Steamboat Geyser

Steamboat Geyser, in Yellowstone National Park's Norris Geyser Basin in Wyoming, erupts on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Steamboat Geyser — the world's tallest — has erupted for the first time in more than eight years. Park geologist Hank Heasler says Wednesday night's nine-minute blast sent steaming hot water an estimated 200 to 300 feet in the air. (AP Photo/Robb Long)

Being in hot water is good if you’re a geyser.

On Wednesday evening, Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park broke its eight-year silence in explosive fashion.

At 7:30 p.m., the geyser spouted scalding water 200 to 300 feet in the air for close to nine minutes, causing visitors to scramble for their cameras and geyser gazers parkwide to converge on the Norris Geyser Basin.

“I didn’t see it go off because I was down watching Fountain,” said park employee and geyser gazer Will Boekel. “We got a text message that Steamboat had gone off so we went to Norris right away. We got to see the steam.”

For up to 40 hours after the eruption, the geyser should continue to vent pent-up steam, although the force will weaken with time.

Nearby Cistern Spring drains after Steamboat Geyser erupts. Boekel said it was “pretty well drained” as of Thursday morning.

Boekel said the boardwalks were covered with sand and grit that came up with the water. The geyser is so powerful that it’s been known to eject boulders during an eruption.

The fickle geyser is notoriously unpredictable because it doesn’t have the same structure as Old Faithful, which erupts each time its reservoir fills.

The geyser has gone as long as 50 years without an eruption, while in 1964, it blew a record 29 times.

The last eruption of Steamboat Geyser was May 23, 2005.

Boekel said Steamboat Geyser has erupted twice in one month so he’s hoping for a repeat performance before the park closes.

Steamboat Geyser is one of almost 200 geysers in the Norris Geyser Basin and almost 1,300 geysers parkwide, according to recent research by University of Utah graduate student Jeff Cross.

Cross used a wide range of geological reports dating as far back as 1935 to tabulate 529 geysers in the Yellowstone backcountry and undeveloped areas and 754 in the developed areas.

“It is the first time that any complete list of the geysers in Yellowstone has been published,” Cross said. “The number 1,283 represents a figure several times in excess of most quoted figures, 700 being the largest estimate that I’ve seen.”

Cross said the discrepancy could be explained partly by the fact that only some geysers are active during any year so a geyser such as Steamboat may have been overlooked.

In any one calendar year, the count of active geysers ranged from 391 to 514 between 1987 and 1992.

Cross’ results are published in a 2012 issue of the Transactions of the Geyser Observation and Study Association.