Understanding the Temperature of Water

High-elevation lakes run deep and
can be quite still. But they are
The best part of camping with the family is learning something new, together. It’s true. We usually camp in the summertime. And yes, the Lees troops test the water with their feet when they can. But this trip, we learned that some water is not for dipping of feet or any other part of the body.  
The children are learning that some water is colder—even frigid—when compared to the temperature outside. And you can’t tell by simply looking at it. High-elevation lakes and rivers they are called. And they can cause hypothermia even in summer.
Case in point. You cannot swim or submerge yourself in Yellowstone Lake, the largest fresh water lake in the United States above 7,000 feet at Yellowstone NationalPark, the world’s first national park. Park rangers told my daughter that if she fell out of the rowboat, she needed to get out of the water as soon as possible. This was in July!  
Glacier water causes hypothermia. No surprise, but the geothermal activity of the Yellowstone Volcano in Yellowstone National Park heats other water so it can boil your insides!
Most of the water at Yellowstone is undrinkable because of the high sulfur content. The hot springs at Yellowstone are exquisite in color, yet the smell of the sulfur is like rotten eggs and takes away some of its beauty, according to me and my children. But the park itself is massive and not all of it is geysers and rotten eggs, as we found out. There are waterfalls and backpacking and day hiking trips.
But I liked Glacier National Park better. The water is pristine, even though we couldn’t swim in Lake McDonald, another high-elevation lake. We only stuck our feet in. The water was much too icy for us, but we could drink it! It was clear as glass, and a bed of blue, green, red, and purple stones by its banks sparkled in the sunlight.  
The glaciers are out west in the United States, another offspring of the higher altitudes. Glacier-melt lakes and deep, high-elevation lakes keep them frigid and dangerous to swim in because of hypothermia, but absolutely stunning to visit.

Thanks so much for visiting Camping with Kids. Which national parks or natural areas do you like to visit?

13 thoughts on “Understanding the Temperature of Water”

  1. Hi Victoria – that's a good lesson to teach the kids … and that rotten eggs smell is disgusting! The area sounds stunning – at some stage I hope to get to Yellowstone … and that part of the States … cheers Hilary

  2. Western United States is definitely stunning, Hilary. And yes, things are really bigger out west. Always worth a visit. Thank you so much for visiting my Camping with Kids blog and leaving a note. It's greatly appreciated.

  3. Interesting information about Yellowstone National Park and of course many people fall victim to cold water, especially in Summer. We have youngsters who swim in reservoirs and end up drowning as they suffer from cramp and never resurface.

  4. I haven't been to any parks out west, but they are on my list! I would love to visit Yellowstone and Glacier. I new there was boiling water (and sulfur) at Yellowstone, but I had no idea that there was water too cold to touch (or touch for long). Wow! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. It is a great tragedy, Bill. It’s imperative that people learn that every body of water is different and should be respected. Thank you for visiting Camping with Kids and leaving a note. It's greatly appreciated. Hope all is well, sir.

  6. We were surprised too, Jess! It's gorgeous out west in the United States, from the mighty Rockies to the desert plains and canyons. So much to do and see, especially with the family. All the best to you, Jess. Thanks for leaving a note on Camping with Kids. It's greatly appreciated.

  7. I found out how cold water can be when my family visited Oregon this summer. The stream/river behind our rental came from the snow-topped mountain in summer. It was freezing! No WAY we could swim!
    I had no idea the water was that hot by the Yellowstone volcano. Makes sense!

  8. It's scary when you think about it. When vacationing, a family can learn so much about an area. Glaciers and snow melt make for frigid streams and lakes, especially at high altitudes.
    Where in Oregon did you visit? What did you go out to see?
    Always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Kids, Theresa. Thanks so much for you comment. Hope all is going well.


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