Climate change and the parks
National Park Travel
An investigation continued this week into the find of a foot in Abyss Pool/Kurt Repanshek file
Yellowstone National Park officials are not commenting on the investigation into a foot found floating in Abyss Pool, a spectacular hot spring on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
What they have said is that they believe an individual fell into the pool, which has a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the morning of July 31. The foot was discovered on August 16. Foul play is not suspected.
On Tuesday, park staff declined to say whether rangers have found any additional body parts or bones in the hot spring, or whether checks of guest, employee, and staff records have turned up any missing individuals.
As beautiful as the park’s thermal features are, they’re extremely dangerous due to their high temperatures. Back in June 2016 an Oregon man who wanted to see just how hot one feature in the Norris Geyser Basin was died when he fell into a spring with a temperature of nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Colin Nathaniel Scott, 23, and his sister, Sable, had wandered nearly 700 feet off a boardwalk in the Back Basin of the Norris Geyser Basin that June. Not far from Porkchop Geyser, a thermal feature that once simmered as a hot spring before launching into a continuous series of surging spouts in 1985, the two neared a small, unnamed hot spring.
“As he approached the hot spring, we had heard that he was going to, or was attempting to, dip his toe into the hot spring, and he slipped or fell into it,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin told the Traveler at the time. “With regards to the hot spring itself … the subsurface temperatures in the spring are super-heated, and it has a pH of close to 4. What that means is that it has a very high acidity.”
The Norris Geyser Basin is the most colorful in Yellowstone/NPS, Jim Peaco
Yellowstone can be a wild and dangerous place. While grizzly bears certainly pose a threat to backcountry travelers who aren’t careful, and bison and elk pose a front-country threat, “…hot springs deaths have ocurred much more commonly in Yellowstone National Park than have grizzly bear deaths,” Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey wrote in his book, Death In Yellowstone, Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.
More recently, a Washington state woman received extreme burns to much of her body last October when she jumped into a spring to save her dog. The 20-year-old was traveling with her dog and her father when they stopped in the vicinity of Fountain Flat Drive south of Madison Junction. When they got out of their vehicle to look around, the dog jumped out of the car and into Maiden’s Grave Spring, a simmering spring named for the nearby grave of Mattie Culver, who died in 1889 during childbirth at the Marshall Hotel that once stood in the area.
The father pulled his daughter out of the spring and drove her to West Yellowstone, Montana, for treatment.
Last September at Old Faithful a 19-year-old park concessions employee from Rhode Island suffered second- and third-degree burns to 5 percent of her body after stumbling into a thermal feature.
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Climate change and the parks