The National Park Service has closed Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone National Park because geothermal heat has melted the asphalt.
“Extreme heat from surrounding thermal areas has caused thick oil to bubble to the surface, damaging the blacktop and creating unsafe driving conditions,” says a park release announcing the closure.
Firehole Lake Drive – 3.3-mile loop about 6 miles north of Old Faithful – is a popular, scenic road, located off the Grand Loop Road halfway between Old Faithful and Madison Junction in the park’s Lower Geyser Basin, the press release said.
Closure of the road, which normally takes travelers past Great Fountain Geyser, White Dome Geyser, and Firehole Lake, has occurred at the height of the tourist season.
Park crews are still park crews assessing what repairs are needed.
In the meantime, park officials warned visitors not to hike into the affected area, where the danger of stepping through solid-looking soil into boiling-hot water was high.
Steaming potholes in asphalt roads and parking lots — marked off by traffic cones — are fairly common curiosities.
However, the damage to the road is “unusually severe,” reports the AP.
Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117, or visit: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm
Thanks to Jack Hydrazine, Stephanie Relfe and Laresa Hubbs for these links