YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (NewsNation Now) — Sept. 18 marked the 150th anniversary of an expedition led by Army Col. Henry Washburn that arrived upon an erupting geyser they would eventually name Old Faithful.
More than one million eruptions have wowed crowds since then. But Old Faithful has been slowing down in recent years.
The cheers break out every time it erupts and, for the most part, eruptions that average 140 feet high are still fairly faithful.
“It still makes them go wow, it still holds them in awe after 150 years and that’s what it did to the first people,” said Yellowstone Park Ranger Rebecca Roland.
The first people in the Washburn expedition came upon the geyser on September 18, 1870. They dubbed it Old Faithful since it spouted off so regularly. But earthquakes and shifting underground have disturbed with the timing.
Experts believe that is a possibility as Old Faithful is in a geothermal area with about half of the world’s active geysers.
The Washburn expedition did not include a photographer, according to Yellowstone historian Alicia Murphy. The photo below is from the Hayden geological survey a year later in 1871.
Burns and injuries eventually made clear that standing so close to 200-degree water wasn’t a good idea.
Many visitors are unaware of the anniversary or even of the expedition, but it’s clear that Old Faithful is still gaining new fans every day.
“It’s super cool to be here, to experience it, all instead of seeing other people’s pictures or videos. They just don’t do justice to anything,” said a visitor.
“It’s so iconic to come in and share that experience with people from all over the world and everybody is so happy. And Old Faithful erupts and you can hear the communal ‘oooh, aaaahhh,’” says Roland.
But Old Faithful may not be faithful forever, according to Murphy.
“It’s a very dynamic system. Someday, something will change in the internal plumbing under the ground of Old Faithful and Old Faithful will stop erupting.”
Although Native American tribes had lived in the region for thousands of years amid the geysers, formal documentation and study didn’t begin until the late 1800s. It was soon after the early expeditions that Congress moved to establish Yellowstone as America’s first national park in 1872.