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Old Faithful of Calistoga

(c) 2003 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com, Inc. (fair use policy)

Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga, California, is neither faithful nor a geyser, but it's pretty close. A local settler tapped the geothermal reservoir here in 1870, and the hole he drilled began the spontaneous cycle of eruption and quiescence that marks a true geyser.

The eruptions come anywhere from 10 to 50 minutes apart, but at any one time they're fairly regular. Detailed logs of the eruption times were kept for many years by the owner. When geologists came looking for evidence of earthquake precursors, these records looked very interesting: some significant quakes occurred shortly after changes in the timing of Old Faithful. It seemed that the underground system was highly sensitive to the regional state of crustal stress. But the eruptions also varied for other reasons, including no reason at all, and the hypothesis was abandoned.

The thermal waters in Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley, are very high in boron content. As a result the area is barren except for a few tough grasses. Old Faithful is a clean and scenic tourist attraction, a last gasp of the volcanism that affected this region a few million years ago. The mountain in the background is Mount St. Helena.

Read more about real geysers in this article.

More about California Geology

Geologic Features and Processes
Glaciers and Ice
Geology and Society

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