SILEX SPRING ~ YELLOWSTONE ~ WYOMING
Silex Spring at Fountain Paint Pot in Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world's most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
As you admire the beauty of Silex Spring, consider how this hot water arrived at the surface. Deep beneath your feet, heat from the molten rock of the earth's interior is transmitted up through the solid rock of the earth's crust. Ground water circulating through these rocks becomes heated and follows cracks and fissures upward. Where the hot water can escape at the ground surface, a hot spring is formed.
Hot water is a better solvent than cooler water; it dissolves large amounts of silica, the major element of these volcanic rocks. Silica, in the form of sinter, lines the bottom of Silex spring. It forms terraces along the runoff channels and gives the spring its name: Silex is Latin for silica.
Silex Spring overflows most of the year. This overflow creates a hot environment where thermophiles thrive. Thermophiles become food for several kinds of flies that live in and on the hot water. The flies then become food for mites, spiders, various insects and birds
Bacteria and other thermophiles (heat loving microorganisms) usually form the ribbons of color like you see here. The green, brown, and orange mats are cyanobacteria, which can live in waters as hot as 167 F (73 C). At this temperature they are usually yellow-green. They become orange, rust, or brown as the water cools. In cooler water other thermophiles may appear that will modify the colors even more. Color may also change due to stress, such as the intense sunlight of mid summer.
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