Lewis and Clark Expedition member turned mountain man John Colter was the first white explorer to describe the thermal features and area that encompasses what we now know as Yellowstone National Park. At first John Colter was written off as crazy and the strange place he had described was mockingly referred to as “Colter’s Hell.” But eventually, other explorers returned from the American West with tales similar to what Colter described. One such tale was that a large alpine lake existed where one could catch a fish and then swing his pole over a steam vent and cook his catch without so much as taking a step. Those early explorers could have very well been referring to the West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake.
Today, a large parking lot and boardwalk paths make accessing, walking, and viewing the West Thumb Geyser Basin very easy. Once on the boardwalk that is elevated above the shores between thermal area to the west and the lake to the east, the early explorer’s fishing tale is easy to believe!
I’ve vistited Yellowstone several times now, but last Summer was the first time I pulled off and checked out the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It isn’t nearly as grand as the geyser basins in and around Old Faithful (it was also less crowded), but with this geyser area immediately adjacent to huge Yellowstone Lake makes it a special place worth exploring.