Man Dies After Falling Into Yellowstone Hot Spring

Norris Geyser Basin. Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock

A man has died at Yellowstone National Park after tumbling into a hot spring after wandering off the designated path. Colin Nathaniel Scott, aged 23, fell into the Norris Geyser Basin on June 7, and officials had been trying to recover his body ever since. By June 8, park spokeswoman Charissa Reid told AP that rangers “were able to recover a few personal effects,” but added that “there were no remains left to recover.”

Mr. Scott and his sister wandered off roughly 200 meters (660 feet) from a man-made path. He then slipped and fell into one of the hottest and most volatile areas of the entire region, which quickly killed him. He is one of 22 people who have died from hot spring-related injuries since 1890, and although most have been accidents, two people died when trying to have a swim inside one.

Thanks to the unbelievably huge magma source building up beneath Yellowstone’s caldera, the National Park is home to over 10,000 thermal features, including its famous hot springs and geysers. Rainwater or snowmelt percolates into the ground, where it eventually gets heated from a distance by the underlying mantle hotspot.

Under high pressures and at incredibly high temperatures, this incredibly acidic groundwater is then forced skywards at remarkable speeds as a geyser; at lower pressures, it emerges through so-called hot springs, which are home to thermophilic microorganisms known as archaea. In either case, the average temperature of the water is about 93°C (199°F), and just below the surface, under higher pressures, the water temperature can be much, much higher.

Either way, a person falling into one wouldn’t last very long. The take-home message here is, as always, to stay at a safe distance from them, as marked clearly by the barriers and paths set up by scientific experts and park officials. This most recent tragic death followed on from a close call the previous Saturday, when a 13-year-old boy slipped into a different hot spring and was severely burned, but managed to survive.

Yellowstone was also recently in the news after a bison calf there had to be euthanized: A group of tourists saw it alone and thought they should rescue it by putting it inside their car, which caused it to be ultimately rejected by its herd.

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