Yellowstone Grumbles

Pent-up water and steam threaten to burst through the park’s surface. (And we’re not talking Old Faithful here)

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At the lakeshore opposite the inflated plain one summer day, Morgan and USGS geochemist Pat Shanks investigate some small, inactive craters. They insert a temperature probe into the soil; six inches down, it registers 152 degrees F. Something is still fuming there. Suddenly, some tourists armed with cameras and collapsible walking sticks crest a ridge and charge down, and their guide collars Morgan for an impromptu lecture on the craters. She cheerfully obliges, telling the visitors that the craters are old features—probably not dangerous right now. She barely mentions the inflated plain. "I don't want to scare them too much," she says. "These people are on vacation."

Frequent contributor Kevin Krajick's article "Smithsonian.


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