Windows into Wonderland

Please Note:

We have updated the Windows Into Wonderland website for a better user experience. Because the eTrips were created with older technology, we have had to include some of the videos and activities outside of the eTrip. Please make the students aware that the affected videos and exercises are listed by page number below the eTrip. The student should use the links below the eTrip on the listed pages rather than the outdated links in the eTrip. Thank you!



The Firehole River flows through three major geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park and receives thermal input from numerous geysers and hot springs. This 55-minute interactive program investigates alterations in the chemical and physical characteristics of the stream, as well as changes in the habitats and life histories of the river’s living organisms. The program urges viewers to ponder what constitutes a damaged ecosystem and consider how this naturally warmed river may reflect or predict changes in streams exposed to human-caused thermal pollution. Video clips showcase investigations of the Firehole River by local students and researchers, while the program’s subject matter is reinforced by in-trip activities and quizzes.

This eTrip features a note-taking function. Click on "Open Notes" to add, edit, or update comments as the trip progresses. Instructors may want to direct students to answer the questions on the "yellow post-its" on each separate screen of the program or ask students to keep notes on the eTrip’s content as desired. The notes can be printed by pressing the “Print” button. They can also be copied by highlighting the desired section, selecting the copy function by right-clicking the mouse, then pasting the notes into a word processor document.

For a list of education standards applicable to this field trip, please visit the Standards Page. If time permits, students may want to attend the Park Orientation program before taking this electronic field trip.

Getting into Hot Water 

What percentage of water in the Firehole River comes from geysers and hot springs? What are some consequences of thermal pollution? What do aquatic macroinvertebrates reveal about a stream’s water quality? Does “natural state” refer to the purest water quality of a stream? How are trout in Yellowstone affected by thermal changes in water? How do the park’s heat-altered streams compare with water that has been thermally polluted elsewhere?

Download a PDF of the Getting Into Hot Water eTrip transcript (167 KB PDF).

Key Concepts Explored in this eTrip

  1. The influx of hydrothermal water affects the physical and chemical characteristics of the Firehole River, as well as the habitats of the river’s organisms.
  2. Study of the Firehole River, a stream which has been naturally thermally altered for thousands of years, may help predict the long range effects of human-caused thermal pollution on other waterways.
  3. The organisms living within an ecosystem reflect the environmental conditions present.
  4. The life histories of organisms may change with alterations in their environmental conditions.
  5. Scientific inquiry must explore the relationships between evidence and possible explanations.

Lesson Plans

Pre-Electronic Field Trip

Post-Electronic Field Trip

Video Clips

There are four streaming video clips in the Flash version of this field trip. They appear on pages 10, 19, 30, and 38. You can use the following links to launch them format.

More Information




Water Quality and Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

Yellowstone Fish

Firehole River