Man jailed, fined, and banned after trespassing near Yellowstone geyser to take photos

Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, USA
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A man from Washington has been sentenced to seven days in jail, banned from Yellowstone National Park for two years, and ordered to pay $1,550 in fines and fees after he was found guilty of trespassing in one of the park's geothermal areas.

According to a release issued by the NPS, a park employee spotted 21-year-old Viktor Pyshniuk was spotted wandering off the boardwalk near Steamboat Geyser, in the Norris Geyser basin. The employee took a photo of Pyshniuk, who had crossed a fence and ignored warning signs to reach the geyser, and called a law enforcement officer. 

When he arrived, the officer spoke with Pyshniuk, who said he had left the boardwalk to take photos of the geyser. The officer then pointed out the various signs spread throughout the area, explaining that leaving the boardwalk is both illegal and dangerous.

Not only could a person suffer serious burns if they accidentally fall into a thermal pool (in 2016 a man died and his body was dissolved after he fell into a pool in the Norris Geyser basin), there is only a thin, fragile crust covering the area's scalding hot groundwater. There is also the danger of hot steam, and the erratic nature of geothermal features.

Steamboat is the world's tallest active geyser, and major eruptions are unpredictable. Major eruptions can last just three minutes, or continue for over half an hour, sending steam and debris over 300ft in the air. So far there have been three major eruptions in 2024, which took place on February 26, April 3, and May 30. Even minor eruptions can reach heights up to 40ft, and last up to four minutes. 

"Significant penalties"

Magistrate Judge Stephanie A Hambrick explained that the sentence was meant to deter Pyshniuk from future trespassing, and as an example to anyone else who might be tempted to wander off established trails for a closer look. She expressed concern that other visitors who saw Pyshniuk might have assumed what he was doing was all right.

“In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time," said Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann.

Earlier this year, actor Pierce Brosnan was also fined for trespassing in a geothermal area near Mammoth Terraces. Brosnan initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed his plea. He was ordered to pay a fine of $500 and make a donation of $1,000 to Yellowstone Forever, a non-profit organization that supports the park.

"I deeply regret my transgression and offer my heartfelt apologies to all for trespassing in this sensitive area," Brosnan wrote on Instagram later. "Yellowstone and all our National Parks are to be cared for and preserved for all to enjoy.”

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 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), usually wearing at least two sports watches.