Two people visiting Yellowstone National Park risked their lives recently by walking and running right alongside Grand Prismatic – the park's largest hot spring, and one of the most spectacular due to the bacterial mats that produce rings of color around its perimeter.
The two visitors may not have been close enough to fall into the spring itself, which is around 160°F / 70°C (hot enough to cause severe burns), but the National Park Service warns that the ground around springs can be fragile, easily breaking to expose extremely hot groundwater underneath.
The video was originally shared by another park visitors on TikTok, and then by Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone (opens in new tab), which highlights bad behavior at US National Parks. Narration on the clip (which you can watch below) claims that 20 people have been "boiled alive" at Grand Prismatic, but that figure is actually the number of recorded fatalities from burns at all the park's thermal features.
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Thermal features including geysers, pools, and hot springs are some of Yellowstone's biggest attractions, and the park has a carefully planned series of boardwalks that allow visitors to witness them from a safe distance. Straying from the designated trails and boardwalks is illegal, and those who wander off risk a fine, being banned from the park, and even jail time as both punishment, and to set an example to others in the interest of safety.
The danger of hot springs was highlighted earlier this year, when a park employee discovered a foot floating in Yellowstone's Abyss Pool. After an investigation, officials connected the discovery to a death that had happened a few days prior, and said that there was no suspicion of foul play.
As HuffPost (opens in new tab) reported, in 2016 another person as killed at the park after accidentally slipping into a thermal feature while looking for a warm pool to bathe. Colin Scott from Oregon accidentally slipped into the extremely hot and acidic Norris Geyser Basin while exploring off the boardwalks, and couldn't be reached by rescuers until it was too late.
"Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature," warns the NPS guide to safety at the park (opens in new tab). "Keep your children close and don’t let them run."
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).
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