Geyser State Park
(click to enlarge)
Eugene Lawson was a miner. And in 1911 he
dug a hole, because that's what miners do. Everything was
cool for awhilejust a typical day of hole-digginguntil
he reached a depth of about 900 feet. Suddenly, the air was
filled with a funk that would gag a maggot.
"Damn, dude," he said to the guy next to
him, "What did you have for lunch?"
Awright... it didn't go down that way. Lawson
wasn't digging, he was drilling. And I don't even know if
he was a miner, but I know he was looking for coal. But this
is an entertainment column and not hard news, so don't bore
me with the facts. What I do know is that in 1911, Eugene
Lawson made a hole and it was stinky.
Methane is a natural gas, be it in the depths
of the earth or in your digestive tract. And it can be useful.
Like all men, Eugene Lawson knew the value of a good burst
of methane. So the hole was capped and the gas was used to
power mining equipment for awhile.
In 1922, after the local coal mining industry
had pretty much gone south, Lawson returned to the area and
found that the hole was still spewing methane. So he did what
any red-blooded American male would dohe lit it off.
For years, the hole produced a flame from
three to fifteen feet high. It became something of a local
attraction, along with outstanding fishing to be had from
the nearby Green River. The area became a private resort for
those who enjoyed fishing and didn't mind the occasional whiff
The resort fell on hard times in the 1960s,
and private developers hit on the "brilliant" idea of building
homes on the site (without quotations if they also happened
to own a septic service to respond to the inevitable calls
from prospective homeowners), but the state of Washington
purchased it, giving the place the awe-inspiring moniker of
Flaming Geyser State Park.
I went to the park with glorious visions
of blazing hellfire. Following the signs pointing the way
to this majestic triumph of nature, I was giddy as a schoolgirl
(don't ever call me that. Ever). At the end of the road I
set off on foot, following a well-worn path leading to this
crowning achievement of Mother Earth... and then I almost
tripped over it.
The "geyser" is in shallow hole in the middle
of the path, its flame reaching a height of, oh... I'd say
five inches max. Was Mother Nature having an off-day? No,
sadly not. As I read the literature tacked onto the bulletin
board nearby, I learned that time and man has taken its toll
on the geyser. She ain't what she used to be.
I followed the trail leading to a second
test hole called Bubbling Geyser (think "bathtub" here) that
issues salt water and methane. Gazing upon that wondrous feat
of nature, all I can say is... I've done better.
Still and all, Flaming Geyser State Park
is a worthwhile place to visit. It has a fantastic playground
and picnic area (the occasional waft of methane makes it a
place where you can eat a whole mess of refries without the
usual social ramifications), it has trails for hiking and
biking, and even an area for flying model airplanes. In the
nearby river you can fish, swim, kayak, or go tubin'. I'll
definitely be back this summer.
Just don't expect to see an inferno of biblical
See you on the road.
2 for more about this triumph of nature