Tourism And Human Contamination Caused Yellowstone Hot Spring To Become Multicolor, Originally Just Blue

Tara West

The Yellowstone National Park is known for its surreal looking hot springs. The hot springs are beautiful when photographed, and show a pool of water that features rings of different colors. However, a new study suggests that the modern appearance of this "natural wonder" was actually created by tourism and human interference.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the colorful pools are the result of years of tourism.

"Yet not all of Yellowstone's famed thermal pools were always the riot of color they are today. In fact, long before this volcanic region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho was made a national park in 1872, the now yellow, green and blue Morning Glory Pool was most likely a pond of deep blue."

The multicolor Morning Glory Pool is actually the result of a barrage of garbage, rocks, and coins that were thrown into the pool over the years. A recent study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Sciences, notes that researchers used a basic mathematical model based on optical measurements to explain the unique colors of Yellowstone National Park's hot springs. The study used the findings to recreate how the springs would have appeared years ago, before tourism contaminated the pools. The study found that the pools originally would have just been a deep blue without the now famous rings of color.

According to the report, the colorful rings are created by various microbes that collect in the pool. These colonies of microbes thrive in the pool's hot waters, which range between 140 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit. As the microbes move to the areas of the pool with their prime temperature, the colonies group together. Different types of microbes create different colors in the pool. Since the different microbes prefer different temperatures, they group together and it creates the circular patterns of yellows, greens, browns, and oranges you see today leading into the dark blue center of the pool.

The researchers say that the center of the pool is actually the pool's natural color prior to the introduction of the additional microbes and obstruction of the spring's vents.

"The pool center -- though presumably covered by the yellow mat -- appears deep blue, indicating that the pool is deep enough that backward-scattered sunlight from the water is the dominant component of upwelling light. Before the vents were partially plugged, Morning Glory Pool... was reported to be primarily blue in color."

Did you know that the Yellowstone Morning Glory Pool's unique appearance was the result of human interference and garbage?