 19 years
1902At least 18 years
1894At least 12 years
1892At least 1<1 year
1891At least 1<1 year
1890At least 112 years

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