Fly Geyser, also known as Fly Ranch Geyser is a man-made small geothermal geyser located in Washoe County, Nevada approximately 20 miles (32 km) north of Gerlach. Fly Geyser is located near the edge of Fly Reservoir in the Hualapai Geothermal Flats and is only about 5 feet (1.5 m) high, by 12 feet (3.7 m) wide, counting the mound on which it sits.
Fly Geyser is located on the private Fly Ranch in Hualapai Flat, about 0.3 miles (0.48 km) from State Route 34. The ranch is currently owned by Todd Jaksick. There is a high fence and a locked gate topped with spikes to exclude trespassers. The only access is a dirt road, but it is large enough to be seen from the road.
Nestled on a patch of private land in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the Fly Ranch Geyser (known commonly as the Fly Geyser) is one of the state’s coolest attractions, though many residents still do not know it exists. Fly Geyser, which spews waters about five feet high, lies about a third of a mile from State Route 34, a road which functions as the only viewpoint since the geyser is not open to the public.
Before becoming the Martian-esque, “We come in peace” waterworks it is today, the Fly Ranch Geyser was just an ordinary man-made well drilled in the early 1900s. Eventually piping hot, geothermally heated water began to rise through cracks in the well and up to the ground’s surface through what is now Fly Geyser. Though workers tried to cap it off and prevent leakage of the hot water, their efforts were obviously unsuccessful.
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There are actually two geysers on the property. The first was created nearly 100 years ago as part of an effort to make a part of the desert usable for farming. A well was drilled and geothermal boiling water (200 degrees) was hit. Obviously not suitable for irrigation water, this geyser was left alone and a 10 to 12 foot calcium carbonate cone formed.
In 1964 a geothermic energy company drilled a test well at the same site. The water they struck was that same 200 degrees. Hot, but not hot enough for their purposes. The well was supposedly re-sealed, but apparently it did not hold. The new geyser, a few hundred feet north of the original, robbed the first of its water pressure and the cone now lays dry.
This second geyser, known as Fly Geyser, has grown substantially in the last 40 years as minerals from the geothermal water pocket deposit on the desert surface. Because there are multiple geyser spouts, this geyser has not created a cone as large as the first, but an ever growing alien looking mound. The geyser is covered with thermophilic algae, which flourishes in moist, hot environments, resulting in the multiple hues of green and red that add to its out-of-this-world appearance.
The geyser is on Fly Ranch, is private property and trespassing is illegal. However, if you drive to the neighboring town of Gerlach and go to Bruno's restaurant they can put you in contact with the owners who do day tours of the spring for seasonal pricing.
Origins: Due to its strange appearance and the fact that it resides behind locked gates on private property (the Fly Ranch in Hualapai Flat), the Fly Geyser in Nevada is often met with a mixture of awe and skepticism when viewers encounter photographs of that strange formation on the Internet. That geothermal vent in the Black Rock Desert really does exist and look as pictured, but some misconceptions about it abound.
First, the Fly Geyser is not a natural formation. It's a man-made geyser created by accident in 1964 when an explorative well drilled in the area was either left uncapped or not capped properly, causing dissolved minerals to accumulate and rise and thus create the limestone mound (which continues to grow) that houses the geyser.
Second, the vibrant colors of the Fly Geyser seen in photographs are not the product of digital manipulation. According to Weather.com, the brilliant red and greens featured on the geyser come from thermophilic algae:
The Fly Geyser is not a natural formation. The geyser was created accidentally in 1964, after a geothermal power company drilled a test well at the site. While the groundwater in the region turned out not to be sufficiently hot to be tapped for geothermal power, it did have a temperature of more than 200 degrees. According to later newspaper reports, the well was either left uncapped or was improperly plugged.
The scalding water has erupted from the well since then, leaving calcium carbonate deposits growing at the rate of several inches per year. The brilliant red and green coloring on the mounds is from thermophilic algae thriving in the extreme micro-climate of the geysers.
Additionally, many images of the colorful formation make it appear that the Fly Geyser is quite large, but this is not the case. The peculiar site in the Nevada desert is only about five feet tall and twelve feet wide.
The size of the Fly Geyser is changing, however, as noted in the book Nevada Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff:
At first glance, Fly Geyser, located on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, about two hours north of Reno, is a spectacular sight as it spews clouds of hot water about 4 or 5 feet high in the air. And the whole thing is the result of an accident. The gesyer was actually created in 1964 after a geothermal power company drilled a test well at the site. According to newspaper reports, the well either was left uncapped or was improperly plugged. As a result, the scalding hot water was allowed to blast uncontrolled from the well hole, and calcium carbonate deposits began to form, growing several inches each year. Now, after a few decades, those deposits have become large mounds taller than an average-size man.
Although the Fly Geyser is certainly a fascinating sight, not many people have had the chance to gaze upon its colorful beauty in person. BlackRockDesert.org notes that the man-made formation sits within the boundaries of private property:
Fly Geyser is one of the most beautiful sights in Nevada. Adjacent to the Black Rock Desert playa, in neighboring Hualapai Valley, Fly Geyser is on private property.
PLEASE DO NOT TRESPASS. The Friends of Black Rock receives hundreds of inquiries each year to visit the site. It is our hope that one day, the Geyser can once again be open to the public.