A tourist visiting Yellowstone National Park has been caught on camera leaning over to touch one of the hottest thermal springs in the Fountain Paint Pot area. After ignoring warnings from visitors on the boardwalk by Silex Spring, she appears to scald herself, jumping back and complaining that the water is "really hot".
The average water temperature in Silex Spring is 174.7°F (79.3°C). According to an article published in the Journal of Burn Care Research, exposure to hot water at 140°F can lead to a serious burn within three seconds, so getting close to this particular spring is incredibly dangerous. An accidental slip could have been fatal.
The incident (which you can see below) was recorded by another park visitor, Gary Mackenzie, and shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out examples of bad behavior at US National Parks.
“I told him that was a bad idea and they shouldn’t get off the boardwalk," said Mackenzie, who explained that he wanted to report the visitors but couldn't find a Park Ranger nearby. "His response was 'whatever man'. So I hit record."
A photo posted by on
People have suffered serious injuries after slipping into thermal pools and springs, and it's easy to fall through the thin crust covering scalding groundwater.
"Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature," says the National Park Service (NPS), which also warns visitors never to touch thermal pools or runoff.
"Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited," the NPS adds. "More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs."
Perhaps the most notorious accident took place in 2016, when a man died in a bathing accident at Yellowstone. Colin Scott, age 23, was looking for a place to swim with his sister when he slipped and fell into the park's hottest geothermal feature, the Norris Geyser Basin.
As the Guardian reported at the time, Scott's sister attempted to rescue him, but had no cellphone reception to call for help. When she did eventually manage to raise the alarm, recovery efforts were hampered by bad weather. By the following morning, all that remained was a wallet and a pair of flip-flops,
"The consensus among the rescue/recovery team [...] was that the extreme heat of the hot spring, coupled with its acidic nature, dissolved the remains,” officials concluded in a report.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).