What’s the story, Fading Glory?

Once upon a time, the water in the pool was the deepest truest blue. It was obvious to see why it’s name is Morning Glory; just like the flower, the hot spring was trumpet shaped and blue. People from all over the world would visit and crowd around the small hot spring in amazement; it was a beautiful sight. A small miracle of nature.

The hottest water was the clearest in the center and you could see the depths of it, they looked so inviting you longed to dive in and explore the cave-like bottom. Considering the water is almost boiling temperature, it’s not advisable to do that. The dark blue water faded to a lighter blue becoming more shallow as it reached its shores.

A circular pool of colored water, a hot spring. One of many found in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is home to an absurd amount of geothermal features, and also to the biggest hot spring in the United States: Grand Prismatic. Grand Prismatic is so big that the only way to see it in it’s entirety is to do a small backcountry hike of the mountain that’s next to it, so you can see it from above. It’s glorious and awe-inspiring. 370 feet in diameter, it’s a giant hole in the ground that seems like a harmless pool of colorful water, but is anything but. The temperatures of Grand Prismatic reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit and it is roughly 160 feet deep. It’s a natural wonder.

Hot springs are volatile and delicate, as are most geothermal areas, they are host to millions of bacteria that can only thrive in the temperatures that environment provides. While marvelous to look at, hot springs are not a wishing well.

About a mile north of the famous Old Faithful geyser is Morning Glory. Morning Glory is incredible to look at because the boardwalk gives you an elevated view of the pool, so you can see it from above. That’s not something that’s too common in Yellowstone, at least not in the Upper Geyser Basin. Most features are viewed at ground level which gives you a pretty limited view of some of the hot springs and geysers. Being able to see the depths of Morning Glory is a privilege, but many treat it as a right.

Morning Glory once displayed a dark cyan blue hue, but sadly, it’s color has now developed into a faded blue with a green tint. The hot spring’s color continually fades and loses the richness of its hue. Becoming more yellow, and less blue. It has been altered and polluted by people’s trash. Tourists litter the pool causing it to disrupt the environment. Coins, bottle caps, rocks even logs are thrown in, by people who find it amusing to see the objects sink into the hot spring. It’s a really destructive thing for a very delicate ecosystem.

When items such as these are thrown into the pool, the trash becomes nested in the sides and vent of the hot spring. This causes the water temperature to drop, and allows yellow and orange micro-bacteria to thrive and approach the previously blue areas that were too hot for them to exist in. The blue hot spring has been fading for years: the destruction has been building up for decades.

For many years, science has questioned why the once rich blue tones of Morning Glory have faded into lighter less impressive ones, and while it was always suspected, it had never been confirmed that it was due to people. Studies have shown that when less people visited the area, there was less pollution affecting the pool. But now, tourists come and throw things in the water without giving it a second thought, however, considering the amount of people that visit the park daily, it’s easy to see how fast the debris builds up.

Morning Glory has been tragically nicknamed Fading Glory. The hot spring once named for it’s vibrant blue color isn’t even blue anymore, and why? Because of us. Humans. We treat nature as if it is ours to do as we please and it is not. Our ignorance and carelessness ruins nature and the amazing features it has such as Morning Glory. It is honestly astonishing to see images of Morning Glory from the 1950s and then compare it to what it is now, because it looks like a completely different pool. It’s embarrassing to read that Morning Glory was once referred to as the “garbage can” by people in the park. Is the idea of utterly destroying the environment really that laughable to us?

As a society, we have to do better. We have to care more, and work to restore the things we have destroyed. National Parks are a gift, it’s an honor that we are able to drive through these areas and explore nature that is being preserved and protected. They aren’t ours to mess with, they are land we are borrowing from the Earth. Instead of destroying it, we should be preserving it, and trying to learn from it.

Sadly unless some major earth shift happens, which causes more hot water to surface, Morning Glory will likely never be truly blue again. What we can do, is prevent the color from fading any further, and prevent this from happening to another hot spring again.

In the year 2014, I had the opportunity to live in Yellowstone for a few months and it was a life changing experience. I fell in love with Old Faithful, and I’m grateful that I was able to walk outside and see it erupt every night for months. I lived 2 minutes away from Old Faithful and only a 10 minute walk from Morning Glory. Almost every day I would walk to Morning Glory and see people staring at it mesmerized by its beauty. Seeing Yellowstone is an incredible privilege; living there is more amazing that words could possibly describe.

The drawback to this, is that you become attached to these natural wonders, you begin to see them as more than tourist attractions; you begin to see them as Earthly miracles. These miracles have to be protected, they have to be around for my children and your children and their children to see. We can’t treat nature however we please, we must respect it because it isn’t ours. We’re only here temporarily, but nature isn’t; nature was here way before our time, and nature will be here after.