Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano: What is it and When Did it Last Erupt?

Written by August Buck
Published: August 1, 2022
© iStock.com/Karel Stipek
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You may already be aware of all of the volcanic activity in the history of Yellowstone National Park, but what do you know about Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano? Is this a real place within Yellowstone, and if it is, what is it? Is this a volcano that erupts, and can we expect it to erupt sometime in the future? 

In this article, we will address everything you need to know about Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano, including how big it is and how you can see it for yourself. We will also go over when this volcano last erupted, and if an eruption is possible for the future of this National Park. Let’s get started and talk all about the Yellowstone Mud Volcano now! 

Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano: An Overview

Yellowstone's Mud Volcano
Originally named by an exploration team in the 1800s, Mud Volcano used to have a muddy dome over top of it.

©iStock.com/Stefano Barzellotti

Did you know that Yellowstone technically sits atop an active volcano? Formed millions of years ago through a number of super volcanic eruptions, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most fascinating regions in the United States, if not the world. The third and final super volcanic eruption formed a caldera within the confines of Yellowstone, and this third and final caldera has countless fascinating features- including the Mud Volcano.

This entire caldera region is known as the Mud Volcano Area, and it has a number of fascinating features. Originally named by an exploration team in the 1800s, Mud Volcano used to have a muddy dome over top of it. It doesn’t these days, after its last eruption, but more on that later. The Mud Volcano Area has so much more than mud!

Should you choose to explore this region of the park, you’ll find a number of other features, including:

  • Resurgent Dome. Yellowstone has a few caldera areas that rise and fall based on magma and lava moving just beneath the surface. This causes volcanic domes to rise and fall, and you can see one of these domes near the Mud Volcano!
  • Dragon’s Mouth Spring. A fascinating spring carved into a cliff, forming a steaming cave that both looks and sounds like there’s a dragon lurking within!
  • Mud Cauldron. A bubbling spring of mud, with the same amount of acidity in it as battery acid!

This region is fascinating because of how these unique features have formed. Mud Volcano, along with all of the other features in this region of Yellowstone, have enough acidity in their waters to destroy stone and dirt, creating unique mud puddles and springs. This place is unlike anywhere else, especially when you consider the strong sulfuric smell that permeates the area! 

When Did Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano Last Erupt?

Yellowstone's Mud Volcano
Once a proud and tall volcano, the Mud Volcano erupted sometime during the 1870s, as its later description is completely different from its original.

©iStock.com/Karel Stipek

Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano last erupted in the 1870s. Originally discovered by explorer and geologist Albert C. Peale, the Mud Volcano was intact sometime during the year 1871, according to journals and accounts written. However, shortly after this point in time, another explorer noted that Mud Volcano had changed.

Once a proud and tall volcano, the Mud Volcano erupted sometime during the 1870s, as its later description is completely different from its original. According to records, the Mud Volcano erupted and left behind a large hole, destroyed trees, and a huge pit of bubbling mud. While there are still the remnants of a fascinating hydrothermal event, Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano doesn’t exactly look like a traditional volcano!

Will Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano Erupt Again?

Yellowstone's Mud Volcano
Given the dangers of these thermal waters considering their high levels of acidity, it’s for the best that Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano never erupts again.

©iStock.com/rmbarricarte

It is unlikely that Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano will erupt again, especially when you consider the fact that it used to stand nearly thirty feet in height prior to its explosion back in the 1870s. If Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano erupts sometime in the future, it will not have the same strength and power that it once did, and it certainly won’t be as powerful as the average volcanic eruption! 

This isn’t to say that this volcano will never erupt, as all of Yellowstone technically sits atop active volcanoes. However, most studies suggest that Yellowstone is unlikely to erupt in our lifetime, let alone the next few hundred years. The Mud Volcano will never have the same strength as the Yellowstone supervolcano, but it might have enough fight left in it to spew mud into the air!

Given the dangers of these thermal waters considering their high levels of acidity, it’s for the best that Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano never erupts again. The amount of damage that these acidic waters could cause is likely shocking and would completely alter Yellowstone’s landscape. however, Yellowstone was formed on volcanic eruptions, and it likely will continue to be forever altered by this underground activity! 

How to See Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano

Yellowstone's Mud Volcano
Located near Fishing Bridge, you can easily access Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano from the Mud Volcano parking area.

©iStock.com/SergeYatunin

The Mud Volcano region of Yellowstone National Park is extremely popular for a number of reasons. You can see the Mud Volcano along with all of the above listed features with ease. They’re even more things to see in this region, especially when you consider the uniqueness of these acidic waters. 

Located near Fishing Bridge, you can easily access Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano from the Mud Volcano parking area. Use caution when crossing the road in this area, as this particular part of Yellowstone is always active and crowded, both with tourists and wildlife. However, once you enter the Mud Volcano area, it is extremely easy to see all of these sights from the safety of a well-maintained boardwalk. This is a great location for adventurers of all ages, so make sure you check it out!


The Featured Image

mud-volcano-area-in-yellowstone-national-park-in-wyoming-in-the-usa-picture-id1360812683
© iStock.com/Karel Stipek

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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