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August 13, 2013

The Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs has terraces of steaming pools – it looks almost like stairs going up the hill!  In fact, there are over 50 hot springs in the Mammoth Springs area.  The terraces are hydrothermal features, similar to the geysers, mud pots, hot springs or fumaroles that we talked about earlier.

The heat source that created Mammoth Hot Springs is the same as the other hydrothermal features in the Park – the “hot spot,” or super volcano.  In addition, Mammoth Springs has the same water source – rain and snow (it has an underground connection to the Norris Geyser Basin, allowing it to exist even though it is technically outside the caldera).  Further, the same plumbing system exists in Mammoth Springs as well – cracks in the rocks that allow water and steam to escape.

What makes Mammoth Springs different is the presence of limestone and hot gas.  Huge, thick layers of limestone rock are beneath the Mammoth area.  In addition, there are hot gases rising from the magma deep in the earth.  As water seeps into the earth, it comes into contact with these hot gases.  Carbon dioxide is dissolved into the hot water, making it acidic.

This hot acid-water dissolves some of the limestone as it flows up through the rock, creating a solution called calcium carbonate.  When this solution reaches the hot springs and is exposed to the air, the particles all separate again.  Carbon dioxide dissolves into the air and the limestone particles attach to the sides of the hot springs.  Over time, these deposits of limestone created the white mountains of travertine that we see.  It sounds like one big science experiment, doesn’t it?

Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the few active travertine terraces in the world.  Every day, the hot water bubbles up and deposits limestone particles on the terraces.  As a result, Mammoth Hot Springs is constantly changing – for example, the Opal Terrace deposits one foot of travertine every year.  If your parents visited Yellowstone when they were younger, the terraces probably look very different from what they remember!


July 1, 2013

We Arrive – Yellowstone National Park!



Humans have been in the Yellowstone region for more than 11,000 years.  Native Americans made the area their home, washing and bathing in the hot springs.  They also traveled through the area, fishing and hunting.


Quite a few men explored the area in the early years, especially after America purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.  In fact, Lewis & Clark heard about it as they were exploring the area north of Yellowstone (they were in Montana).  But, it wasn’t until 1870 that people began to take the claims of “steaming land” seriously.


A man named Henry Washburn led an expedition party out West, mainly for the purpose of mapping and surveying the Montana Territory.  The area around Yellowstone River was part of Montana Territory.  When they explored the area, they were amazed by the various land features, waterfalls and wildlife.  It was during this expedition that Mr. Washburn named the famous geyser, Old Faithful.


Members of this Washburn expedition party realized what a special and unique place they had visited.  Some were journalists and they helped the nation understand the same.  Their incredible stories were published in newspapers and people all over the country became interested in this area called Yellowstone.  After hearing these accounts, Congress decided to make an official exploration of the area.


In 1871, an expedition led by Ferdinand Hayden set out to explore the Yellowstone region further.  The party included a number of artists and scientists – geologists, botanists, and zoologists.  One of the artists was a man named Thomas Moran (he became famous for his paintings of Yellowstone – he even signed his paintings “TYM” – which was short for “Thomas Yellowstone Moran”).


The party spent about 40 days exploring the area and were stunned by what they saw. They came back with a treasure trove of sketches, paintings and photographs that revealed the splendor of the region.  Mr. Moran painted over 30 different sites within the Yellowstone area, and made sketches everyday.  Mr. Hayden submitted a 500 page report to Congress of their expedition, requesting that it preserve the Yellowstone area as a “national park.”




Creating the First National Park


On March 1, 1872, Congress approved legislation that created “Yellowstone National Park.”  And, President Ulysses Grant signed it the same day.  It was a new concept – there were no national parks anywhere else in the world!   About 2 million acres of land (or 3,468 square miles – that’s a big area!) was “set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”


The goal was to preserve the wildlife and unique hydrothermal features within the Yellowstone region so that future generations can enjoy the unique features of the area.  Future generations – that is us!  It is because Congress was willing to try something new that we can still enjoy Yellowstone today.


The Early Days


In the early years, the government was trying to figure out just how to manage a “national park.”  At first, people did whatever they wanted within the park grounds.  In 1894, Congress finally passed legislation that protected all wildlife in Yellowstone Park.


President Roosevelt traveled by train to visit Yellowstone Park in 1903.  He fell in love with the land and was in awe of its beauty.  Eventually it became clear that managing such a large park is a full time job, so President Woodrow Wilson created a new government agency called the National Parks Service.


Once the automobile was invented, the number of visitors to Yellowstone Park soared every year (from 1916-1971).  With that increase in visitors came a strain in the Park’s delicate ecosystem.  At that time, the National Park Service changed its policies to protect the park from being damaged by visitors.


August 1, 2012

West Virginia – “The Crossroads of America”

West Virginia map


Just the Facts…


bird – Cardinal
flower – Rhododendron
tree – Sugar Maple
capital – Charleston
union – 35th state on June 20, 1863
population – almost 2 million




The Basics 

Almost the entire state of West Virginia is part of the Appalachian mountain range.  As a result, it is very rugged – mountains, river gorges, forests, and valleys.

The different regions of West Virginia are each very distinct – the extreme northeast panhandle associates itself with Pittsbugh, the eastern tip associates itself with Washington DC, the northwest has farm communities similar to Ohio, and the southern part of the state feels like the South.


Its Claim to Fame

West Virginia was the only state to separate from a Confederate state during the Civil War.  West Virginia applied for statehood after Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy.  It joined America as a Union state that prohibited slavery.  But, interestingly enough, it provided almost as many soldiers to the Confederate Army as to the Union Army.  And, many battles were fought on West Virginia soil.

West Virginia’s natural resources provide the raw materials needed to make pottery and glass – like sand, clay, natural gas, coal and timber.  Starting in the 1800’s, many “glass houses” moved to West Virginia.  They flourished until the Great Depression.  Even today, West Virginia makes more marbles than any other state.  Marble King produces over one million marbles per day!  It was started in 1949 and made the first cat’s eyes marbles as well as many other designs.  Do you have a bag of marbles that you play with? Maybe they were made in West Virginia!

The New River Gorge Bridge is a famous landmark within West Virginia.  It is a steel arch bridge over the New River Gorge and took 3 years to construct (1974-1977).  For almost 30 years, it was the highest bridge in the world!  When the Bridge was opened in 1977, many of the West Virginia citizens walked across it.  The opening of the Bridge is celebrated annually on “Bridge Day” – it is closed to cars and there are bungee jumping demonstrations!


What Makes it Tick

The mountains of West Virginia contain some rich mineral deposits, including coal.  Coal is a black rock that takes thousands of years to be created.  Long ago, plant life decomposed and rock and sediment piled on top of it, compressing that decomposed plant material until it is hard.  The process takes place over thousands of years.  Coal exists deep under the ground, usually in large deposits or “seams.”  West Virginia has a long history of coal mining, which started during the Civil War.  Now, it leads the nation in underground coal production.  In fact, coal is found in 53 out of the 55 counties within West Virginia.

West Virginia also has a strong timber industry – most of the mountains in West Virginia are covered in forests.  It took about 40 years for most of the old growth forests to be cut down in West Virginia (starting in the 1880s).  A very extensive railroad system was developed in nearly every mountain and valley within West Virginia to haul the lumber away to the east coast.


If You Visited

If you visited West Virginia, you might visit the West Virginia State Folk Festival.  The Festival has been a tradition since 1950 and has a wide variety of traditional Appalachian music and crafts.  There are banjo and fiddle contests, square dancing, a spelling bee and quilt contest.  The crafts include handmade items like baskets, pottery, weaving and wood carving.  You might even make your own instrument!

You might go white-water rafting, canoeing or kayaking on West Virginia’s many rivers.  Or, you may go hiking or rock climbing in one of its mountains.  West Virginia is known for its white water rafting – the most famous being the New River Gorge.  The New River flows fast and strong through a deep valley called the New River Gorge.  It is one of the most popular places east of the Mississippi for white water rafting.


Want to Know More? 

Check our West Virginia state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in West Virginia?  Or, maybe you have visited West Virginia?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about West Virginia?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of West Virginia to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about West Virginia.  Visit these websites to learn more:

July 5, 2012

On Vacation!

I guess our virtual tour of America is not what the girls had in mind during our long weekend up north – swimming, boating, fishing and tubing sounds much more fun to them!  So, I am giving in and we are taking a break…

We will be back on Monday, when we visit Louisiana, “The Pelican State” and 18th state to join the Union.

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

The girls requested a day off for Independence Day – and I thought that sounded reasonable.

Have a great and save Fourth of July – see you tomorrow, when we visit Louisiana!

June 7, 2012

112 Letters


Letters, Letters and More Letters


When I first presented my fabulous “50 States in One Summer” idea to our girls, they were not very impressed.  In fact, they were a little laissez faire about the whole thing.  Undeterred, I put together my to-do list and then got to work.  I did as much behind the scenes work as I could by making maps and conducting my research for each state.


But, I also wanted the girls to be involved in the process at least a little bit.  So I drafted a letter for them to send to both the Governor and the Board of Tourism of every single state.  112 letters total!


Are you wondering if your math is wrong?  Don’t worry – I included Washington DC and America’s five territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, America Samoa, the Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.


But, I had to take it a step further – I wanted the girls to sign all the letters.  Who could resist a letter that included the pictures of two cute little girls, as well as their names scribbled in red?  It took three weeks, two movies and a bribery of ice cream, but we got them all signed and addressed and out the door.


And, we can’t wait to see what we get back!  (Well, at least I can’t wait to see what we get back.)

June 4, 2012

The BIG Idea


When I was pregnant with my first child, I had all these visions about the amazing enrichment projects I would do with my children someday.  Then, our first daughter was born and life took over.  Now, ten years later, I think we are finally ready to tackle our first big summer project!  

So, I asked my three girls what kind of project they would like to do this summer.  My kindergartner suggested that we take a bike ride every single day – sounds fun but I was thinking about something a little more intellectually stimulating.  My second grader suggested that we re-read all the Harry Potter books – also sounds fun but not quite what I had in mind either.  My fourth grader has special needs so when I asked her what project she wanted to do this summer, she just smiled and smiled – I think so long as my voice is involved she will be happy! 

I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.  And, I decided to make up for lost time and chose a BIG project.  Here it is: We are taking a virtual tour of the United States - 50 States in One Summer.    

And, we invite you to join us!  Every morning, Monday through Friday, I will post my summary for that day’s designated State.  We are starting with the first state to enter the Union (Delaware) and taking it from there.  I am including information I think kids would find fun and interesting – it is not exclusive by any means but rather a fun learning project.   

Can we do it? Who knows.  Will I burn myself out in the process? Possibly.  But, if we can pull it off – what a great answer to the typical back to school question of “What did you do this summer?”