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Yellowstone’s fickle Canary Spring just went dormant…again

JACKSON, Wyo. — Did an iconic feature of Mammoth Hot Springs just turn itself off for good?

Earlier this month, Yellowstone Park officials were alerted that Canary Spring was no longer flowing. The prized hot springs in the northwest corner of the park…just…stopped.

While this is a dramatic change, it is not the only time this hot spring has gone dormant, say park authorities. In fact, Canary Spring is known for its erratic activity.

Looking back through time, it was recorded as active in July 1884, but inactive in October 1884; then it came back to life the following year.

It was recorded active in 1904 before going dark for a decade — from 1914 to 1924. A period of great terrace formation started in 1924, as Canary Terrace and Butterfly Terrace formed around the spring. Between 1925 and 1932, the spring went through many periods of activity and dormancy.

Between 1932 and 1948, there wasn’t much documentation about Canary Spring’s activity, save for the Haynes Guide stating the spring was inactive from 1939-48, but active again between 1954 and 1984.

In 1991, a 6-inch  spouter was observed at the very top of the spring. In the fall of 1993, it was documented that travertine formation has increased and water flow shifted toward the wood observation platform. Between 1995 and 1997, there was increased runoff towards the Mammoth Corrals.

On September 26, 1998, Canary Spring went dormant and the next day there was no water visible. The last time that happened was in 1970. On October 3, 1998, the main vent began flowing again.

Most recently, in 2006, Canary went dormant for about 24 hours and then over four days slowly regained activity.

Is Canary spring done for good this time? If not, when will the fickle spring awaken from its slumber?

Canary Spring before, taken on July 20, 2020. Photo: NPS
Canary after, taken on August 3, 2020. Photo: NPS

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