[Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

September 18, 1870: An American Wonder Receives Its Name

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Old Faithful, situated within the bounds of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, was given its name on September 18, 1870. Its historical significance is closely interwoven with the park’s exploration and the burgeoning understanding of geothermal features during the late 19th century.

The National Geological Survey explains how the famous geyser got its name. “The first officially documented observations of the geyser came in 1870, with the Washburn-Doane-Langford expedition to the region. The geyser was reportedly named by Nathanial Langford, who noted: ‘It spouted at regular intervals nine times during our stay, the columns of boiling water being thrown from ninety to one hundred and twenty-five feet at each discharge, which lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes. We gave it the name of ‘Old Faithful.’”

This unwavering predictability immediately made it a popular attraction during the early stages of Yellowstone’s discovery.

In 1881, Thomas H. O’Brien, an early Yellowstone photographer, captured the awe-inspiring eruptions of Old Faithful through his lens and widely shared these images. O’Brien’s remarkable photographs, alongside the work of other early photographers and artists, played a pivotal role in popularizing Yellowstone as a must-visit tourist destination, ultimately boosting Old Faithful’s fame.

As Old Faithful’s popularity continued to soar, the U.S. Army initiated the construction of a designated viewing area in 1894, which would eventually become the iconic Old Faithful Inn. This historic lodge still stands today, a testament to the enduring allure of Old Faithful and the Yellowstone region. The inn was designed to accommodate the burgeoning number of tourists eager to witness the remarkable displays of this geyser, marking another chapter in its rich history.

“The world’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful in Yellowstone, currently erupts around 20 times a day. These eruptions are predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate, within a 10 minute variation, based on the duration and height of the previous eruption. During visitor center hours, geyser statistics and predictions are maintained by the naturalist staff. This is done by good old-fashioned observation, timing with a stopwatch,” according to Yellowstone Park.

Today, Old Faithful continues to symbolize the essence of Yellowstone National Park and draws millions of visitors each year. Its history stands as a living testament to the park’s extraordinary geological marvels and the ceaseless fascination with the natural world’s splendors.

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