Driving across the high desert of central Utah back to Denver we made an unexpected discovery around Green River, UT. We had stopped for a water break at a convenience store in the 100 degree July heat, and I noticed the postcard rack. I always give them a browse to check out local “must-sees” and chuckle at horrible photoshop work. An older photo of Crystal Geyser spewing high into the air caught my eye as I had never heard of it. After reading that it was only 9 miles south of our current location, I pointed it out to Nathan and we decided to give it a go. We were in no hurry to get back on the road and the prospect of witnessing the only U.S. cold water, carbon dioxide geyser on an atrociously hot day sounded refreshing.
We turned south off I-70 onto a dusty dirt road. A signboard announcing Crystal Geyser didn’t provide more information on the fountain but did educate us on the surrounding abandoned buildings—remnants of the Utah Launch Complex used as a launch point for test missiles targeted for the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. They’re nothing much to look at but they had the interesting historical factor. We carried on past a few spur roads but we finally crowned the top of a dusty hill and were rewarded with a view of the Green River and … a large pipe sticking out of the ground on the north bank. I furrowed my brow and looked over at Nathan.
“Is this it?!?”
No signs, no safety fencing to hold people back (OK there weren’t any people besides us), just a 12 inch diameter pipe sticking out of the ground with a puddle of water around it. This was disappointing.
We got out and walked right up to the pipe, wading through the ankle deep cold water that surrounded it. We both balanced on a small rock propped up against the pipe to peer down into it. I don’t know what I was expecting to see but the thought of water suddenly exploding from it knocking my head off my shoulders did run though my mind. How could they just let people walk right up to this, I thought? But nothing was happening, so why wouldn’t they?
We started walking around the pipe noticing that water had wetted the surrounding area quite recently. Maybe we should wait? We followed the slope of the travertine rock that led down to the river and were amazed to discover the water movement had carved fantastic rippled works of art. Hardened rippled rock formations seemed to timelessly drip into the river. A rippled, poured rock staircase looked perfectly placed. It was a small area affected by the periodic flow of carbon dioxide laden water but it was spectacular in shape and color in the bright desert sun.
As we marveled and snapped photos of the rock formations, water started trickling down the rock face. A suddle gurgling noise diverted our attention to the distant pipe. Bubbles had started to erupt from the base of the pipe!
“This is it!” I yelled toward Nathan. We both ran over to the pipe anticipating the fresh water geyser. The five and a half foot tall pipe had small corrosion holes in it’s side at various heights so we could see the water rising as it spewed from higher and higher holes. The bubbles became more intense at the base and the pool of water around the pipe became larger and deeper.
“How close should we get to this thing?” I asked Nathan. If it fully erupted, I wouldn’t mind getting wet but how much water were we talking about here? Enough to wash us down into the river? That wouldn’t be good. As the water bubbled higher and higher in the pipe, I started having second thoughts about being so close. “How could they not have a fence around this thing to protect people from themselves?” I again thought. I started moving back and Nathan started moving closer. The noise and bubbling was becoming intense. And then it wasn’t. The water started retreating down into the pipe.
“That can’t be it!?!” I asked incredulously. The water didn’t even make it out of the top of the pipe. This was nothing like what the postcard touted. We sat and waited a few more minutes but all we were rewarded with was retreating bubbled water.
“Wah, wah waaaaah!” I made the disappointed game show noise. Maybe that was it? Maybe that was a minor geyser before the major geyser? Maybe we just had to wait longer? Either way, we had spent an hour in the piercing sun, playing in the water beside the cool Green River. It was a welcome break from the 10 hour drive home to Denver. Maybe we’ll stop back another time and see if we can catch the geyser in all her glory. Or maybe that was it!
After returning home, we googled Crystal Geyser and learned these interesting tidbits:
The first written record of Crystal Geyser was in 1869 by the Powell Geographic Expediton. The current form of the geyser was created in 1935 in an attempt to locate oil. There is no set time to it’s eruptions which occur every 8 to 22 hours for an average of about 100 minutes a day. Full eruptions can reach a height of up to 40 meters.