Yellowstone Lake Hums Mysteriously and Nobody Knows Why

One of America's most famous lakes has been known to sing.

Image by Grace Han for Thrillist
Image by Grace Han for Thrillist
Image by Grace Han for Thrillist

Yellowstone Lake is one of the more dangerous bodies of water in the US: 450 feet deep in places, its 136 square miles stay at a balmy 43ºF year-round, with southwesterly winds able to churn up five-foot waves. You definitely don’t want to swim in this high, subalpine sea, much less canoe its open waters before an afternoon storm.

What you can do is sit by the shore and listen for a hum.Accounts of these mysterious sounds-some call them songs, whispers, or even music-date back to the park’s very first year, from 1872’s Hayden Expedition.

“While getting breakfast,” wrote F.H. Bradley, “we heard every few moments a curious sound, between a whistle and a hoarse whine, whose locality and character we could not at first determine.” Other credible sources, like Clyde Max Bauer, the park’s chief naturalist in the 1940s, continued the sound’s lore through the 20th century.

You’re allowed to be skeptical right now. As one of the country’s busiest, most-loved tourist destinations, surely this phenomenon would be well-known if it were true (and not just well-documented, which it is). But perhaps Captain Hiram Martin Chittendon-an engineer who helped develop the park-put it best: “Its weird character is in keeping with its strange surroundings. In other lands and times it would have been an object of superstitious reverence or dread, and would have found a permanent place in the traditions of the people.”Now, these historical accounts don’t seem to care about the season: Summer or winter, strange sounds have been heard on and near Yellowstone Lake for over 100 years. While those stories are impossible to verify, Kristine Brunsman, supervisory park ranger, has heard the sounds for herself-but only in winter.

“I’ve been lucky enough to hear the lake sing for the last three winters,” she says, noting that the sound is hard to characterize. “In 2018 and 2019, the sound was rather dull and often reminded me of corrugated metal flapping in the wind or maybe a far-off mechanical sound, like the engine of an airplane. In December 2020, I heard songs I’d never heard before-more ethereal notes, with whomps and whoops and whooos-akin to sonar pings or the call of a whale deep in the ocean.”

Brunsman was understandably in awe. “It gave me goosebumps. I like to imagine there’s a mystical creature that lives in the depths of Yellowstone Lake calling out a lonely song, its roars echoing in isolation.”


No one quite knows what the sound’s origins are-probably not some solitary, psychrophilic Nessie, unfortunately-but there are theories. “My hypothesis,” Brunsman explains, “is that a combination of ice cap, air, and water temperature; wind and wave action; and echoing off the crown of the mountains that encircle Yellowstone Lake create the perfect environment for the sound.”

Another theory has to do with moving magma generating Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) waves. These waves in turn resonate off one another, confined by the surrounding topography-it’s worth noting that the sound is said to travel. 

“I’m sure localized tremors and underwater thermals also play a role in the notes we hear,” Brunsman adds.

If you’re still not convinced, know that hums across the globe-like the Taos Hum-confound even the best conspiracy theorists. But this one is documented: Thanks to Yellowstone’s extensive sound library, you can hear the sound from your couch.

How to hear the lake hum yourself

The odds of any weekend tourist hearing the hum aren’t good, but visitors can up their chances by watching the weather. 

“It seems to happen most early in the winter or later in spring when the lake is capped in ice,” Brunsman notes, adding that it can happen only once or for a few days in a row. “This winter, we had extremely cold days early in the season and the lake began to freeze without its usual blanket of snow. It would make sense that the snow acts as a muffler in most years, which is why it was so clear, crisp, and loud this December.”

If you do find yourself near Yellowstone Lake, take a moment for silence. Most visitors “mistake the metallic sound for a large vehicle or heavy machinery off in the distance or simply wind in the trees,” adds Brunsman. Yes, those are possible, but it might just be the lonesome song of Yellowstone Lake.Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Jacqueline Kehoe is a writer, photographer, and geology geek. See her work on Instagram at @j.kehoe.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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