Old Yellowstone: History of Minute Man Geyser

Have you ever seen Minute Man Geyser erupt? You might have without knowing it.

Now, that’s not just because there are numerous geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Over the years, the name has traveled around the park several times.

The reason is simple: in every case, “Minute Man” designates a feature that erupts constantly. It was always, as it were, “at the ready.” While never as dramatic as an Old Faithful or a Steamboat Geyser, these Minute Men each possessed qualities of splendor. Some still do, but every Minute Man Geyser in Yellowstone is (to some degree) hidden.

Minute Man Geyser (Shoshone Geyser Basin)

Shoshone Geyser Basin is a well-hidden portion of Yellowstone National Park, nestled in the backcountry roughly south of the Old Faithful area. The shortest trail leading to it is eight-and-a-half miles one way. Not the sort of place you take a day-trip.

Nonetheless, if you make the trip, you’ll be able to see the original Minute Man, whose origins were recounted by Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden (of the 1871 Hayden Expedition) in one of his reports:

This geyser was named by Professor [Frank H.] Bradley in 1872. It is about 250 feet east of the creek, situated on a mound of geyserite, at the foot of the hills that stand between the creek and the lake … The eruptions of the Minute Man consist of spurts of water. The main mass of water does not attain a very great elevation. The spurts reached 23 feet at he highest, as measured by us from the end of a 50-foot base line. The column or rather mass or water inclines toward the creek. Almost all the water flows back into the pool. None of the observations determined any regularity in the action of the geyser (261).

Hayden goes onto quote Bradley’s assessment of Shoshone’s Minute Man Geyser:

[The eruptions] occur pretty regularly for some hours, at intervals of from 2 to 3 minutes, but gradually decline in force, until the supply of water becomes exhausted. Then the geyser is silent for several hours, until all the crevices, as well as the surface-pools, are again filled with water, when its eruptions recommence with much violence, the jets then reaching altitudes of from 30 to 40 feet. These again decline, and the series of phenomena is repeated (261).

More modern assessments (including the video above) echo Bradley’s description. Minute Man spurts, then sleeps, then spurts some more—and apparently has been doing this for quite a while.

The Minute Men of Norris Geyser Basin

While Shoshone’s Minute Man Geyser has been largely undisturbed and unviewed in the history of Yellowstone visitation, the name cropped up in Norris Geyser Basin and was used to describe two separate features.


The first Minute Man Geyser in Norris, located near Congress Pool in Porcelain Basin, is better known as Constant Geyser, seen above in that Haynes postcard. Early on, in the 1899 Haynes Guide to Yellowstone Park, it was referred to first as “Constant,” then as “Minute Man.” Here is the Haynes assessment:

It has an eruption every sixty seconds, with only a slight variation … During an eruption of the “Minute Man” jets of water are thrown forty feet in the air, while the main body is lifted scarcely thirty feet. The overflow is not large as most of the water returns into the crater after each display (33-4).

By the publication of the 1928 Haynes Guide, Constant was no longer erupting as constantly, nor was it being referred to as “Minute Man Geyser.” That honor had gone to a feature close to the site of Monarch Geyser, just along the old road that ran through the heart of Back Basin:

The Minute Man Geyser is interesting on account of its regularity, and the fact that most of the water thrown out flows back into the crater after the eruption. Its crater is small, and appears to have been originally only a fissure in the rock (37).

According to the 1930 Haynes Guide, this Minute Man “[erupted] so frequently that no one should fail to see it” (37). It was still erupting heavily into the late 1940s. The picture below shows Minute Man erupting in 1948.


Unfortunately, it no longer erupts in this manner. The common consensus is visitors clogged the west vent gradually with rocks.

In the 1953 Haynes Guide, Constant Geyser was Constant Geyser; Norris’ Minute Man had become Minute Geyser (which ceased erupting regularly after 1945) and the name Minute Man Geyser now referred to—as it originally had—the Shoshone Basin feature. These names still hold today.

So there it is. Three hidden Minute Men in Yellowstone National Park. One hidden from the main loop, one hidden by a name change, and one hidden by obstruction.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

Check Also

Old Yellowstone: Mammoth Hotel

Of every hotel in Yellowstone National Park, Mammoth has undergone the most changes over time, …