Duration: flexible (1+ hours)
2WD, Low Clearance
Most of our time was spent on the network of dirt roads that crisscross the San Rafael Desert south of Green River, Utah. The roads are long and unsigned, so it wouldn't be hard to make a wrong turn. Thanks to a few well placed GPS waypoints, we didn't have to waste time figuring it out.
While cruising along the dirt roads, we passed rock formations of every color. The geology was fascinating. Watching multi-hued rocks whip past made me more aware of all the things I wish I had time to learn—geology for instance. Too bad I didn't have a minerologist to bring along.
After getting out of our trucks to walk around, we found old wagon parts, rusted cars, and a cold water geyser. The bubbling hole in the ground seemed mild-mannered enough when we first stumbled across it, so it caught us totally off guard when it erupted about five minutes later. The geyser spewed water over fifteen feet up into the air, from a hole about two inches in diameter. There's a few of these geysers scattered about the area, including the more well known Crystal Geyser down on the Green River. We were incredibly lucky to hit this one just as it was erupting.
The geysers were created in the 1940's, when miners drilling exploration wells hit a carbon dioxide-rich aquifer confined underneath the dense upper layers of rock. The difference in CO2 pressure between the aquifer and the atmosphere brings the water spewing up to the surface. What you end up with is something like shaking a can of pop, then cracking it open. If you want to get in touch with your inner child, feel free to run through the water like a kid with a sprinkler. Just don't complain when you end up smelling like salt, rusty metal, and strange chemicals.
Crystal Geyser is the largest cold-water geyser in Utah. It was created in 1937 by an oil company engaging in exploratory drilling. Crystal Geyser is located right on the banks of the Green River, about 4.5 miles downstream from the town of Green River. Water from the geyser cascades over orange and white travertine and spills directly into the Green River. On average, it erupts once every 8 to 22 hours. Other, smaller geysers can be found in the vicinity, but their eruption patterns are unpredictable, and they're more difficult to find.
Take exit 164 south from the I-70, then head east along the frontage road that parallels the highway. After a short distance, veer south and continue 3.5 miles to a junction with Little Valley Road. Turn right, and follow the road a few more miles to the trailhead.
Crystal Geyser: 38.9383° N 110.1356° W