Tourist leads young children out to scalding hot springs at Yellowstone National Park

Sunset over Artists' Paintpot Trail, Yellowstone National Park, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A man has been spotted leading his two young children off the boardwalk and out between the steaming mudpots at Yellowstone National Park

The incident, which you can watch below, was caught on camera by fellow visitor Kamie Porro. Her video (which you can watch below) was shared by Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at US National Parks. Other recent close calls have included a woman taking her small child onto slippery rocks overlooking a raging waterfall, and a parent stalking a bison along a boardwalk with their kids in tow.

"Unfortunately no rangers around," wrote Porro. "I showed a ranger the next day at the mudpots and he said we’d need to get a license plate in order for them to do anything but we were too far from parking lot. They eventually came back to the boardwalk and several people said stuff to them and they acted arrogant. Not surprised. Having his kids out there is what was really infuriating."

The National Park Service (NPS) explains that mudpots are acidic geothermal features with a limited water supply. Surface water collects in a depression in the ground, which has hot groundwater underneath. Steam rises through the ground, causing the collected surface water to bubble.

"Hydrogen sulfide gas is usually present, giving mudpots their characteristic odor of rotten eggs," says the NPS. "Some microorganisms use the hydrogen sulfide for energy. The microbes help convert the gas to sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock into clay. The result is a gooey mix through which gases gurgle and bubble."

Mineral content gives some of the mudpots different colors, leading to the name 'Artist Paintpots'.

Safety around geothermal features

Yellowstone National Park was originally created to protect its unique geothermal features, and has a network of boardwalks and trails designed to give visitors a good view of these natural marvels from a safe distance.

Straying off the boardwalks puts people in serious danger. The ground around hot pools, springs and geysers is often thin and fragile, with scalding groundwater underneath. Visitors are warned never to touch thermal pools or runoff, or try to bathe in the hot water.

"Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited," says the NPS. "More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs."

One of the most infamous accidents happened in 2016, when a man from Oregon accidentally fell into the Norris Geyser Basin while looking for a place to swim with his sister. Colin Scott, aged 23, died soon after falling into the scalding water, but bad weather meant his body couldn't be recovered until the following day. By the time emergency teams were able to mount an operation, Scott's body had been completely dissolved, leaving only a pair of melted flip-flops.

Last year, a park worker sounded the alarm after spotting a human foot, still inside a shoe, floating in the Abyss Pool. DNA analysis revealed that the foot belonged to a 70-year-old park visitor from Los Angeles. It's still not known how the man ended up in the water, but no foul play was suspected.

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.