Yellowstone National Park Closes West Thumb Geyser Basin ‘Until Further Notice’ Due to ‘Hazardous Fumes’

by Jon D. B.

Yellowstone National Park‘s West Thumb Geyser Basin is officially closed due to hazardous conditions and fumes. Here’s what we know.

On Monday afternoon, park officials would alert media that “West Thumb Geyser Basin, located in the southern part of Yellowstone National Park, will be closed until further notice due to hazardous conditions.”

These hazardous conditions are out of the ordinary, however. This is not a wildfire or seismic event, but rather the result of a facility going awry. In their media release to Outsider, Yellowstone states that “Northwestern Energy staff reported smoke coming out of a small building near the bookstore that houses a solar battery energy storage system at West Thumb Geyser Basin.”

Park structural fire crews were notified and dispatched to the location. No flames were seen when they arrived, but there was smoke. The exterior of the building was not damaged, either. What makes this truly odd, however, is that these events took place on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

The park is just now closing the area to the public and alerting the media almost a week later. This is striking, given than the park’s report describes the hazardous conditions in the following way:

“Battery fumes are corrosive and hazardous when inhaled. To ensure visitor and employee safety, West Thumb Geyser Basin will be closed until the batteries have fully discharged and fumes have dissipated from the area.”

Hopefully no injuries or illness has resulted from the previous week of exposure for visitors or staff. Regardless, all of West Thumb Geyser Basin is now closed. Park officials will continue to be monitored and evaluated by the park structural fire crew and the geyser basin will reopen when it is “deemed safe.”

Yellowstone National Park’s West Thumb Geyser Basin

As for the West Thumb area itself, this incredible geothermal ecosystem was the first Yellowstone feature to be written about in a publication, and remains a marvel to this day.

Volcanic Pool at the West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo by: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Way back in the 1820s, Daniel T. Potts, a trapper in the Yellowstone region, wrote a letter to his brother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that provides a tim capsule-like account of West Thumb long before science understood its intricacies.

Detailing his experiences in the area, the letter was later corrected (for punctuation, spelling) and then printed. The Philadelphia Gazette published it on September 27, 1827. Part of the letter describing the northern part of the West Thumb Geyser Basin, currently known as “Potts Basin,” reads as follows:

On the south borders of this lake is a number of hot and boiling springs some of water and others of most beautiful fine clay and resembles that of a mush pot and throws its particles to the immense height of from twenty to thirty feet in height[.] The clay is white and of a pink and water appears fathomless as it appears to be entirely hollow under neath. There is also a number of places where the pure sulfur is sent forth in abundance[.] One of our men visited one of those whilst taking his recreation[.] There at an instant the earth began a tremendous trembling and he with difficulty made his escape when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder. During our stay in that quarter I heard it every day[.]

Daniel T. Potts

Today, formations like Abyss Pool and the Fishing Cone continue to impress visitors with these very same events.

Outsider will keep you up to date on any further developments in Yellowstone National Park.