Yellowstone National Park: Human Foot Found in Geyser Belonged to 70-Year-Old Visitor

by Jon D. B.
West Thumb Geyser Basin sunrise. (Photo: NPS / Jacob W. Frank)

Yellowstone National Park (YELL) officials now know the identity of the person whose foot was found within West Thumb Geyser Basin earlier this year.

Park staff made a grisly, tragic discovery in August 2022 when part of a foot in a shoe was found floating in West Thumb’s Abyss Pool. An investigation, led by Yellowstone law enforcement officers, left many questions unanswered.

“The investigation determined, to the best of our knowledge, that an unwitnessed incident involving one individual happened on the morning of July 31, 2022, at Abyss Pool, and no foul play occurred,” the park cites in their media release to Outsider.

Yet one crucial piece of the puzzle has finally come to light, with Yellowstone National Park announcing today that the human foot found in Abyss Pool belonged to Il Hun Ro, a 70-year-old male from Los Angeles, California.

YELL law enforcement officers received the positive identification based on DNA analysis in the last three weeks. The family of Ro has been notified prior to the park’s public announcement.

“Based on a lack of evidence, the circumstances surrounding the death of Ro remain unknown,” officials add. Regardless, “this investigation has concluded, and the park has no additional information to share.”

National park rangers and special agents, Teton County (Wyoming) Coroner’s Office, Teton County (Wyoming) Search and Rescue, and Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation all assisted in the investigation.

Yellowstone National Park’s Initial Findings

The park’s initial discovery of Ro’s remains came on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. A Yellowstone employee found part of a foot, in a shoe, floating in Abyss Pool, an iconic geyser of West Thumb Geyser Basin in the southern part of Yellowstone National Park.

West Thumb Geyser Basin sunrise and boardwalk. (Photo credit: NPS / Jacob W. Frank)

“Evidence from the investigation thus far suggests that an incident involving one individual likely occurred on the morning of July 31, 2022, at Abyss Pool,” the park cited in their original media release. “Currently, the park believes there was no foul play. The investigation is continuing to determine the circumstances surrounding the death.”

At the time, West Thumb Geyser Basin and the parking lot were temporarily closed to visitors due to the discovery. They would reopen shortly after, and word of the bizarre discovery spread quickly.

Safety is paramount around all Yellowstone National Park geysers. As YELL states, Abyss Pool has a depth of more than 50 feet. It is one of the deepest hot springs in the park, and is never to be approached off designated boardwalks (above). The water’s temperature is approximately 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), which is beyond hot enough to severely burn human flesh.

As a result, Yellowstone requires visitors to stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Always exercise extreme caution around any of the park’s thermal features. The ground in hydrothermal areas is also fragile and thin, with more scalding water just below the surface.

To earn more about safety in Yellowstone National Park, see our full guide here. And always be sure to check YELL’s safety page online before a visit. Stay safe out there, Outsiders.