Steamboat Geyser

Old Yellowstone: History of Decker’s Geyser

After some media exposure. the woman behind Decker’s Island and Decker’s Geyser in Yellowstone National Park has been identified and her family contacted.

Helen Decker was a frequent geyser gazer before the phrase become widely used in the Park, an adventurous spirit from Two Harbors, Minn., who spent many a summer hanging around Yellowstone and the Norris Geyser Basin in the 1960s and 1970s. She was such a frequent presence in the Norris Geyser Basin that Park officials nicknamed a viewing area at Steamboat Geyser after her. They also named a short-lived geyser after her.

As a seasonal Park ranger, Lee Dalton ran into Decker many times. In recent years, he was struck by the lack of information known about her and made it a mission to find her family, a quest that’s been ongoing for several years. After some media inquiries, a daughter and granddaughter in the Twin Cities were located, and more information about Decker was revealed.

From the Duluth News-Tribune:

Decker was a frequent visitor to Yellowstone in her last years and legendary for keeping watch over geysers, carefully marking the times when they would erupt.

She was a frequent visitor at the Norris Geyser Basin and was dedicated to watching Steamboat, Yellowstone’s largest geyser. During the time of her visits, Steamboat was fairly unpredictable, but Decker reportedly saw Steamboat erupt 20 or more times.

The area where Decker watched Steamboat, a spot near a grove of trees, now is commonly referred to as “Mrs. Decker’s Island.” In 1967, when a new, albeit short-lived, geyser erupted, it was christened “Decker’s Geyser” in her honor, although rangers later found out that park rules don’t allow geysers to be named after people. They created a shady place for her to watch from.

Dalton will be placing the results of his research with the Park’s Heritage Center library.

Image of Steamboat Geyser courtesy of National Park Service.

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