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Beowawe | by Chief Bwana
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Beowawe

Geysers? In Nevada?

 

About five miles from near-ghost town of Beowawe, Nevada, geysers used to erupt--till they were extinguished by people wanting cheap energy.

 

While hot springs and perpetual spouters are fairly common, true geysers (natural, intermittently erupting hot springs) are very rare on the planet. The biggest geyser fields on earth are in Yellowstone (outnumbering all others combined), Iceland, and New Zealand.

 

After my first trip to Yellowstone as a teen-ager, I became fascinated with geysers. I was astonished to learn that there were two other locations in the United States where they could be found--both in Nevada. In the 1970s I had my first chance to visit the Nevada sites at Beowawe (south of I-80 in the middle of nowhere) and Steamboat Springs (south of Reno). The man-made Fly Geyser doesn't count as a natural geyser.

 

At both sites, I was fortunate to see and photograph geyser activity. Shortly thereafter, sadly, geothermal projects robbed the springs of their heat and water, leaving them dead and dry. This photo was from a subsequent visit to Beowawe in 1983, when there was still some activity (see additional photo). My 2001 visit revealed nothing but dry, dead springs and geyser cones eroding away, overgrown with weeds. Same with Steamboat Springs--now fenced off, with nothing to show but an occasional wisp of steam from cracks in the formerly active geyser terrace.

 

I understand the need for energy, but something should be said for preserving truly unique features. What would you think if Old Faithful had been tapped to heat a few homes in Wyoming? A similar thing happened in New Zealand. Once beautiful geyser fields were submerged or destroyed by dams and power plants for the convenience of a few.

 

There had been talk of making Beowawe a National Monument, but locals couldn't get the idea off the ground against the lure of cheap geothermal power. I think thousands of people would have paid to visit a park here, boosting the economy with concessions and jobs. But now there is nothing left, and any local people benefiting from the power are hard to find, as the local town fades into oblivion.

 

I made this a "Mystery Photo" when I first posted it, but only one Flickr member identified it after some hints. It is so obscure now that you can't even find information about it on Google Earth, and pictures of the geysers are rare on the internet. As far as I can tell, this is the only photo of the Beowawe geyser field on Flickr. I should post some of my other photos from 1976, 1983 and 2001 from time to time, just to illustrate the history of a fascinating place now lost.

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Taken in August 1983