10 Steamy Facts About Old Faithful

BigshotD3/iStock via Getty Images
BigshotD3/iStock via Getty Images

Yellowstone National Park attracts more than 4 million visitors per year as the fifth-most visited national park in the U.S. People come to this 3472-square-mile tract of Western wilderness for its towering mountains, charismatic megafauna, and, of course, its spectacular geysers. While there are loads of hydrothermal features to see, the most iconic geyser by far is Old Faithful, named by explorers in 1870. Here are a few facts about this Wyoming wonder.

1. Old Faithful doesn’t always erupt at 60-minute intervals.

There’s a longstanding myth that Old Faithful erupts every hour. According to the National Park Service (NPS), this has never been true. On a typical day, Old Faithful shoots out a plume of superheated steam around 17 times, anywhere from 60 to 110 minutes apart. Geologists can use the duration of the latest outburst and other factors to determine how long it may take for the next one to arrive. The formula’s success rate speaks for itself: 90 percent of Old Faithful’s eruptions take place within 10 minutes of these calculated predictions.

2. Chambers full of molten rock underlie Old Faithful.

Geysers occur when a subterranean reservoir of water is warmed enough to burst through Earth’s crust. Below Yellowstone National Park lie two volcanic chambers loaded with molten rock called magma. On top of the chambers are cavities of groundwater. The magma heats the underground water and pressure builds until water bubbles out of the ground, releasing some of the pressure—which causes vigorous boiling and a subsequent explosion of water. That’s when the fun starts.

3. Old Faithful’s water reservoirs become superheated.

A geyser’s underground dimensions play an important part in its eruptions. The narrow reservoirs constrict the water in a tight space, while the overhanging rock creates pressure. The water at the bottom of the geyser experiences additional pressure because the cooler water nearer the top of the reservoir pushes down on it. These forces keep the low-lying water liquid, even as it grows hotter and hotter. Within Old Faithful, groundwater can hit temperatures as high as 244°F. Despite exceeding water’s normal boiling point at sea level of 212°F, this water doesn’t transform into gas—instead, it becomes superheated.

4. Up to 8400 gallons of water are released when Old Faithful erupts.

smontgom65/iStock via Getty Images

The built-up steam and boiling water reacts to the geyser’s internal pressures by shooting dramatically out of the Earth. Each eruption can emit 3700 to 8400 gallons of water skywards.

5. Old Faithful is part of the world’s densest concentration of geysers.

There are more than 500 geysers among over 10,000 hydrothermal structures in Yellowstone National Park. Geologists divide them into nine clusters called geyser basins. Old Faithful is the centerpiece of the Upper Basin in the park’s western half, which contains at least 150 individual geysers. That makes it the biggest concentration of geysers on planet Earth.

6. Native American tribes have descriptive names for Yellowstone’s geyser region.

Native people have inhabited what is now Yellowstone National Park since time immemorial. The Crow named the hydrothermal areas of what is now Yellowstone National Park the “land of the burning ground” or “land of vapors,” according to historian Lee H. Whittlesey [PDF]. “[The] Crows specifically called the Yellowstone geysers Bide-Mahpe, meaning ‘sacred or powerful water,’” Whittlesey writes. The Flathead’s and Kiowa’s names for the park’s geyser region translate to “smoke from the ground” and “the place of hot water,” respectively.

7. The name Old Faithful dates back to 1870.

Lucas Cometto/iStock via Getty Images

The first privately funded American expedition to the Yellowstone area took place in 1869, and the explorers published an updated map of the region. That encouraged another, larger expedition the following year, led by former Congressman Henry D. Washburn and businessman Nathaniel P. Langford with a military escort by Gustavus C. Doane. Langford described “a perfect geyser … It spouted at regular intervals nine times during our stay, the columns of boiling water being thrown from 90 to 125 feet at each discharge, which lasted from 15 to 20 minutes. We gave it the name of Old Faithful.”

8. Bears once chowed down on free garbage near Old Faithful.

Today, feeding a bear at Yellowstone National Park can earn you a $5000 fine and a six-month prison sentence. In the past, though, the park’s attitude was far more lax. Before World War II, Yellowstone managers would encourage bears to dine at purpose-built trash dumps, which attracted huge crowds of visitors. One of these heaps, located near Old Faithful, was marked with a wooden sign that said “Lunch Counter for Bears Only.”

9. Old Faithful isn’t Yellowstone National Park’s largest geyser.

That honor goes to the Steamboat geyser, a monster capable of launching 300-foot columns of water and steam. By comparison, the tallest plumes from Old Faithful are around 184 feet high. But it’s harder to plan a visit around Steamboat’s eruptions. It once went dormant for 50 years, and though it’s recently become more active, it still erupts far less often than Old Faithful.

10. Old Faithful’s output is changing.

In 1959, 1983, and 1998, earthquakes
caused dips in the geyser’s daily eruption average. As the NPS explains, “the average interval between eruptions has been lengthening during the last several decades.” That’s correlated to the durations of the outbursts themselves. If an eruption lasts for more than 2.5 minutes, you’ll probably have to wait an hour and a half to watch the next one. But shorter eruptions mean shorter wait periods. And in recent years, lengthy eruptions have become more common.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Facts About Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's Home

Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
J. Stephen Conn, Flickr // CC by NC 2.0

Fleeing Manhattan for the country is a tradition that wealthy New Yorkers have partaken in for centuries—and our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was no exception. Starting when he was a teen, TR and his family would retreat to Long Island for the summer, and as an adult, he built his own home there: Sagamore Hill, which became his permanent home after his presidency. In honor of what would be TR’s 162nd birthday, here are 10 facts about Sagamore Hill, of which Roosevelt once wrote, “there isn't any place in the world like home—like Sagamore Hill.”

1. Sagamore Hill was built near where Theodore Roosevelt spent his childhood summers.

Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, first served as a refuge for a sickly TR in his youth. He’d hike, ride horses, row, and swim—generally engaging in the “strenuous life” and beginning his lifelong love affair with nature. The family home was known as Tranquility, and was situated two miles southwest from the future Sagamore Hill mansion.

2. Theodore Roosevelt bought the land for Sagamore Hill in 1880.

The same year he married his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, Roosevelt purchased 155 acres on the north shore of Long Island for $30,000 to build a home. Situated on Long Island Sound, the site is home to a wide variety of habitats, from woodlands to salt marshes, as well as plenty of ecological diversity, thus giving Roosevelt much to observe and document.

3. Sagamore Hill wasn't supposed to go by that name.

The home that would become Sagamore Hill was originally going to be named Leeholm, after Roosevelt's wife Alice. However, following her tragic death shortly after giving birth to their daughter, the property was renamed Sagamore—according to Roosevelt, after Sagamore Mohannis (today more commonly known as Sachem Mohannes), who was chief of a tribe in the area over 200 years earlier. Sagamore is an Algonquian word for "chieftain."

4. Theodore Roosevelt had very specific ideas for the layout of Sagamore Hill.

Among his "perfectly definite views" for the home, he would later recall, were "a library with a shallow bay window opening south, the parlor or drawing-room occupying all the western end of the lower floor; as broad a hall as our space would permit; big fireplaces for logs; on the top floor a gun room occupying the western end so that north and west it [looks] over the Sound and Bay." Long Island builder John A. Wood began work on the Queen Anne-style mansion (designed by New York architecture firm Lamb and Rich), on March 1, 1884. It was completed in 1885, with Roosevelt's sister, Anna, taking care of the house (and new baby Alice) while Roosevelt was out west in the Dakota Badlands, nursing his grieving heart.

5. Theodore Roosevelt delivered campaign speeches from the porches of Sagamore Hill.

Theodore Roosevelt addresses a crowd of 500 suffragettes from the porch of his Sagamore Hill home around 1905. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was one of Roosevelt’s greatest wishes for the Sagamore Hill home to possess "a very big piazza ... where we could sit in rocking chairs and look at the sunset," and so wide porches were built on the south and west sides of the house. Roosevelt would use the piazza to deliver speeches to the public, and it was here that he was notified of his nominations as governor of New York (1898), vice president (1900) and president (1904).

6. Sagamore Hill was Theodore Roosevelt's "Summer White House."

Roosevelt became the first president to bring his work home with him, spending each of his summers as president at Sagamore Hill. He even had a phone installed so he could conduct business from the house. But by 1905, Edith had had enough of TR usurping the drawing room—which was supposed to be her office—to hold his visitors [PDF], and of his gaming trophies and other treasures taking up space. So the Roosevelts constructed what would become the North Room. "The North Room cost as much as the entire house had," Susan Sarna, curator at Sagamore Hill, told Cowboys & Indians magazine in 2016. "It is grandiose." Measuring 40 feet by 20 feet, with ceilings 20 feet high, it was constructed of mahogany brought in from the Philippines. The addition brought the total number of rooms at Sagamore Hill from 22 to 23.

7. Theodore Roosevelt met with foreign leaders at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt stands between Russian and Japanese dignitaries in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1905. On September 5, they signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War and earning Roosevelt the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize; he was the first American to win a Nobel Prize of any kind.Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

In September 1905, Roosevelt brokered peace talks between Russian and Japanese dignitaries, which led to end of the Russo-Japanese War. But before the peace talks (which took place on a yacht in the Navy yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire), Roosevelt met the negotiators—from Japan, Takahira Kogorō, ambassador to the U.S., and diplomat Jutaro Komura; and from Russia, diplomat Baron Roman Romanovich von Rosen and Sergei Iluievich Witte—at Sagamore Hill. TR earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

8. Sagamore Hill has a pet cemetery.

Roosevelt’s love of animals was passed down to his six children, who adopted a veritable menagerie, including cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, a bear, and a badger. A number of those beloved companions ended up in Sagamore Hill's pet cemetery; among them is Little Texas, the horse TR rode on his charge up Kettle Hill during the Spanish-American War.

9. Life at Sagamore Hill was lively.

The atmosphere at Sagamore Hill was a boisterous one. According to the National Park Service, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge complained about how late they stayed up, how loud they talked, and how early they woke up. Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt’s favorite niece, too, recalled a constant barrage of activity during her visits. The children partook in all manner of outdoor activities, and Roosevelt was known for abruptly ending his appointments in order to join them.

10. Theodore Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt passed away on January 6, 1919 at Sagamore Hill. Edith died there on September 30, 1948, and five years later, Sagamore Hill was opened to the public. In 2015, a $10 million renovation of the house was completed; 99 percent of what can be seen at the home today is original—including thousands of books, extensive artwork, and yes, 36 pieces of taxidermy.

Shortly before Roosevelt died, he asked Edith, “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill?” and thanks to the extensive work done to restore his home, we all can.