Experts Offer Insight on Amazing ‘Rhythmic Spring’

Amazing 'Rhythmic Spring' Baffles Experts

( – Wyoming is known for its natural beauty and wonders. Swift Creek Canyon, just a few miles east of the town of Afton near the Idaho border, is a very rare gem indeed. Scientists are aware of approximately 100 “rhythmic (or breathing) springs,” and the one in Big Sky country fits the name as it’s the largest in the world.

Cutting through the mountains, it’s a ribbon of green plant life that provides a stark contrast to the otherwise barren and rocky landscape. Anyone who decides to picnic beside the gentle stream might need to move quickly because the little brook will become a raging stream.

Scientists aren’t sure they fully understand the phenomenon. However, tests from University of Utah researchers have indicated an underground reservoir fills with water from upstream. The reservoir has a small, pipe-like outlet — shaped like an upside-down U — opposite the reservoir’s inlet and nearer the bottom. As the “tank” fills, it eventually creates an air pressure imbalance in the outlet pipe, causing it to act like a siphoning hose one might use to empty gasoline from an automobile.

The cycle repeats approximately every 15 minutes, and a high-pressure gush of water erupts into the open and flows downhill for about 12-18 minutes. The process repeats night and day.

Visitors to the area can see this fascinating phenomenon from late summer through fall.

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