HomeOutdoorsNewsNational Park Service Sheds Light on Foot Discovered in Yellowstone Thermal Pool

National Park Service Sheds Light on Foot Discovered in Yellowstone Thermal Pool

by Caitlin Berard
Yellowstone National Park Thermal Pool
(Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Yellowstone National Park officials are used to the occasional object left behind by tourists. A pair of forgotten sunglasses, a granola bar wrapper unknowingly swept away by the breeze, maybe even an abandoned piece of hiking gear or two. But a human foot? That’s (thankfully) not something they see every day.

Back in August, park officials discovered part of a man’s foot inside a shoe floating in the Abyss thermal pool inside the park. After months of investigation, authorities determined the foot belonged to Il Hun Ro, a 70-year-old from Los Angeles, California.

At the time, YNP officials reported the severed foot was the result of an “unwitnessed incident involving one individual on the morning of July 31, 2022” and that “no foul play” was suspected. Due to the lack of evidence, however, the exact circumstances surrounding Ro’s death remained unknown.

Now, newly released documents from Yellowstone National Park and the National Park Service have shed more light on the unusual incident and subsequent investigation.

Yellowstone National Park Receives Word of Human Foot in Thermal Pool

On August 16, a visitor reported the grisly sight to a tour guide, who then passed the information along to park rangers. The park employee “claimed to have ‘found this odd,’ because he had pulled two shoe soles out of the same pool in the past week.”

The moment news reached park rangers, they began closing off the Abyss Pool area to visitors, including a nearby parking lot. Following the completion of witness statements and interviews, only one vehicle remained. As officials suspected, it belonged to the victim, Il Hun Ro.

Upon searching the vehicle, investigators discovered a laptop, park maps, personal photos, a wallet containing $447, and a “small book of poems” containing handwritten notes. Using Google Translate, investigators began deciphering the poems and notes, hoping to find a clue as to what fate befell the late outdoorsman. They came up empty-handed, however, as the notebook didn’t contain “anything consistent with a suicide note.”

With the help of the items found in Ro’s vehicle, investigators located a family member who submitted a DNA sample, allowing investigators to make a positive ID of the victim.

Park Rangers Warn Against Venturing Too Close to Geysers and Pools

A thorough search of Yellowstone National Park’s Abyss pool produced no other “significant remains”. And though investigators found samples of apparent “fatty tissues” floating on the surface, conclusive information regarding the samples remains undisclosed.

Following the gruesome discovery, park officials temporarily closed West Thumb Geyser Basin and its parking lot. They also shared a message of caution with other visitors.

Though Yellowstone National Park’s thermal pools are undeniably beautiful, they’re also deadly. The Abyss Pool, for example, reaches more than 50 feet in depth, its steaming waters reaching 140 degrees.

To put that into perspective, third-degree burns occur within a mere six seconds of exposure to water at this temperature. As such, visitors should always admire them from a distance.

“Visitors are reminded to stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas and exercise extreme caution around thermal features,” officials wrote in response to the incident. “The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface.”