Located near the center of New Zealand’s northern island, just a half hour south of the town of Rotorua, the landscape looks like something out of an oil painting. Mud bogs and geysers bubble while colorful pools of mineral-rich water decorate the ground. This majestic, picturesque place is called Wai-O-Tapu, which is Māori for “sacred waters.” The bountiful colors of its natural water features are sure to stun and awe anyone. Of all its awe-inspiring features, one humble body of water draws plenty of attention away from its neighbors.
Nature’s Rainbow Display
The Devil’s Bath is a remarkably verdant pond of sulfur-rich water that sticks out like a sore thumb, even in the midst of a place as colorful as Wai-O-Tapu. The area gets its colors from minerals brought to the surface by volcanic activity, namely sulfur. The geothermal area covers about 7 square miles and is a part of New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone, just north of the Reporoa Caldera.
Nobody seems to recall where the name for Devil’s Bath came from, but its vibrant green color is easily explained. Sulfur deposits from the subterranean volcanic network that colors and heats the entire park float to the top of the water and give it its signature hue. All of the colors in the park come from different volcanic minerals in the pools or the soil, and the color varies depending on which are most prevalent.
Behind The Scenes Geology
Volcanic hotspots and the colorful springs that tend to bloom from them aren’t uncommon. Yellowstone National Park in the United States features some of the world’s most famous geothermal activity, from Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs. Other geothermal sites exist around the world, though not all of them are grandiose displays of color and water. Some cities, such as Idaho’s state capital, Boise, are powered in part by geothermal energy.
The heat comes from remnant volcanic activity and passages underground in places where the Earth’s crust was heated by an exceptionally hot area of magma in the Earth’s mantle. Whether the geothermal source is being tapped for municipal heat or it is bubbling to the surface through natural openings in the water table, anyone who goes near should do so with caution.
Dangers Of Geothermal Sources
While these naturally-occurring phenomena are undoubtedly exciting and often quite beautiful, anyone looking to visit them should always heed any warning signs posted in the areas. Hot springs are typically safe, but some are hotter than others and may be marked with signs warning prospective bathers to keep out. Geysers are as hazardous as they are magnificent, and should never be too closely approached, as the water that gushes from them is often well above boiling, and even the steam can cause severe burns.
Aside from soaring temperatures around these incredible natural features, some can do damage without the aid of heat. Volcanic activity produces many different types of chemicals, some of which can chemically burn the skin or irritate the eyes and airways. Whether or not signs are telling you to keep out, geothermal landmarks are best viewed from a safe distance and always left untouched.