Faded Glory

Thanks to tourists’ trashy habits, Yellowstone’s Morning Glory Pool has lost its brilliant color.

February 16, 2015

Yellowstone’s Morning Glory Pool was originally named for its resemblance to the flower. But looking at the hot spring these days, it’s pretty hard to see the likeness.

Over the years, as park visitors have tossed coins, trash, and rocks into the pool, its waters have become less and less like a pretty blue bloom and more and more like rusting copper. A new study confirms the connection: All the added debris has blocked the spring’s underground heat source, lowering the water’s temperature and inviting in a host of new microbes. Those cooler water bugs produce different color pigments than the microbes that once lived there.

So if you’re celebrating Presidents’ Day with free admission to one of our national parks (which you totally should), put your trash in a garbage can, and wish upon a star instead of a penny. As Morning Glory’s fate proves, litterbugs color everyone’s experience. 

Photo: William S Keller/NPSMorning Glory Pool in 1966.

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