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by Rick LoBello
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Yellowstone National Park is closed, but you can still visit the park in a very special way by watching the Old Faithful webcam.
When I worked as a Park Ranger in Yellowstone back in the late 1970’s, one of my most memorable assignments was the year I operated the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Back in April of 1978 I was the only Park Naturalist on duty at the visitor center. The Park’s Geologist at the Time was Rick Hutchinson. Rick and I spent many hours at the VC talking about all the thermal features from the view of the information desk where I would predict the next Old Faithful eruption for the benefit of a handful of park visitors.
There were some days when I counted only ten visitors. Those were the days, almost perfect solitude.
Like the geysers name, it was pretty easy to predict eruptions using a stop watch. The same formula I used then works pretty much today. If Old Faithful has a short eruption, the next one will be in 60 minutes (plus or minus 10 minutes). If it has a long eruption, it will be 90 minutes (plus or minus 10 minutes) before the next eruption. Try it when you watch an eruption on the webcam.
The park superintendent was John A. Townsley and he wanted to encourage visitation in the park before the busy summer season. That same year the park was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage list — the United States’ first World Heritage Site . Townsley decided to open the road to Old Faithful a few months early. Lucky me, I was asked to take on the assignment.
At the time I was working as a seasonal Park Naturalist at Big Bend National Park. When I got the call I loaded up everything I owned in my little Toyota Corolla and headed to Mammoth Park Headquarters to get my keys and learn more about my assignment.
Years later whenever I need my Yellowstone fix and I can’t make it to the park I started visiting the Old Faithful webcam. The cam is pointed at the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. Different park staff and volunteers move the cam from one spot to the next during the day focusing on making sure it is pointed at Old Faithful during its next eruption. I only wish there was sound to go with it so just recently I came up with a new way to experience the cam. I look for YouTube videos of winter snow storms and play the sounds on one windows screen while watching the Old Faithful Cam on another. It’s not a perfect set up, but it works for me.
The nice thing about the cam is that you never know who might walk by. If you are really lucky you might see wolves chasing bison or a grizzly bear, but more often there are some pretty amazing sunrises and sunsets. Now that so many of us are at home, next time you are looking for a new online experience check out this cam. There are others from different locations in the park, but the Old Faithful cam is the best.
Want to learn more or sign up as a I Love Parks volunteer? Contact Rick here.