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Ear Spring geyser in Yellowstone National Park spews more than just rock and water

Donna Coutts, November 6, 2018 8:04AM Kids News

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Buffaloes at sunset in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US. Picture: iStock media_cameraBuffaloes at sunset in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US. Picture: iStock


Reading level: orange

A baby’s dummy from the 1930s, cigarette butts and nearly 100 coins have shot up into the sky out of a geyser in Yellowstone National Park in the US.

A geyser is a natural hot spring that has only a small opening, so water and steam from underground shoots up into the sky under pressure.

Ear Spring geyser began erupting in September this year, spewing* rocks, water, steam and rubbish 6-9m into the air.

National Park staff described and showed images of the rubbish on the park’s Facebook page.

Ear Spring rarely erupts, with the last known eruption in 1957, so what was pushed out is like a time capsule. Some of the older pieces of rubbish will be displayed in the park’s museum.

Some of the rubbish that came from Ear Spring geyser in Yellowstone. Picture: Yellowstone National Park media_cameraSome of the rubbish that came from Ear Spring geyser in Yellowstone. Picture: Yellowstone National Park

The rubbish-filled eruption is a warning about the damage littering* can do to the fragile* Yellowstone environment.

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, established* in 1872. There are more geysers in Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the world.

This video shows Steamboat geyser at Yellowstone. It’s the biggest geyser in the world.

It’s an extremely busy place, with more than 4 million visitors every year. Visitors who drop rubbish into inactive* geysers may incorrectly believe that because the rubbish is out of sight, no damage is done. But rubbish can completely clog a geyser so that it never erupts again.

Handkerchief Pool geyser at Yellowstone stopped working in the 1920s because it is clogged with rubbish. The pools of water at other geysers in the park have changed colour because the rubbish contaminates* the water.

Park staff wrote on Facebook: “The next time Ear Spring erupts we hope it’s nothing but natural rocks and water.

“You can help by never throwing anything into Yellowstone’s thermal* features.”

rainbow over geyser media_cameraOld Faithful, the most famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US. Picture: iStock

Yellowstone’s most famous geyser is called Old Faithful.

The park’s biggest geyser — also the biggest in the world — is called Steamboat. It rarely erupts, but when it does, rocks, steam and water can shoot 91-122m into the sky.

Geysers are the pressurised eruption of the contents of a hot spring.

Hot springs occur where water heated below the surface of the Earth can rise to ground level. In volcanic areas, this water is heated by molten* rock. It is often extremely hot and dangerous.

There are hot springs in all states of Australia, plus the Northern Territory, but not the Australian Capital Territory.

There are no true geysers in Australia.

Source: US National Park Service

Buffaloes media_cameraThe geysers are in Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, US. A herd of adult and baby bison graze at sunset. Picture: iStock


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  • spewing: pouring or forcing out lots of something with force
  • littering: dropping rubbish
  • fragile: delicate
  • established: begun;set up
  • inactive: not working at the moment
  • contaminates: makes impure by adding pollutants or poisons
  • thermal: relating to heat
  • molten: melted



  1. What is Yellowstone and what country is it in?
  2. What is a geyser?
  3. When did Ear Spring last erupt?
  4. Why have some pools of water changed colour?
  5. Are there geysers in Australia? Are there hot springs?

1. Visitor information
If you have visited a national park before you might remember seeing signs displayed giving visitors information about the park, including instructions about things they should and should not do. Design an information sign for Yellowstone National Park to stop visitors from leaving rubbish. Keep your sign simple and direct. Think about the words you will use and how much information to give so that the sign will grab people’s attention and they will get the essential information quickly.

2. Extension
Find out more about Yellowstone National Park and write a list of interesting things you might see if you visited.

Time: Allow 20 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Arts — Visual Arts, Design, Personal and Social Capability

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you or anyone you know ever been to a hot spring? Describe your experience. 
Use full sentences. No one-word answers.

Extra Reading in science