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Washington, DC — Visitors soon will be able to watch the spectacular Old Faithful Geyser live without leaving the comfort of home, the nearest cyber-café or wherever there is a wireless signal. Yellowstone National Park is readying a web camera to air live streaming video of the park’s most famous feature, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“Live views of the most stunning sites in our national parks may soon be available to anyone with access to the Internet,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “On-line visitors could one day outstrip actual park visitation.”

The new webcam would offer the first live streaming video of Old Faithful and nearby geysers. It may usher in a whole new era in which people can tune into web casts of national park vistas whenever they choose. Yellowstone has had three web cameras (at Mammoth Hot Springs, Mt. Washburn and Old Faithful) providing static images every 30 seconds or so.

The public unveiling of the streaming Old Faithful webcam has been delayed, according to the Superintendent’s Office, until reliable 24-hour, 365-day operation can be assured. This delay may give the Park Service time enough to consider the ramifications of its new approach, including:

  • Will more streaming webcams be installed, and, if so, where? Who will make that decision, and based on what criteria?
  • Will 24-hour webcasts from the Old Faithful area lead to fewer visitors, or more visitors, and what are the repercussions of each?
  • Does the streaming webcam at Old Faithful violate Park Service policy? One policy (Director’s Order 70), which lapsed in 2005, says “Webcams in parks will be permitted only for non-commercial resource protection and visitor uses, including for educational and scientific research purposes.” Another policy, Director’s Order 11C, which would replace Director’s Order 70, has slightly different wording but remains in draft form; and
  • Will Yellowstone officials include a discussion of these and other webcam issues in its new Wireless Plan, which it has been developing for the past three years and is due out early in 2008?

“It would behoove the Park Service to dedicate at least a thimbleful of planning toward possible web applications and priorities before it goes too far down the road,” Ruch added. “Tellingly, far more organizational thought and effort has gone into the selection of the park ornaments for this year’s White House Christmas tree than has gone into charting the park system’s cyber-future.”

Thus far, all of the Yellowstone web equipment has been donated by the corporate manufacturers, Stardot Technologies, CoolWorks, and Canon USA.


See the Yellowstone superintendent’s notice on the streaming webcam

Look at the tree-top perch of the Old Faithful webcam

Compare Director’s Order 11C and Director’s Order 70

Revisit the years-long effort by Yellowstone to develop a Wireless Plan


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