ze geyser

016

Thar she blows

 “Maps…don’t designate one of the strangest fountains ever evolved from a combination of natural force and human error, particularly strange in that it is a hop-skip from the great expanse of the Black Rock Desert.”
-Peggy Trego, “The 40 Wilderness Miles North of Gerlach, Nevada” , Desert Magazine (November 1960)

“Wo ist der geysir? Können wir es sehen?”
-basically every tourist who drives specifically to Gerlach outside of Burning Man season, or calls the Friends of Black Rock office (and I paraphrase; translate into whichever language you like)

Allow me the pleasure of playing devil’s advocate for a minute: There are plenty of reasons to not visit Gerlach. The heat, the cold, the wind and dust—not to mention the languor, social deprivation, lack of community or economy, lack of interest, of general import; the fact that Bruno’s is the only option for gas or a bite to eat or a bed to sleep in; the fact that the nearest convenience store is six miles away in Empire…take your pick. Fly Geyser’s mystique is one of these reasons. Don’t come to Gerlach if you wish to see it up close. The geyser is fenced in on private property and trespassing might just get you shot. Stay home and google all the beautiful photos taken of it in years past. It’s just not worth the hassle driving out here.

That said, the geyser is visible about a quarter-mile east from County Road 34, twenty miles north of town, and it’s been a perennial favorite for travel writers through the decades. Their descriptions reflect a giddy, less restrictive clime. Here’s Peggy Trego again, gushing on:

“It all began in the World War I days when the Gerlach Land Co. drilled here for water. They got water all right—a boiling-hot heavily-mineralized flow that has continued to spout ever since, building up its odd shape bit by bit. Judge [Charles] Carter remembers a six-foot-high cone in 1929; it is closer to 15 feet today and the constant jet of hot water from its tip assures further growth. What that little jet has created is quite beautiful—a rounded fluted cone rising from a flat base, its sides folded and draped to resemble a group of hooded figures. Its colors are rich umbers and oranges, greens shading from emerald to chartreuse, dashes of red and ochre. Rising from the tall grasses of the flat with the muted pastels of the Calico Range in the distance, the fountain is a spectacular phenomenon.”

And Nell Murbarger, in an earlier Desert Magazine article from July 1951 titled “On Black Rock Desert Trails”, wrote: “Spouting from invisible fissures in the apex of the cone, five streams of hot water played constantly in the air. Shooting fountain-like above the rock a height of five or six feet, their boiling spray cascaded over the rock and its terrace according to the vagaries of the wind.”

Finally, here’s Doris Cerveri in “A Trip to Leadville”, from Desert, June 1968:

“This is a geological oddity standing majestically in swampland. It is not a true geyser, although hot water spouts out day and night without a let-up. It started out in 1916 as an artesian well. Throughout the years a large perpetual column of beautifully-colored substance formed by a flow of heavily mineralized has slowly built up. Now over 20 feet high and still growing, it presents a most unusual sight.”

To reiterate: Don’t come to Gerlach if you wish to see it. Don’t call Friends of Black Rock with the intent of seeing it. The geyser is off-limits to the public. And please, don’t disparage the messenger. I didn’t make the rules, I only halfheartedly enforce them.

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