Yellowstone's Morning Glory Pool is a hotspot for vandalism – and it's changed the water

Man reading sign at Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

Yellowstone National Park's network of hot springs, pools, and geysers are one of its main attractions, and are the reason the park was first created, but despite the best efforts of Park Rangers, they are often subject to littering and defacement. The beautiful Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin is a particular hotspot for vandalism ever since the park first opened in the late 1800s.

Back then, the water was a deep, rich blue color, which led to the pool being named after the morning glory flower. However, as the National Park Service explains, people have thrown thousands of pounds of coins, trash and rocks into the steaming water over the years, much of which has become embedded in the pool's sides. All this junk has constricted the water flow and lowered the overall temperature of the pool, which has gradually shifted to green and orange as the type of bacteria have changed.

Although littering has declined in recent years, some visitors still insist on polluting the pool and straying off the boardwalk. Only this week, a photo of a man standing right on the edge began circulating on social media.

The picture, which you can see below, was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, and shows the tourist perilously close to the hot water, with one foot right on the microbial mat. As one commenter noted, he seems to be in the middle of some kind of modeling shoot.

Not only can standing on the mat damage the pool's ecosystem for future visitors, it's also extremely dangerous. There is often only a thin crust surrounding geothermal pools, and it would be all too easy for a visitor to fall right through into the scalding groundwater.

According to the NPS, more than 20 people have died from burns suffered after falling into Yellowstone's hot pools and springs, and many others have suffered serious injuries. In 2021, a concession worker at Yellowstone was badly burned after falling into the water at Old Faithful and a woman suffered burns from her shoulders to her feet after running into the Maiden's Grave Spring to rescue her dog.

Such incidents mean the NPS takes trespassing by hot springs and pools very seriously. In 2021 a visitor was sentenced to seven days in jail and fined $2,040 for walking directly on geothermal features.

"The ground is fragile and thin, and scalding water just below the surface can cause severe or fatal burns" park spokesperson Morgan Warthin said in a statement at the time.

Sticking to the trails and boardwalks, and taking your litter home is essential for personal safety, and the protection of the springs for the enjoyment of future generations.

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.