Geysers and Hot Springs

Norris Porcelain Geyser Basin's Milky Colors

You’ve heard of porcelain skin and porcelain dolls, but porcelain geyser areas? In Yellowstone National Park, nature never ceases to amaze. There, visitors will find Porcelain Basin, the fastest changing section of the Norris Geyser Basin.

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. Brought to the surface by hot water, the mineral collects on the ground as the water spreads over the flat basin. The settled geyserite resembles a big white sheet covering the ground.

Crackling Lake in Yellowstone's Porcelain Geyser Basin
Crackling Lake in Yellowstone’s Porcelain Geyser BasinGloria Wadzinski

Photo: Crackling Lake in the Norris Porcelain Basin.

The Porcelain Basin is always changing, thanks in large part to the geyserite. As the mineral collects around a hot spring or geyser, it’s prone to accumulating around the vent. Eventually, enough geyserite builds up that the opening is covered, causing the hot water to pressurize beneath it. That water may flow underneath the ground finding another weak area to surface. If there isn’t another opening, however, the pressure will build and build until it blows a new hole in the old vent.

Of course, this natural phenomenon would be awesome to see, but you’d better time it perfectly. Geyserite deposits accumulate very, very slowly—less than one inch per century. So though the mineral causes the geyser cones and mounds seen so often in geyser basins, it’s quite rare to witness a new hole being created.

Take in the sites and snap a few pics while walking around the 3/4-mile dirt and boardwalk trail that winds through the area. Trees can’t survive in the area, though, so be sure to wear sunscreen.

Bright green and yellow runoff in Norris Porcelain Basin. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski
Bright green and yellow runoff in Norris Porcelain Basin.Gloria Wadzinski
Blue Pools in Norris Porcelain Basin
Blue Pools in Yellowstone’s Norris Porcelain BasinGloria Wadzinski
Norris Porcelain Basin. Photo by Jeff Vanuga
Norris Porcelain Jeff Vanuga