Old Faithful geyser shoots up 180 feet into the air.
How would you celebrate your 94th birthday if you were the National Park Service? You’d open a $26 million, 26,000-squarefoot visitor center at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser. “Most visitors leave not knowing why the geyser is so special,” said Christine Weinheimer, the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s communications director. “Seeing Old Faithful erupt can give you some great photos, but it doesn’t give you a basic understanding of geysers, which are more abundant here than anywhere else in the world.”
The new visitor education center, a contemporary take on classic log-and-stone “parkitecture,” opened on August 25, the anniversary of the park service’s founding. (The former center, 40 years old and crumbling, was just half its size.) With Old Faithful itself in clear sight through towering front windows, visitors enter a 130-seat theater to take a virtual flight around the Upper Geyser Basin. Elsewhere, they sidle up to an interactive display to learn why earthquakes are good for geysers and to picture how the park would look if it weren’t for the volcanic rock called rhyolite. (307) 344-7381, nps.gov/yell.
Photography by Robert Landau/Alamy
This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.