Only In Your State: Fly Geyser
May – June 2019
Nevada has many treasures, but only some of them earn the title of truly unique.
The word unique gets thrown around a lot, and its true meaning is often muddled. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “being the only one” and “being without a like or equal.” In this section, we highlight Nevada treasures that are not only special, but are truly unique and can be found nowhere else in the world; treasures that can be found only in your state.
Had Dr. Seuss had the ability to create one lasting physical memorial here on Earth, Fly Geyser would probably be his contribution. This magical manmade monument rests on the edge of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. It owes its colors to the algae that comprises it; the brick-red, forest-green, and pastel-yellow hues are characteristic of hydrophilic algae that flourishes in hot, moist conditions. But, it actually doesn’t owe its existence to Dr. Seuss (that we know of). It owes it in part to a desert driller who probably had no idea that his exploratory excavations would create such a wonderful and vibrant piece of natural art.
In 1916, a well was dug at the site by desert farmers seeking irrigation water. The resulting water that sprang up from the well was close to boiling—far too hot to use for irrigation—and the project was abandoned. Over the years, a 10-12-foot calcium carbonate cone formed, growing higher as the water that flowed from the top deposited more minerals. Then in 1964, a company seeking water for geothermal energy purposes dug a second well at the site. The second well proved to be too cold for their purposes, and the new well was capped and abandoned. The cap, however, failed to seal, resulting in the discharge from the second well, lowering the pressure in the first well, drying the original well up. Like the original cone, the new geyser has grown substantially since its creation, resulting in the brilliantly colored fountains and pools that can be seen today.
Fly Geyser’s water is right around 200 degrees, and erupts constantly to about 5 feet in the air. The water contains high amounts of silica, which causes quartz to quickly form inside of the geyser. The water that exits the geyser has formed several terraces, resulting in about 30-40 pools that spread across the area.
In 2016, the Burning Man Project purchased the 3,800-acre parcel where Fly Geyser is located. Though the geyser is located on private property, Friends of Black Rock-High Rock offers guided nature tours of the Fly Ranch and Fly Geyser. Tours can be scheduled by visiting blackrockdesert.org/fly-geyser, and typically operate Friday-Sunday.