Along the banks of Green River, guarded by dramatic red rock canyons, Crystal Geyser is Utah's largest cold water (or "sodapop") geyser. Unreal terraces of scalloped orange tufa deposits surround natural mineral springs and a man-made exploratory oil well, out of which the geyser erupts.

A coldwater sodapop geyser?

Most geysers are hot and caused by geothermal activity heating ground water until it erupts up in steam. Cold water geysers, on the other hand, are caused by CO2 gas dissolved in groundwater. When the levels of gas reach a saturation point, the gas explosively exits the solution and propels the water up.

Bubbling event at Crystal Geyser - precursor to an actual eruption, this bubbling is caused by CO2 gas exactly like bubbles in a soda pop.

So you went to see a geyser and didn't see it erupt?

The trip had to be a bust, right? Not hardly! While Crystal Geyser only erupts ~ once a day, and not on a regular schedule, it is well worth the visit even if you don't luck out and see the eruption.

Mineral deposits

The mineral deposits surrounding the geyser are absolutely stunning in an otherworldly way. Some sections appear to be glazed:

In places red spheres accumulate in beds:

Shelves of orange tufa leading down to the river appear to be smooth from a distance:

But these shelves of tufa are actually intricately scalloped with intriguing patterns when viewed closely:

Other sections are divided by ribs or veins of rock which stick up above the surrounding tufa:

Take away the vibrant orange colors and the textures are still fascinating - it really felt like the surface of another planet!

The surrounding canyons

are similarly spectacular, with huge slabs of rock perching precariously on top of banded canyon walls:

@thingone is turning into a mountain goat living in Utah

@yeti-the-dog takes it all in

Chunks of sandstone fallen to the canyon floor have weathered into twisted shapes:

Getting there

Crystal Geyser is easily accessible by car just 10 miles outside of Green River. From Green River, take Main Street east until it ends in a "T" intersection with New Area 51 Road (BLM 325). Take a left on New Area 51 Road and follow it for about 2 1/2 miles before turning right onto Crystal Geyser Safari Route (marked with a sign). Follow this well-graded dirt road for about four miles to the geyser parking area. Along the way you will pass mountain bike and hiking trails. There is no fee to visit this area.

We visited this past weekend (January 17th) in the middle of winter and the roads were perfect. I would actually highly recommend visiting Utah's famous desert destinations during the winter (or at least early spring or fall) to avoid the heat. It is still sunny in the winter, and temperatures in the thirties (Fahrenheit) are actually very comfortable in the dry air. If you are moving around, a sweater will keep you plenty warm enough unless there are high winds.

If you are visiting the big tourist destination national parks in southern Utah, your route will most likely take you either through or very close to Green River. Consider adding Crystal Geyser to your itinerary!

Sources for geological information