Old Faithful Geyser
No, that’s not a typo, and you haven’t accidentally turned east into Yellowstone. The Napa Valley has its own Old Faithful Geyser (1299 Tubbs Ln., Calistoga, 707/942-6463, www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com, $8 adults). Unlike its more famous counterpart, this geothermal geyser was manmade.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, more than 100 wells were drilled into the geothermal springs of the Calistoga area, and many of these created geysers. Old Faithful is one of the few that wasn’t eventually capped off, and it’s the only one that erupts with clockwork regularity. When you visit the geyser, expect no more than a 40-minute wait to see it erupt 60 or more feet into the air. A grassy area surrounds the geyser, with benches and chairs scattered about to allow visitors an easy wait for the show.
A bamboo garden surrounds the grassy spot (bamboo is one of the few plants that can tolerate the hot mineral water of this area). Also at Old Faithful you’ll find an incongruous but cute petting zoo that shelters several “fainting goats,” plus a few sheep and llamas. A coin-op feeder lets visitors feed and pet the animals—a perfect means of inspiring patience in children who may grow tired of waiting for the geyser to erupt.
Note that the pool the geyser erupts from, as well as the geyser itself, spew very hot water. It’s not safe to wade in the water, nor to stand too close when the geyser goes off. Watch small children when you visit.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition