WATCH: Yellowstone Tourists Risk Third-Degree Burns for Photo Near Thermal Spring

by Lauren Boisvert

Just because a thermal feature at Yellowstone National Park is not alive, doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. Tell that to these tourists who ignored the signs around this literally steaming thermal feature and got close enough to risk severe burns all for a photo. The National Park has boardwalks for a reason. The park clearly marks areas that you absolutely should not go in for your own safety. There’s absolutely no reason for someone to be doing this. And yet, there they are.

In researching Yellowstone’s thermal features, I came across the tragic story of Colin Nathaniel Scott, a 23-year-old from Oregon who fell into a thermal pool near Norris Geyser in 2016. The water is so hot and acidic there that his body dissolved before park officials could retrieve it. He and his sister were in an unauthorized area of the park close to the geyser looking for a thermal pool to soak in, called “hot potting.” They found out the hard way that the water is extremely dangerous.

Essentially, breaking the rules in Yellowstone National Park could seriously injure or even kill you. Deputy Chief Ranger at Yellowstone Lorant Veress told CNN in 2016, “Because [Yellowstone] is wild and it hasn’t been overly altered by people to make things a whole lot safer, it’s got dangers.” That is still true in 2022.

There are more than 10,000 thermal features in Yellowstone, and they’re all dangerous in some way. Rainwater and snowmelt seep into the ground in Yellowstone, becoming part of the groundwater system that runs through the entire region. As the groundwater flows through rocks near the magma storage region, which sits miles below the surface, it’s superheated. Gases then change the composition of the water, making it lighter than cooler water. This heated water then forms the park’s pools, geysers, mud pots, and fumaroles.

Yellowstone National Park Reveals Dumbest Questions Tourists Have Actually Asked

In a TikTok video from Yellowstone National Park’s hiring department, the park revealed some of the dumbest questions rangers and employees have ever received from tourists. The first one was “Are the bison animatronic?” As if we’re living in “Westworld.” The bison are definitely not animatronic, by the way. The bison in Yellowstone National Park is actually the last-known completely wild bison herd in the world. No one has cross-bred them with cattle or domesticated bison. They’re totally wild and they go where they want. Even if that means crossing the street or strolling casually past an erupting geyser.

Secondly, someone asked, “How much chlorine does it take to keep the lake clean?” Lakes aren’t supposed to be that clean. Essentially, the natural ecosystems in the lakes take care of that, and they clean themselves. There is very little human involvement in cleaning the lakes. The only excuse I can think of for these people is they came from a densely urban area and they’ve never seen a real lake before.

Thirdly, “Are mud pots the same as mud baths, and can you soak in them?” I’d like you to refer to my earlier story of the man who fell into the thermal feature which dissolved him to death. No, you can’t soak in a mud pot. They are so full of sulfuric acid that they melt the surrounding rock and turn it into clay. If that sounds like something you’d like to soak in, maybe you shouldn’t be going to Yellowstone.