Old Faithful Geyser is one of three “faithful” geysers in the world, long known by locals as being faithfully boring, but a new owner set out to transform the attraction from a one-look wonder to a family-friendly park worthy of setting aside a full day to enjoy.
“People would come and see the geyser erupt and then say, ‘Now what?’” said Koray Sanli, the new owner. “There’s so much more to tell. There’s history that dates back 3.4 million years.”
Sanli has quietly been improving the grounds, adding picnic and seating areas, a geology museum, bocce ball courts, goat farm, native plant garden, informational signs and an improved and updated gift shop.
“We’re always going to do things upscale,” Sanli said.
Come June there will be weekly concerts in the Music Under the Stars series that will be held on Saturday evenings with the geyser and trees lit up. Guests will be allowed to bring in their own food and wine and picnic under the stars. Sanli is considering adding a Friday night series, he said.
Sanli’s own curiosity and love of education and learning are behind the improvements. There are signs all over explaining what a visitor is looking at. For example a large capped pipe sticking up out of the ground turned out to be a capped geyser that was once used to fill a mineral therapy pool. Before, it was just an ugly pipe without meaning, but an informational sign explains what it is, giving it purpose for still being there.
A steam well nearby was used to boil eggs and cook pigs, but without the sign one might assume it was only used to pull water from below.
The new bocce ball courts are free to visitors and offer comfortable cushioned seats at either end of the courts for relaxing and watching Old Faithful do what it does best — erupt. On a wall nearby hangs brightly colored hula hoops and a carnival fun mirror Sanli found tucked away in storage.
“We’re creating a whole section for kids,” Sanli said. That will include a variety of games such as corn hole.
More cushioned seating is available under two separate shade structures. Scattered across an open area are dozens of Adirondack chairs and picnic tables, none of which existed before Sanli took over.
In process now is a native plant garden with a fountain and bench seating, and through a grove of bamboo he’s adding a greenhouse and culinary garden that will provide ingredients for the food offerings that will expand later in the renovation process. The gift shop sells some prepackaged snacks now, as well as some locally produced olive oil, but Sanli wants to offer more food for snacks and meals.
There will also be a small library in the future, Sanli said, and the gift shop will be growing. It also includes some historical pieces and photos of what the place looked like decades ago.
The new goat farm has several Tennessee fainting goats, Jacob’s four-horn sheep and guard llamas, with plans to add more animals.
The geology museum is partially finished and includes information on geysers, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, geothermal and other geological topics.
“It’s written in language an average Joe can understand,” he said.
It was important to Sanli to include a tribute to the original owner, “The Geyser Lady,” Olga Kotbek, who died in 2008.
There is a seismograph on display that operated at the park from 1990 to 2002. Geysers are earthquake indicators, Sanli said, and stop erupting about an hour and a half before an earthquake event. Geyser behavior shifts with heavy rain sending steam and water into the air at different intervals and heights.
More interactive features for the geology museum are underway, and plans for the museum include partnering with UC Berkeley to develop a real-time app that will show when the geyser is erupting.
Old Faithful Geyser is located at 1299 Tubbs Lane. Information can be found at OldFaithfulGeyser.com, or by calling 942-6463.