Norris Geyser Basin - Yellowstone's Hottest, Oldest, Tallest


Boiling waters; a rainbow of colors; geysers galore; and a personality more fickle than any teenager: The Norris Geyser Basin is a geological area forever wrought in turmoil.

And that’s why it’s so darn cool!

Geyser basins are characterized by the presence of, you guessed it, geysers. These geothermal hotspots (literally) are referred to as basins because they are nearly always lower than the surrounding terrain due to erosion, faults, and the underlying hot water.

Norris ranks as Yellowstone National Park’s hottest and most changeable thermal area, making it one of the most extreme environments on the face of the Earth. Most of its thermal features have temperatures above the boiling point, which is 199°F due to the area’s elevation. It also claims the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in any of Yellowstone’s geothermal areas. There, a scientific-drill hole just 1,087 feet below the surface measured temperatures at a roiling 459°F.

Echinus Geyser in the Norris Back Geyser Basin. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Echinus Geyser in the Norris Back Geyser Basin. 

But it’s not just the temperatures that make Norris so notable. The colors too impress thanks to a combination of minerals and life forms. The area tends to have more milky blue features than other geothermal spots because of a high silica concentration dissolved in the hot water. Reddish orange is another prominent hue thanks to the (poisonous!) iron oxides and arsenic compounds. Cyanobacteria contribute to the more orange-colored areas. Other parts of Norris, those with natural springs, tend to be emerald green due to the blue of refracted light in combination with the yellow of sulfur lining the pool.

Norris Porcelain Basin. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Norris Porcelain Basin. 

The best way to get a great vantage point of these features is to hit one of the boardwalks circling through the area. But don’t step off the boardwalk. Places like Norris are constantly changing and feature hollow areas that may have only a thin layer of rock over them. Beneath that layer of rock: boiling, bacteria-filled water. Although most burns received in thermal areas are second and third degree, people have died from falling into thermal features.

Steamboat Geyser in Norris Back Basin. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

The world's tallest active geyser, Steamboat Geyser is in the Norris Back Basin. It has unpredictable, infrequent major eruptions of more than 300 feet, and frequent minor eruptions 10-40 feet. 

The Norris Geyser Basin Consists of Three Areas

Porcelain Basin – a .75 mile dirt trail and boardwalk cascades around a milky colored, steaming landscape barren of trees.

Back Basin - a 1.5 mile trail of boardwalk and dirt trail encircles a heavily wooded area of many geysers and hot springs.

One Hundred Springs Plain - an off-trail section of the Norris Geyser Basin that is very acidic, hollow, and dangerous. Travel is discouraged without the guidance of knowledgeable staff members.


Emerald Spring in the Norris Back Geyser Basin. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Extreme Geysers in Yellowstone's Norris Back Basin

At the Norris Back Geyser Basin, you'll see a land of extremes... the tallest, but infrequent geyser, geysers that erupt continuously, springs that have been damaged by man, new geysers, old geysers, and exploding geysers.

Norris Porcelain Geyser Basin. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Norris Porcelain Geyser Basin's Milky Colors

Porcelain Basin is named due to the milky color of the mineral deposited here. That whitish-colored mineral is siliceous sinter, also known as geyserite.

Yellowstone's most famous geyser, Old Faithful at Twilight

8 Best Yellowstone Geyser Basins and Map

A map showing Yellowstone's geyser basins including the Upper Geyser Basin with Old Faithful and Morning Glory Pool, and nearby Grand Prismatic.

The Grand Prismatic Pool in Yellowstone's Midway Geyser Basin.

Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone's Midway Geyser Basin

This spring is remarkable for two reasons. Its size: the world’s third-largest, and its colors: bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters

Yellowstone Old Faithful Geyser

See Old Faithful and 60% of the World's Geysers in Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin

See Old Faithful, Castle Geyser, Riverside Geyser and geothermal features of Yellowstone country's steaming vents, erupting geysers and gurgling hot springs.


Watch Geysers Erupt in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is the largest active geyser field in the world.

Steamboat Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin

Yellowstone Geyser Trivia

Steamboat Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin. No one can predict when it's going to erupt, as it works on an odd schdeule, ranging from four days to fifty years.

Artists' Paintpots. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Geysers & Hot Springs look like Pastel Artists' Paintpots

At Yellowstone's Artists' Paintpots, you see pastel-colored mud and springs, bubbling and gurgling under a blanket of steam.

Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone National Park

Deaths and Injuries at Yellowstone's Geysers and Hot Springs

The extraordinary natural features that keep Yellowstone such an alluring place can make it perilous.