Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Michael L. Timmons


Michael L. Timmons


David Evans


Steven Burr


In sensitive and iconic landscapes, such as Yellowstone National Park’s Upper Geyser Basin, construction and expansion of visitor services is hindered, and often blocked, by the potential for environmental damage that could occur during the installation of subsurface utilities. These utilities, crucial to the success of development, require an alternative method of installation when placed in locations requiring special consideration and protection.

Yellowstone, in particular, is faced with the responsibility of protecting limited hydrothermal resources while also providing access to the general public. Sub-surface utilities threaten this responsibility due to the unknown nature of much of the subsurface

geology in place. As such, development to accommodate increasing usage has been delayed, creating overcrowded conditions which do not enhance the visitor experience.

This thesis seeks to provide design solutions with the potential to alleviate many of the problems associated with development within the park. This task is complicated by the iconic stature of Yellowstone, as the visual appearance of the region could possibly be degraded by the inclusion of visible utility structures.

By utilizing a literature review exploring current engineering technologies found in utility corridor systems of northern climates and developing design alternatives exhibiting a more appropriate visual aesthetic, there is potential to preserve the delicate subsurface geology of Upper Geyser Basin while also allowing the necessary expansion of visitor services.

Surface application of utilities in Yellowstone is hampered by the need to protect these systems from severe seasonal climate extremes, as well as the potential damaging effects of corrosive hydrothermal gases, which can be either highly acidic or highly alkaline.

These utilidors, when implemented on a site specific basis, can solve the problem of utility connections to individual buildings by significantly reducing, or even eliminating, the trenching required for traditional systems. It is this excavation that poses a serious threat to the subsurface geology and hydrology of the geyser systems. However, the small scale solutions explored in this thesis would need further study to be implemented on larger scale projects.

This thesis deals primarily with the visual design of surface utilidors, with the physical feasibility of the design being considered at all times. This research divides the Old Faithful area of Upper Geyser Basin into several “zones,” and provides site specific design alternatives based on the visual resource requirements of those zones.

My research provides the National Park Service with alternatives to infrastructure design and implementation, even if these ideas and strategies at times conflict with previously established codes and best management practices (BMP’s). This is not intended to be an endpoint in the engineering and construction of surface utilidors, but instead the first step in designing flexible infrastructure alternatives that best fit the conditions at hand. The ideas put forth in this work are intended to be conceptual examples and ideas of a future direction to consider when considering development expansion in sensitive or iconic landscapes.