A collision of human error and natural geothermal pressure created this rainbow-colored geologic wonder.
This alien-looking geyser on the edge of Black Rock Desert is actually human-made. But it wasn’t put there on purpose.
The Fly Ranch property is located in Nevada’s Hualapai Geothermal Flats, an area known for its unique geothermal pools. There are three geysers on the property. The first, known as The Wizard, was created more than 100 years ago, during an effort to make the desert usable for farming. While drilling a well, workers hit geothermal water that was about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the water was not suitable for agricultural use, this geyser was left alone. A 10-12 foot calcium carbonate cone formed as a result of the water’s mineral content.
In 1964, a geothermic energy company drilled a test well at the same site. They struck the same water, which was hot, but not hot enough for their purposes. The well was supposedly re-sealed, but apparently, the cap did not hold. A new, larger geyser emerged a few hundred feet north of the original. Robbed of its water pressure, the older cone remains active, but at a substantially reduced rate.
This second geyser, now known as Fly Geyser, has grown as minerals from the water have been deposited on the desert surface. It has multiple cone-shaped openings that measure up to six feet tall, and sits on a tall mound.
The third geyser, known as Will’s Geyser, discovered in 2006, is believed to be of natural origin. This volcanic shaped formation grows at a rate of six inches per year.
Because there are multiple geyser spouts, this geyser has not created a cone as large as the first, but instead an ever-growing alien-looking mound that shoots water up to five feet in the air. The geyser is covered with mineral deposits and thermophilic algae, which flourishes in moist, hot environments. The combination has led to multiple hues of green and red that add to its out-of-this-world appearance.
In June 2016, the non-profit Burning Man Project purchased the Fly Ranch property for $6.5 million. Their mission is to protect and restore the habitats found within the 3,800-acre property, which include wetlands, natural springs, sagebrush-grasslands, and playa. In May 2018, they opened the ranch to the public for the first time in two decades.
Know Before You Go
The geyser can be seen from State Route 34 north of the town Gerlach.
Drop-in visits are not permitted, but Friends of Black Rock-High Rock hosts weekly nature walks on the property from April to October. These nature walks are device-free, and visitors are not permitted to take photos during the walk. At the end of the walk, you will have time to get your camera and snap some photos.
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