The Norris Geyser Basin has some of the hottest geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park. This major geyser area is composed of two basins: Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. Porcelain Basin is one of the most distinctive areas in Norris Yellowstone because, due to its extreme heat and acidity, no plants can grow there, which gives it an extremely barren appearance.
The basin is home to the tallest geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser, which can reach 300 feet with its sporadic but major eruptions. North of the Norris Geyser Basin, don't miss Roaring Mountain, a mountain so filled with thermal steam vents and other features that you can literally hear it roaring as steam rushes through various tunnels in the rock. Meanwhile, on the Gibbon River nearby, visitors can glimpse the unique-looking Virginia Cascades, a waterfall that tumbles over a slope in the middle of the forest.
Norris Geyser Basin contains some of the most famous geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park. Steamboat Geyser is not as famous as the smaller Old Faithful Geyser, but it is the tallest geyser in the world, reaching up to 300 feet. Unfortunately, its major eruptions are rare and often spaced more than a year apart. Nevertheless, visitors can visit Steamboat to see the frequent minor eruptions that reach up to 40 feet, and the lucky few may catch the geyser during one of its most impressive eruptions. Nearby, visitors can view the colorful terraces of Cistern Spring, where colorful bacteria give the terraces rainbow hues.
Another popular attraction at the Norris Basin is Echinus Geyser. Prior to 1999, it had some of the most frequent and predictable eruptions in the park. Now, however, it has slowed down, with eruptions about every 90 minutes. Echinus Geyser is unique as one of the few acidic geysers in the world. Its acidic water is able to dissolve large amounts of minerals and deposit them around the geyser, making the spine-like rock formations that give the geyser its name. (Echinus means spiny.)
Visiting the Porcelain Basin is a unique experience. Although the area is primarily famous for its desolate white landscape, the geysers here are unstable and change constantly. Among the more famous geysers at the Porcelain Basin are the Whirligig Geyser, which emits puffs of steam and water in several directions, and Constant Geyser, which erupts very frequently, as its name suggests.
North of the Norris Geyser Basin stands Roaring Mountain, a barren mountainside with many fumaroles, or steam vents, emitting water vapor. The side of Roaring Mountain that has the most steam vents is white-colored and barren, and it’s formed of volcanic rhyolite rock. Try visiting Roaring Mountain the day after a heavy rain, as the water runoff, warmed by underground hot spots, makes the mountain look even steamier.
In addition, don't miss the Virginia Cascades during your trip to Yellowstone. This waterfall on the Gibbon River is close to Norris Basin. The 60-foot high Virginia Cascades are a surging, white stream of water cascading over a slope of rock. It can be accessed by a one-way road to the north side of the cascade.
The features of the Norris Geyser Basin can also be seen from a boardwalk trail that runs through this thermal area. As with all geyser basins and geothermal areas in Yellowstone, make sure you stay safely on the trail. Norris Geyser Basin is one of the hottest areas of the park, and many hot springs and geysers are at boiling temperatures. Even ground that may appear solid may actually merely be a thin crust disguising boiling water or mud. Additionally, staying on the path ensures protection of the unique natural features of Yellowstone's ecosystem.