Dragons in Yellowstone

September 02, 2016 Posted by: Hailey Galper, 2016 Archives Intern

With its turbulent thermal features, rock formations, sulfuric gasses, volcanic events, and seismic activity it’s no wonder some early visitors to the park fancied Yellowstone full of fire, brimstone, and bizarre creatures. Yellowstone is in many ways, the ideal environment for dragons. Particularly in thermal areas, Yellowstone has a kind of dangerous beauty and for many visitors, the thermal features appear to be something out of a fantasy story.

Dragons do exist here in Yellowstone. Well, in spirit that is. Some of the thermal features near the Mud Volcano now bear names inspired by the fantastical early impressions of the park. Dragon’s Mouth and Black Dragon Cauldron are remarkably different kinds of thermal features.

Dragon’s Mouth is a hot spring. Located to the left just down the boardwalk from Mud Volcano, Dragon’s Mouth Spring boils out of a deep cave. Gasses and steam are released deep in the cave, creating pressure bubbles that explode against the roof of the cave. As this occurs, it creates a kind of booming and gurgling noise that is echoed through the cave and can be heard from the boardwalk. The sound resembles the growling of an animal. Due to the high temperature of the water, large amounts of steam rise from the mouth of the cave, giving the impression of smoke billowing from the mouth of a dragon. Dragon’s mouth has captured the attention of travelers since the early days of the park, and continues to do so today.

Dragon's Mouth hot spring

Black Dragon Cauldron is a boiling mud pot, similar to the Mud Volcano. While Mud Volcano is now just a pool, having blown away its volcano top in 1872, Black Dragon Cauldron did not exist before 1948. It exploded into existence sometime before June of 1948, knocking trees down and showering the surrounding forest with mud.

I know what you’re thinking, those aren’t REAL dragons in Yellowstone. I concede, the only dragons with wings that exist in Yellowstone exist in works of fiction. One such story is a book by Kimberly Loth, titled The Dragon Kings Obsidian. The story follows a young girl studying the dragons that live near her home in Yellowstone. In a world where all National Parks are the homes of dragons, Yellowstone rises supreme.

Dragon’s Mouth and Black Dragon Cauldron can both be found along short boardwalk hikes near Mud Volcano. The Dragon Kings Obsidian can be found at the Yellowstone Research Library housed in the Heritage and Resource Center in Gardiner, Montana under the call number 813 L911.

Written by: Hailey Galper 

Image taken from Yellowstone's Photo Collection

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Last updated: September 2, 2016

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