In Oregon, Manmade Geyser Spouts No More

Old Perpetual is a manmade geyser in Oregon that sprang to life in 1923. Generations of tourists stopped at the Hunter's Hot Springs Resort in Lakeview, Ore., to take pictures of Old Perpetual. Then, last fall it petered out. Jim Gullickson, the manager of Hunter's Hot Springs Resort in Lakeview, discusses Old Perpetual.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I confess, I'd always thought of geysers as natural wonders. So, the story of the Oregon geyser Old Perpetual is an eye-opener for me. Old Perpetual was shooting water 40 feet into the air every minute or two in Lakeview, Oregon for decades ever since 1923 when developers were drilling wells in a nearby area of natural hot pools. Well, now Old Perpetual has stopped and why it has stopped is something of a mystery. Joining us to talk about it is Jim Gullickson, who manages Hunter's Hot Springs Resort. Old Perpetual is on the grounds of the resort. And what does the geyser look like today?

Mr. JIM GULLICKSON (Manager, Hunter's Hot Springs Resort): Well, right now it looks like nothing. We've got overcast skies, but no water coming out of the ground.

SIEGEL: And how long has Old Perpetual been perpetually silent?

Mr. GULLICKSON: Approximately five months.

SIEGEL: Now, we should explain here that this is not the first time that Old Perpetual has been dormant. It actually would go out of season at some times.

Mr. GULLICKSON: Yes. During the hot periods towards the end of the summer, when the water table would drop, sometimes it would go dormant. And then as the winter came on and the water table increased, then it would go off again and everybody would come here and be able to see it.

SIEGEL: Yeah, a former geyser is not nearly so much a tourist attraction...

Mr. GULLICKSON: Not quite as impressive.

SIEGEL: ...shoots up. What theories are you hearing for why it has stopped erupting?

Mr. GULLICKSON: Well, we've got a couple of theories - the drought, you know, probably has to play some part of the role, but the main difference we've had here in recent years is they've installed a prison, of all things, a mile and a half from here. And they're pumping the geothermal water from a site less than 150 yards from our geyser and hot pots.

SIEGEL: Now, the town supervisor told us he doesn't buy the prison theory. He thinks it might be some seismic activity, some natural activity that would account for the loss of pressure and the loss of the geyser.

You know, it's underground where obviously where all the water is coming from, so, you know, and I'm not a scientist, but I was hoping that they would do some type of study. To date that hasn't happened.

SIEGEL: Of course, as I said at the outset, Old Perpetual is, I mean, it's also old accidental. I mean, there wasn't a geyser there until somebody hit something underground.

Mr. GULLICKSON: Correct.

SIEGEL: So, one could say that it had a good run.

Mr. GULLICKSON: Absolutely. Hopefully not, but that's possible. We're trying to get a handle on that and see whether that was, you know, a natural cause or some of these other issues that have happened recently are contributing to that.

SIEGEL: Well, good luck, Jim. I hope that, you know, possible it'd be nice to see the geyser come back.

Mr. GULLICKSON: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you having me and hopefully we'll be talking again and talking about how high the geyser is going up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay. That's Jim Gullickson. He is the manager of Hunter's Hot Springs Resort in Lakeview, Oregon. Thanks again.

Mr. GULLICKSON: Thank you.

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