Captive Geyser of Soda Springs, Idaho

June 04, 2012


Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

Every hour on the hour, every day of the year, a powerful geyser erupts in the middle of the southern Idaho community of Soda Springs. Technically, artificial geysers are known as erupting geothermal wells. This one is named Captive Geyser, perhaps the only man-made and top-of-the-hour timed geyser in the world. When it erupts, droplets spray for yards around (watch out for your cars, glasses and camera lenses), helping build the orange-red mineral dome that circles the geyser. When the geyser is quiescent, the wet dome-top is peaceful and cool enough that flocks of birds, such as pigeons, land on it to check out the possibilities.

Historical signs tell the tale of how this man-made geyser came to be. Three-quarters of a century ago Soda Springs entrepreneurs, hoping to entice tourists, sought "to find and divert hot water from nearby Pyramid Spring to develop a commercial bathhouse and health resort. On November 28, 1937 at a depth of 315 ft (96 m), their hopes and dreams seemed within reach. The drilling rig pierced a gas chamber and... hot water began gushing upward more than 40 ft (12 m)" into the air. "The next day, after the 3,500-pound (1,588 kg) bit was removed, the ground shook as if it were about to split open and a roaring geyser of more than 70 ft (20 m) streamed upward from the valve. After several days, the hissing hot water began to cool and become laden with mineral content (hard water), rendering it undesirable for use as a bathhouse. Two weeks later, the drilling riggers were able to finally cap the gusher” now known as Captive Geyser. If your back is to the Sun, rainbows accompany the geyser during the early to midmorning hours and midafternoon to early evening hours. Photo taken on September 10, 2011.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: NIKON D60; Focal Length: 32.0mm; Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 100