Swimming Pools at Yellowstone
Swimming Pools at Yellowstone

Did you know that up until the 1950’s, visitors to the Old Faithful area could take a dip in a geyser fed heated pool? Enjoy this fascinating look back at the Upper Geyser Basin bathhouse by the The United States Geological Survey USGS:

Bak in 1914, Henry J. Brothers obtained permission to build a bathhouse and pipe hot water from Solitary Geyser to create a relaxing warm pool for visitors. The unique setting and soothing waters quickly became a popular attraction, albeit for a price. According to the park regulations of 1920, “Henry J. Brothers operates a pool bathhouse at Upper Geyser Basin. Rates: 50 cents in the large pool, $1 in the private pool.”

In 1933, the prominent park concessionaire Charles A. Hamilton acquired the Brothers bathhouse and transformed it into a massive log building. The remodeled bathhouse featured a large indoor pool capable of accommodating 135 people and boasted a 25-foot-high lifeguard tower.

By 1951, due to public health concerns and changing attitudes, the geyser bathhouse was removed from the Upper Geyser Basin. The impact of this unique attraction, however, lingered.

Decades of diverting hot water had altered Solitary Geyser’s natural behavior. When the Brothers pool was constructed, the outlet channel was dredged and deepened, and wooden cooling frames were installed to transport the water downhill. These modifications lowered the water level in the spring, allowing boiling to occur at depth and initiating regular eruptive behavior from Solitary Geyser.

The decision to alter a natural geyser for the luxury of a swimming pool reflects the attitudes and policies of the time. Today, Yellowstone’s thermal features are cherished for their natural beauty and the unique thermophilic communities they support. As public opinion and official policies have evolved, such practices are no longer considered appropriate.

As we contemplate the history of Yellowstone’s geyser-fed pool, it’s fascinating to consider how current park practices might evolve in the future. What activities and amenities might be phased out, and what new practices will emerge? The story of Yellowstone’s heated pool serves as a reminder of the ever-changing relationship between humans and the natural world.

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