The Norris Area may best be known for its geysers, but the region also boasts waterfalls, thermal pools, mountains, rivers, and forests.
Reliant upon both cold and hot springs for its sustained flow, the Gibbon River winds its way from Wolf Lake through the Norris region to its junction with the Firehole River. The river is heavily populated with grayling, rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout, and fly-fishing is allowed below Gibbon Falls.
Norris-Canyon Pine Swath
In 1984, a fierce windstorm blew its way through Yellowstone, and the Norris Area was heavily hit. During the course of its fury, the storm blew down a twenty-two square mile patch of native lodgepole pine. The swath subsequently burned during the 1988 North Fork fire and became the site of a worldwide news report that stated, “Tonight, this is all that’s left of Yellowstone.” Visitors can learn more about the storm and fire in a nearby roadside marker.
Norris Geyser Basin
Providing a constant testimony to Yellowstone’s amazing underground composition, the Norris Geyser Basin is the park’s oldest, hottest, and most active thermal area. Researchers have recorded temperatures as hot as 459 degrees Fahrenheit (237 degrees Celsius) underground while surface temperatures are a consistent 199 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius).
Due to the presence of such hot water, Norris Geyser Basin is home to the park’s most active geysers, including Steamboat Geyser and Echinus Geyser. The area is extremely acidic, and rare acid geysers are distributed throughout the region. The region’s highly active nature also ensures that thermal features transform daily as the result of water pressure changes and frequent seismic activity.
In addition to spectacular geysers, the Norris Geyser Basin features wooded and barren basin areas, including Porcelain Basin, Back Basin, and One Hundred Springs Plain. Travel is strictly restricted to maintained boardwalk trails, as many of the basin areas are hollow and dangerous.
Located four miles north of Norris on the east side of the Grand Loop Road, Roaring Mountain is a bare plot of land dotted with numerous steam vents called fumaroles. Although several of these vents are still present today, records suggest that the acidic thermal area possessed hundreds of additional fumaroles during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The thermal area received its name from a characteristic rumbling that was once so loud, it could be heard more than four miles away. Today, the mountain’s roar has diminished as the number of fumaroles has decreased.
The Gibbon River plunges sixty feet to form the Virginia Cascades. Visitors can locate the waterfall after a three-mile hike or bicycle ride on the well-marked old Norris Road. The scenic waterfall is sheltered away from the crowds and is well worth the side trip.