Two men have been photographed straying off the boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park to get a closer look at Green Dragon Spring, with one crouching to dabble his fingers in the scalding water. The beautiful spring emerges from a small cave, which is usually filled with steam. According to the National Park Service (NPS), "visitors must wait patiently for a glimpse of the sulfur-lined cave and boiling green water".
The photos, which you can see below, were taken by park visitor Mike Specht. The first shows the two men standing by the spring, and the second shows one kneeling to touch the water. They were shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which specializes in calling out bad behavior at US National Parks.
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The NPS warns visitors that "hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature" and the park's geothermal areas are well served by a network of trails and boardwalks that keep people at a safe distance while still providing great views. However, despite the warnings, several people have been spotted wandering off and even touching the water in recent weeks.
Last month a woman was recorded scalding herself by dipping her fingers in the steaming water of Silex Spring, where the average temperature is high enough to cause serious burns within seconds.
Just a few days earlier, a man was seen sticking his hand in a pool in the Upper Geyser Basin. A Park Ranger swiftly intervened, but he was lucky to avoid serious injury.
Dangers of thermal pools
Even if you don't deliberately touch thermal pools or runoff, accidents can happen all too easily. The ground around springs and pools is often only a thin crust covering searing hot groundwater, and a person could easily fall through.
Perhaps the most notorious accident happened in 2016, when a man fell into the Norris Geyser Basin after leaving the boardwalk looking for a place to soak. His sister tried to save him, but he soon passed away and by the time park officials were able to attempt a recovery his body had been completely dissolved.
"The consensus among the rescue/recovery team [...] was that the extreme heat of the hot spring, coupled with its acidic nature, dissolved the remains," explained a report in the Guardian at the time.
"Do not touch thermal features or runoff," warns the NPS. "Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs."
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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.