If we told you that there are six-foot-tall, brightly colored geysers that spew boiling water over five feet into the air in the middle of the Nevada desert, would you believe us? We probably wouldn’t believe us either, but it’s true. Nevada’s Fly Geyser is an accidental manmade wonder that has created a whimsically colored and fantastically shaped desert marvel that is a must-see for Nevadans and visitors alike.
The Fly Geyser is located on Fly Ranch, a 3,800-acre parcel of land in Northern Nevada purchased by the Burning Man Project in 2016. It is an amazing site that is located about two hours north of Reno, on the edge of the Nevada Black Rock Desert.
The first geyser on the site began to form in 1916 when residents were seeking irrigation water and drilled a well. This well was quickly abandoned when it was discovered that the water inside was too hot, and so began the development of the first geyser. Similarly, the main geyser was created accidentally in 1964 after a geothermal power company drilled a test well at the site. According to later newspaper reports, the well was either left uncapped or was improperly plugged. In either case, the scalding hot water shot from the well hole and calcium carbonate deposits began to form, growing several inches each year.
Jump forward several decades, and those deposits have become three large mounds that rise out of a field of tall reeds and grasses. The sediments are now almost 6 feet tall and are multi-colored green and red. The geyser’s trio of travertine cones still spew scalding hot water about four or five feet into the air. Scientists who are familiar with the geyser note that the coloring on the outside of the mounds is the result of thermophilic algae, which flourishes in moist, hot environments.
The inside of the mounds even contain quartz, according to Muñoz Saez, and this quartz is growing much more rapidly than any of the other geysers that she has studied in her career. Typically, quartz doesn’t begin to grow for about 10,000 years within geysers, which makes the Fly Geyser even more of a marvel.
The Fly Ranch Geyser is located in Northern Nevada, about 20 miles north of Gerlach, Nevada (a popular stop along the Burner Byway) via State Route 34. The Fly Geyser is easily visible from the side of the road and its plumes of hot water can be seen from miles away.
Fly Ranch is located on private land and is not currently open to the public, but if you would like to get an up-close view of Fly Geyser, Fly Ranch is in partnership with Friends of Nevada Black Rock High Rock which offer three-hour guided tours of Fly Ranch. The nature walks explore a large portion of the property, including the Fly Geyser and hot springs.
After your pit stop to Fly Geyser, make sure to stop by Bruno’s Country Club in Gerlach. Bruno’s serves delicious ravioli that are worth the trip.
If you are ever driving that way, make sure to keep an eye out for the large plumes of steam coming from the Fly Geyser, one of Nevada’s many unique and beautiful attractions.
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