A man has been banned from Yellowstone National Park after allegedly getting caught cooking two chickens in one of the park’s famous thermal hot springs.
The incident occurred back in early August when a ranger was notified of a group of people spotted hiking towards Shoshone Geyser Basin in the park’s thermal area with cooking equipment in tow, a park spokeswoman told EastIdahoNews.com last week.
The ranger found the group and discovered not only had they broken the park's rules by straying off the boardwalks and designated trails, but they had broken the park's cardinal rule: do not place anything (including yourself) in the thermal features. An incriminating burlap sack with two chickens inside was found in a hot spring with cooking pots nearby.
One man from Idaho Falls and two others were cited for breaking the foot travel rule in the thermal area. The Idaho Falls man pleaded guilty at Mammoth Hot Springs court in September and paid two $600 fines for breaking the park's rules. He was also put on two years' unsupervised probation and banned from Yellowstone for that time.
This isn't the first time people have broken the park's rules to get too close to the hot springs, but this had one of the happier endings. The extraordinary natural features that make Yellowstone well worth a visit are also what makes it rather perilous. There are around 10,000 geothermal features in Yellowstone, ranging from geysers to mud pots and fumaroles. The hot springs run at a temperature of around 92°C (198°F), with steam vents running as high as 135°C (275°F), according to the US Geological Survey. Fascinating features though they are, they have caused the death of at least 20 people.
"Geothermal attractions are one of the most dangerous natural features in Yellowstone, but I don't sense that awareness in either visitors or employees," says Hank Heasler, Yellowstone's principal geologist.
The park is full of signs warning people to stay on the boardwalks and designated walking trails, but for those who have gone astray, disaster has often befallen them. A man fell into a hot spring up to his waist in 2017 and suffered severe burns. He managed to scramble out again, but in 2016, another man fell in and was not so lucky. He died and within 24 hours his remains had completely dissolved. In May this year, a woman suffered burns after falling into a thermal feature while taking photos after sneaking into the park, which was closed due to the national lockdown. Just last month the National Park Service issued a warning after a three-year-old suffered second-degree burns when they ran off the path and fell into a feature.
The hot springs have killed or injured more people in the park than anything else – and this is a park that features bears, bison, and Old Faithful, which spurts between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons of water up to 54 meters (184 feet) in the air.
This hasn't stopped other people also trying to place items in the thermal features. In 2018, a man was filmed holding his hand out over and into Old Faithful, while some reports said he tried to urinate into it. This isn't even the first case of someone trying to cook a chicken at Yellowstone either. In 2001, a TV show was fined and banned for digging a hole near a geyser to demonstrate how the natural heat could cook a chicken.
However, they're not wrong, it is possible. In fact, our early ancestors may have been boiling their wildebeest long before ever discovering fire.
With over 4 million visitors a year, Yellowstone has a constant battle keeping people safe from themselves. Do them (and yourself) a favor and don't stray off the path, you may end up in hot water.