Middle-of-nowhere Utah geyser is going off more regularly, and attracting visitors from around the world

Jun 12, 2023, 12:57 PM | Updated: 2:24 pm

GRAND COUNTY, Utah —An off-the-beaten-path Utah attraction is becoming quite a popular spot for locals and tourists right now. The wet winter is causing Crystal Geyser to erupt, and people are visiting from all over the world to see it.

Grand County ‘soda pop geyser’ erupts for the first time in years

Pulling up to a strange oasis of water trickling over brilliant orange travertine in the middle of dry desert rock, two women and a little boy get out of a white VW SUV parking along a red cliff.

They had driven several miles down a dirt road, taking a detour off of I-70 near Green River.

“Come on in!” exclaimed one of the women, named Karen Dolan. She hurried toward a rusted, metal pipe sticking out of the ground.

Her 7-year-old grandson Oakley Moncada followed closely behind. They walked up to a couple from France sitting and staring at the pipe.

The wife pointed toward it.

“Oh, I think it’s going to go!” Karen said excitedly. She clapped her hands and rushed forward with Oakley. “I think it’s going to, listen. I think it’s going to go off.”

The sound of bubbling water echoed inside the metal tube.

Orange travertine glistens in the sun, as water from Crystal Geyser trickles into the Green River (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL

A couple from Florida, who parked nearby with their truck and trailer, had been there an hour already. They walked up next to the grandmother and grandson.

In the distance, an RV with a family inside sat parked. They had apparently been there for quite a few hours, for the same reason.

Peering in, Oakley could see big bubbles forming, as if the water was boiling.

“It’s going to blow any second,” Oakley said, hugging his grandma. Karen looked down the hole. “Oh, look it! Big, giant bubbles,” she said.

Everyone was hoping to see water skyrocket from Crystal Geyser, anywhere from a few to potentially 80 feet high.

People from around the world, including France, Florida, and Utah wait for Crystal Geyser to erupt (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV)

The attraction, located south of the town of Green River along the banks of the actual Green River, has been around for nearly 90 years.

According to the Utah Geological Survey, it started as an oil drilling exploration project in the 1930s.

Karen, who lives in Price, has long known about its history.

“They hit a CO2 pocket and a stream. That’s why it’s cold, because it’s a cold water stream and a CO2 pocket,” she explained, to the couple from Florida. “And then it used to go off like once an hour, every 90 minutes.”

The Utah Geological Survey reports that the well was abandoned, instead becoming a regional attraction with 80-foot columns of water shooting out at intervals of 15 minutes, with 150-foot columns erupting every nine hours.

But in recent years, the UGS writes, eruptions slowed down and no longer shoot up as high. They believe some of that is due to visitors dropping rocks down the borehole, creating a plug.

However this spring, the Utah Division of Water Resources reported that the geyser was erupting once again. They tweeted that a division geologist who monitors the site hadn’t seen an eruption in years, but that this year’s wet winter caused the water table to rise and resulted in the CO2 gas that powers the eruptions to push through.

Karen decided to stop by on a trip back from Colorado hoping they could get lucky and see the phenomenon, after hearing it was going off more often because of this year’s snowpack.

Crystal Geyser eruptions can reach anywhere from a few to 80 feet (Utah Geological Survey)

“I heard through my mountain biking friends that the geyser was going off more regularly, and so we just thought we’d come out, and check it out, see if we could catch it,” she said.

After hanging out for more than an hour, the water was rising in the tube, but still had a long ways to go before reaching the top.

While the bubbles were clearly getting louder and more intense, an eruption didn’t seem imminent.

According to the UGS, eruptions are unpredictable and can be more than 24 hours apart.

A man appeared at the site, walking up to the tube.

“I think it’s coming up,” Karen said. She looked at the man. “What do you think? When is it going to go?”

“Mother Nature is sometimes very unpredictable,” he said, peering in.

Three dirt bikers also stopped by, watching from afar. Seeing no eruption, they didn’t stay long and road off into the distance.

“We just hoped it would go off when we showed up,” Karen said. “But it’s not quite there yet, so.”

Catching eruptions at Crystal Geyser can be luck-of-the-draw, requiring perfect timing and patience (Alex Cabrero, KSL TV)

Eventually, the couple from France decided they’d waited long enough and climbed back into their truck, taking off.

The couple from Florida set up shop and planned to camp overnight.

Karen decided to call it a day and headed back to Price, determined to come back with Oakley in hopes the geyser would give them a show.

“We just wanted to see it in its all its glory,” she said.

Crystal Geyser can be reached from exit 164 on I-70, which is the east exit for Green River. Head south, and turn left on New Area 51 Road, then right on Crystal Geyser Safari Route/Little Valley Road two miles down. In about another two and a half miles, take a right at the sign for Crystal Geyser. The geyser is about half mile down the road on the left along the river.

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Middle-of-nowhere Utah geyser is going off more regularly, and attracting visitors from around the world